A house devoted to helping families who have seriously ill children and expectant mothers being treated nearby at Freeman hospitals and Mercy Hospital will celebrate 20 years in Joplin.

On Friday, July 27, the officials with Ronald McDonald House of the Four States will host two events in recognition of the facility's milestone anniversary.

The first, at 3 p.m., will include a ribbon cutting, complete with birthday cake, at the facility at 3402 South Jackson Avenue, Joplin.

The second, will feature a family reunion from 3 to 7 p.m., designed to give families who have stayed at the facility a chance to come back.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Annette Thurston, executive director, hopes a new sign, for the corner of 34th and Jackson, will be complete and ready for unveiling during the celebration.

The reunion will include a variety of inflatables, games, prizes, as well as food trucks, ice cream and more. 

Officially, the house opened on July 27, 1998. Currently it features 10 rooms, each with its own private bath.

There are two large family rooms, one with a self-contained children's play area, a kitchen and laundry facilities, a chapel, an outdoor playground and a patio and garden area.

Families who stay at the house have access to transportation, meals, computers, WiFi.

"We opened this house with 30 volunteers and here we are 20 years later with 138 volunteers that keep this house open [for] more than 3,000 families, 30,000 lodging nights that families have called us 'home,'" Thurston said. "It has been very special place for the families that stay with us, actually for all of us here."

Thurston said organizers are asking for families who stayed in the Ronald McDonald House of the Four States to contact them, to let them know if they plan to attend the event.

Families may visit the facility's website at www.rmhjoplin.org or call 417-624-2273.

"We are also doing a Facebook invite," Thurston said. "We have reached out and our families are definitely coming back."

Thurston said the milestone celebration would not be possible without the community's support. 

"We want to thank the general public for all of the support that they have given us for the 20 years," said Thurston. "We hope that they come out and share the celebration with us."

The next 20 years

Recently, there was an expansion for the charity.

"We have expanded our reach already, so we have expanded into the local Mercy Hospital with a family room - that is the largest growing program under the charities," Thurston said. "So as we see the need, we maybe looking to expand that program, family room program which brings all of the services of the Ronald McDonald House actually into the hospital itself."