Alyson McCarthy is the CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Greater Las Vegas, a nonprofit organization with a mission to create and support programs that directly improve the health, education, and well-being of children in our community.
The Ronald McDonald House is the cornerstone program of RMHC and provides temporary housing for families who travel to Las Vegas to receive critical medical treatment for their children. Since opening in July of 1998, the House has served more than 5,566 families for more than 68,659 nights. In 2021, the House served 278 adults and 93 children for more than 2,680 nights. The average length of stay was 13 days, and the House saved families $368,288 in lodging costs.
RMHC also provides free dental services to underserved children in rural and inner-city communities. Since launching in 2005, the Care Mobile program has treated more than 12,500 patients in Las Vegas and around the state. 96% of the children treated aboard Care Mobile in 2021 were on Medicaid or had no dental insurance at all.
This year, RMHC received a $500,000 grant from Nevada Women’s Philanthropy to purchase a new and larger state-of-the-art Care Mobile Unit to replace its aging vehicle.
In Spring 2021, RMHC Las Vegas, along with McDonald’s and other community partners, awarded $163,500 in scholarships to 136 high school graduates and alumni. Since 1999, RMHC has awarded more than $4.5M in scholarships to students and alumni in Clark and Nye counties.
In this interview, we asked Alyson about how her career journey, the challenges RMHC Las Vegas overcame during the pandemic, her vision on the second Ronald McDonald House, and her goals for the organization in the next three to five years.
1. What drew you to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Las Vegas?
In my previous career as a television anchor and reporter for Channel 13 here in Las Vegas, I started volunteering for the Ronald McDonald House on their Community Relations/Marketing Committee – spreading the word about all the amazing ways RMHC helps families in medical crisis. By then, my husband, Bill, had already been a long-time RMHC Board member. His younger sister had cancer when she was just a baby, and the Ronald McDonald House became a mission that is near and dear to our whole family! My sister-in-law, Anne, recovered and is doing great today!
2. Can you please share a story of one of the families that RMHC has supported?
That’s an easy one! Fast Forward to my 30s, when my own sister had her first and only child. My beautiful niece, Sydney, was diagnosed with an extremely rare and deadly spinal cancer at the age of just 2. For many years, I was on the front lines supporting my sister and my niece as they went through not one —but two – rounds of brutal chemotherapy. My sister, a single mother, stayed at numerous Ronald McDonald Houses around the country while Sydney was treated for her cancer for more than 6 years! Our family witnessed first-hand the impact that the Ronald McDonald House mission of keeping families close when they need it most had on my sister and niece. No matter where she had to travel to receive treatment, the Ronald McDonald House was there to provide all the comforts of home, hope, and healing throughout their challenging ordeal. I will never forget what the Ronald McDonald House has done for my own family, and every day in our House I see how it continues to make a difference in so many families’ lives who are dealing with some of the most difficult days they’ll ever endure.
3. How did COVID impact RMHC's operations and how did you overcome it?
If there is one thing 2020 taught us, it’s that trauma and illness won’t wait for a vaccine or a cure. Even in a world consumed by COVID-19, car accidents, cancer, heart defects, and premature births kept right on happening – and families in crisis kept showing up at the doorstep of our Ronald McDonald House in greater need than ever. Almost overnight, our RMHC Board, staff, volunteers, and supporters reacted swiftly to the realization that there would never be anything usual about “business as usual” again! Within weeks of our own community’s closures, the Ronald McDonald House Las Vegas Chapter became one of the first 10 Houses in the nation – and one of the first 20 in the world – to be reinstated as an essential service, open and operating to shelter and care for those families whose life-saving medical procedures could not wait a moment longer. Throughout the pandemic, RMHC Las Vegas provided more than 2,000 nights of comfort and care to families in medical crisis in 2020.
And our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile served on the front lines of the battle against the virus by providing COVID-19 screening and testing. These were both proud and humbling achievements!
4. What is your vision for the second Ronald McDonald House? How can businesses and individuals support the Home for Now Hope for Tomorrow Campaign?
Over the past few years, an increasing number of families who come to us have lengthy stays that require them to live in Las Vegas while their child is in the hospital. Some of those families have lost their houses and jobs back home due to the financial strain and extended time away from work. 78% of the families who stay at the House are from low-income households. The critical illness or injury of their child is often the final blow to their already shaky financial foundation, making their survival as an intact family even more uncertain. Research reveals this stress is not good for a family, but it can be especially counterproductive, even harmful, to the health of a recovering child.
Our Home for Now Hope for Tomorrow campaign will make it possible for us to build a second Ronald McDonald House. We envision this new home as a place where families and their children can seek refuge, respite, and community while they cope with the extended recovery of their children in the hospital.
The new one-story House will consist of independent family spaces on donated property just two blocks away from our current House, near Sahara and Decatur. The building, once completed, will provide long-term housing for up to eight families at a time. The facility will include independent living units with kitchens, separate bedrooms, laundry facilities, a play area, courtyard, parking, and an office for RMHC staff. The project will increase our capacity by 67 percent to serve up to 188 more families each year.
It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, and it will certainly take a village to build this second Ronald McDonald House. We invite members of our community, businesses, foundations, and anyone who wants to make a difference in the life of a sick or injured child, to donate to this wonderful cause.
Your financial donation, or in-kind gift, to the Home for Now Hope for Tomorrow campaign will ensure that families have the support they need while their children are receiving life-saving medical care. Naming opportunities for this legacy project begin at $1,000, but no donation is too small, and every donation will make a difference.
For more information on opportunities to give, please contact RMHC’s CEO, Alyson McCarthy at (702) 461-4883 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. How is RMHC's Red Shoe Society group helping the younger generation to become a community-minded leader?
The Red Shoe Society is an amazing group of young working professionals who network, socialize, and fundraise for the Ronald McDonald House. Every year this group of 50-60 energetic and laser-focused philanthropists raise tens of thousands of dollars for our families who depend upon the Ronald McDonald House. And they have so much fun doing it. The RSS sets an incredible example for our younger generations by showing the way. They demonstrate through their selfless actions how helping others is more important than helping yourself – and that there is true strength in numbers. You don’t have to be rich to make someone who is suffering feel better, have hope, and find the courage to fight for your child’s life. You only have to know you are not alone – and there are others who want to help you along your journey.
6. What are your goals for the organization in the next three to five years?
Our primary goal over the next three to five years is to become the premiere children’s charity in Southern Nevada – focusing on family-centered care and linking families of all economic standing, race, color, and creed, to the immediate and vital medical and social resources their children need to heal, grow, learn, and lead --- so they may one day take their place as healthy and productive members of our society.
Aside from opening a new Ronald McDonald House program, also be on the lookout for a new state-of-the-art Ronald McDonald Care Mobile Dental Van, which will roll off the production line in February of 2023. Working closely with our professional dental team from Nevada Health Centers, this dental office on wheels will hit the road, providing up to 2,000 uninsured children from low-income families with the dental care they need to have healthy mouths and confident smiles – at no cost to their families.
And depending on where the greatest need arises within the next few years, another Ronald McDonald Family Room – right on the grounds of one of our local children’s hospitals, will likely be on the drawing board as well. Our hospital-based Family Room, currently located at Sunrise Children’s Hospital provides thousands of family members with short bursts of respite --- naps, showers, meals, and more – so these parents can remain seconds away from their babies’ bedsides in the neonatal intensive care unit yet receive the resources and support they need to remain strong enough to fight for their children’s lives.