PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — It’s been three years since the Ronald McDonald House opened its doors in Peoria, helping families with children in the hospital.

In September 2018, crews broke ground on a Ronald McDonald house in Peoria, with its opening in December 2019.

“The house was built because we have wonderful medical facilities, specifically children’s hospitals, and children’s specialists here and the need was brought on because there were so many people that were coming and traveling to Peoria for those services,” said Abby Koester, development director with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois.

The facility gives families a closer place to stay while their child is in the hospital, at no charge.

The Peoria Ronald McDonald House is equipped with 22 private units, playrooms, a game room, a kitchen, a toy store, and more.

“Our number one mission is to keep families close,” Koester said. “We try to make sure that they have everything that they could need.”

Haley is a mother from Pontiac who had triplets in October that are receiving care at OSF Healthcare’s NICU.

She said being able to stay a short drive from OSF at the Ronald McDonald House has been nothing short of a blessing.

“Gas is extremely expensive so that would’ve financially hurt us but just the traveling back and forth is just less time with our girls, to be honest,” Haley said.

In addition to removing travel challenges, Haley said staff have provided a shoulder to lean on.

“They’re just really good people to sit here and be like yes I’m here to help you so you can stay here but I’m here to listen to you if you need to cry it out,” Haley said.

Koester said she hopes Ronald McDonald House provides some light for families during difficult times.

“While I’m sure what they’re going through is very traumatic and scary, maybe this lifted a piece of that off of them,” Koester said.

In the future, Koester said that the Ronald McDonald House hopes to help families who live close by but still face some of the same challenges.