The Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill serves more than 2,200 families of seriously ill or injured children but must turn away nearly 800 families due to lack of space.

And this demand will only increase in the coming years as UNC Hospitals continues to expand.

In an effort to meet the growing need for its services, the House is breaking ground Tuesday on their planned expansion that will double the facility’s current square-footage and increase the number of rooms from 29 to 53.

When a child is diagnosed as seriously ill, it immediately changes their family’s lives. Having access to advanced medical care becomes critical, but often medical facilities are hours away from their homes. Pat Hartley, Co-Chair of the House’s capital campaign, said that’s where the House can help.

“We serve families from all 100 counties across the state of North Carolina. With the growth of UNC Hospitals and the North Carolina Children’s Hospital, we just need more space to take in those families that need our help,” Hartley said.

The House serves any family with a child who is receiving treatment at a local hospital and is living outside  of a 35-miles radius of the facility, regardless of their ability to pay.

The expansion will include a Welcome Center, 24 guest rooms and a Hearth building with a kitchen, laundry and play facilities. It features a courtyard with gardens and two playgrounds. The House will add five new staff positions when the expanded facility opens, which is expected to be completed by fall 2015

The expansion will also include an innovative pediatrics palliative care pilot program called, “Loving Hands,” the first of its kind in North Carolina and in the global Ronald McDonald House network.

“It is care that is provided for children that are unfortunately near the end of life and for the families to be with their loved ones, these young children, in an environment that is nurturing and caring,” Hartley said.

Hartley said they have already raised a significant portion of private funding for the expansion project thanks to local McDonald’s owner/operators, Ronald McDonald Charities and company donors in North Carolina—but that there is still work to be done.

The groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday marks the beginning of the public donation campaign.

A $7.5 million goal has been set to fully fund the project.

“This Capital Campaign is an ongoing outreach initiative. We are telling the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill’s story, not only for the Capital Campaign to build the new facility, but also for future financial support,” he said.

Those who wish to donate can contact Shelley Day, Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House, or George Marut, Senior Director of Development, at 919.913.2042.

You can also visit the House’s expansion project website:

The groundbreaking ceremony is Tuesday, April 22 at 10:30 a.m. at the Ronald McDonald House on 101 Old Mason Farm Rd.