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The Daily Tar Heel

Community Turns Out to Support Renovated McDonald's House

"She's got a better shot than you do," Boone said to Manuel.

Boone, Manuel, Jawad Williams and Melvin Scott -- all members of the 2001-02 North Carolina men's basketball team -- were on hand Saturday to celebrate the re-opening of the Ronald McDonald House, located at 101 Old Mason Farm Road.

"They asked us to come by and play with the kids," Boone said.

A long waiting list prompted the boarding house for families with hospitalized children to undergo a $1.2 million expansion, which was funded by saved funds, donations and grants.

About 200 children, parents, volunteers and even Ronald McDonald himself attended the event, which took place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m at the house.

Food ranging from snow cones to baked beans were served and children enjoyed games including ring toss and twister.

Joelle Tatum was at the festival with her three-year-old brother Austin and her mother Kelley.

Kelley Tatum brought her family to the celebration to show her gratitude for being able to stay at the house.

"We stayed at the house in '97 and '98 when my son Jordan needed a heart transplant," she said. "This is a wonderful organization, all they want to do is help."

Kelley Tatum said she wants to give back to the house in the future by volunteering.

"It's a good day to sign up to volunteer," she said. "I want to show my support to the house."

Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy spoke to attendees. At the close of his speech, Foy deemed April 13 official Ronald McDonald House Day in Chapel Hill.

"The Ronald McDonald House provides an important service for people in crises," Foy said. "It makes this community a better place."

Foy said the house needed to expand to account for the number of patients that use UNC Hospitals and the services it provides.

"Something people don't realize is that UNC Hospitals are enormous," Foy said. "They do an excellent job of patient care, but there are other kinds of care that need to be provided."

Ronald McDonald House volunteer Mary Joy Keane, who served popcorn at the event, said the house is successful because it is like a second home to residents.

"We have a home environment," Keane said. "We do laundry and cook for them. It's just like being at home."

Volunteer Ed Hines, who bakes cookies at the House, said the help of the staff makes the Ronald McDonald House prosper in the community.

"The people here know the staff and like the staff," Hines said. "They help a lot of people who could use the assistance of neighborly care."

Charla Buchanan and her seven-year-old son Charlton have stayed at the house several times since 1995 while Charlton was a patient at UNC hospitals receiving treatment for cystic fibrosis. The family said they came to the event to enjoy the sunny day.

Charla and her husband Trevor dined at the table while Charlton was participating in the football throw.

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"Kids love it," Charla said. "My son wanted to come to see Ronald."

Buchanan said she cannot express how helpful the service was to her family, who live in Robbinsville.

"It's invaluable," she said. "People who have medical concerns and can't afford a hotel for a week can stay here for $8 a night."

Trevor Buchanan said the house provided a service to their family whenever the family required it.

"The house has always been here when we needed it."

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