When Chuck and Carla Croonradt from Park City were informed by a doctor that their 14-month-old son would not live through the night, they needed a private place to share their grief and to seek solace.
Finding comfort at such an agonizing moment was difficult within the crowded, sterile walls of the hospital."We needed somewhere to be alone to cry and to pray."
At that moment, the Croonradts resolved that they would provide a comfortable room for parents coping with a child's illness or unexpected death.
Saturday was a joyful day for the Croonradts - and hundreds of other Utahns - who donated dollars, materials and labor to complete the new Mountain West Ronald McDonald House. The grand opening Saturday celebrated "the house that love built," where families like the Croonradts can receive emotional support. Families who travel to Utah's hospitals can stay in the home to be near their child while he or she receives specialized treatment.
The Ronald McDonald House, 935 E. South Temple, is the 100th home for parents of seriously ill children in the United States. There are 117 such homes in the world.
The first house was opened in Philadelphia in 1974 as the result of the dedication of then-pro football player Fred Hill. He saw a need for this type of home when his daughter was ill with leukemia.
The houses are named after Ronald McDonald not only because of fund-raising support from McDonald's, but also for the positive, hopeful feeling the well-known clown inspires in children. To the delight of many children, Ronald was the honored guest at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The Salt Lake home is the only one that has a meditation room for "families, in their own way, to handle their crisis. And, if they choose, to get in touch with their creator," said Croonradts.
The room has a plaque on the door honoring Christopher, the Croonradts' 14-month-old son. The boy died in 1982 of congenital heart disease.
A skylight illuminates the room, "providing a sense of hope to parents who find themselves thrust into an enormously difficult circumstance."
Nearly 300 toured the 16-bedroom house Saturday, many of them recognizing with pride the walls they had painted, the carpets they had laid and the trees they had planted.
The cost of building the home was more than $1 million. The Ray Croc Foundation, named for the founder of McDonald's, contributed $25,000 to its purchase. The house will serve families in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon.
Robert Springmeyer Jr., chairman of the Mountain West Friends of Hospitalized Children, said the "heart-to-heart" project is the result of six years of planning and hard work.
Former Gov. Scott M. Matheson and his wife, Norma, called the house "the ultimate tribute to spirit of Utah voluntarism."
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, donated an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, commended the volunteers for making a real difference in the lives of those who will stay in the home.
Jim Murray, one of the founders of the original Ronald McDonald House, said the house provides a place where families experiencing the same challenges can love and support each other. "This is a house for the homeless. No matter how much money someone may have, if you are away from home in a time of crisis, you need a place to laugh and cry together."