Ronald McDonald House Charities announced plans Tuesday to open its first family room in eastern Idaho next year.

The charity announced at a joint press conference that the new room is being built at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center to serve families receiving care for their infants and children at the hospital. The 2,600 square-foot space will be located across the hall from the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and come fully equipped with kitchen, living room and four bedrooms for families that need to nap or stay the night at the hospital.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Idaho president Darren Kyle said the charity had talked for years about opening its second location in the state at the Idaho Falls hospital.

“It is a fantastic place for families of children who are admitted to the hospital to get a brief bit of rest and relaxation,” Kyle said.

As of 2017, the Ronald McDonald House Charities have opened more than 230 family rooms in and near hospitals around the world and provided overnight stays for more than 2.4 million sick children and their families last year. The Idaho branch opened a standalone 17-bed house in Boise, but the EIRMC location will be the first family room in the state and the charity’s first facility on the eastern side.

Hospital representatives say EIRMC was selected to host the room because of the wide spectrum of pediatric health care they provide. The hospital is the only top-rated NICU in the region and treats more than 20 children from Idaho, Wyoming and Montana every day. Officials expect that the EIRMC room will serve up to 1,200 families annually with a place to eat hot food, sit down or spend the night if needed.

“For a family from Challis or far away, it’s not easy to run back home for something. You want to be able to stay with your child,” said Ernie Ungen, chairman of the community committee for the family room.

The bedrooms and living area would provide comfort for families, no matter how far away they live. Morgan and Christopher Kuhn of Rexburg received care for their newborn daughter Emerson at EIRMC last summer. The couple later stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Boise while Emerson received care at a hospital there and Morgan said that the frequent trips to see her daughter at EIRMC would have been much easier if the family room had existed.

“It would have been really nice to stay with her overnight. She wouldn’t have known I was there for her but I would know,” she said.

Once opened, the room will be staffed by a representative of the Ronald McDonald charities and cleaned by hospital staff but most of the work will be done by local volunteers. The charity has already received half of its $700,000 goal to construct the room and hopes the rest of the funds will arrive from local businesses and potential patients soon, all of which will be spent by the nonprofit on building and furnishing the space.

The groundbreaking for the family room is planned for spring 2019 and the room is expected to open by the end of next summer. For more information about Ronald McDonald House or to donate time or money to the room at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, visit rmhcidaho.org/familyroom.

Contact Brennen with news tips at 208-542-6711.