Pipe burst leaves Ronald McDonald House unlivable for 17 families

Posted at 8:44 PM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-24 22:27:05-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The cold weather has taken a major toll on a building that serves as a safe haven for families going through difficult times.

The Ronald McDonald House is temporarily out of commission after a frozen pipe caused serious water damage to the three-story building on Cedar Street Northeast in Grand Rapids.

“We are shut down fully for probably a month, we’ve been told," says Marcie Lewis, the president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan.

Temperatures on Tuesday got down to single digits and caused a pipe to burst, sending water everywhere.

“One of my coworkers and I were just standing in the dining room and we heard this big ‘swish’ sound and we thought, ‘What is that noise?’" Lewis says. "And we got up and started looking around and before we knew it, the alarms were going off and water was pouring everywhere.”

Within minutes, the fire department arrived and shut off the water and breakers to prevent electrocution but by then, all three floors were already damaged.

“It happened so fast. There was so much water gushing in the ceiling," Lewis says.

Families staying at the Ronald McDonald House are already going through the hardest times of their lives, so having to leave their home away from home wasn't easy.

“A number of them, I have to be honest with you, left here in tears because it is a very warm, safe, cozy place here," Lewis says.

The 17 families currently staying at the house are still getting the "Ronald McDonald experience," Lewis says. They're being provided a hotel room, transportation to and from hospitals, food and laundry, all at no cost to the families. However, caring for these families remotely will cost the Ronald McDonald House about $50,000 during the month they expect to be under repair, according to Lewis.

“It won’t quite be the home away from home that they experience here but we’re gonna try to make it as close as we can to that," Lewis says.

The staff are asking for donations to help them care for these families remotely. To contribute, click here.

The average stay at the Ronald McDonald House is 22 nights. A family's stay can be much longer, depending on their situation.

The Griffin family's 18-year-old son, Malachi was in a rollover accident Dec. 8 and is recovering from a traumatic brain injury. He's undergoing rehabilitation treatment at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital while his parents and grandparents stay at the Ronald McDonald House. They expect to be there another three months.

“The volunteers that even make dinner for here, wow, that was such a blessing you know, not to try to have to worry about, 'oh what are we gonna think about eating?'" says Kelly Griffin, Malachi's mother.

The Griffin's live 10 hours away in Hancock, which is in the Upper Peninsula. They have to be away from their other five children while Malachi is getting treatment. They say the Ronald McDonald House has made their lives so much easier.

“Knowing that we had a bed to go to and a place where we could clean up and they took care of us," says Malachi's grandmother, Linda Freeze. “The Ronald McDonald House has thought of everything to take care of us.”

The Ronald McDonald House's office will remain open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. According to Lewis, the situation will not affect staff pay.