When someone falls seriously ill, the burden on their family can sometimes be overwhelming, with costs and stresses amassing quickly. And for those who must travel for treatment or surgery, sometimes hundreds of kilometres from their homes and families, the strain can be even greater.
One Gander family is trying to ease some of that burden for others by offering them a warm, safe and free place to lay their head when travelling across the island for medical treatment.
In June, Claudette Menchenton, her husband Michael and their two children moved into a large home, and she started thinking about ways to utilize some of the extra space for a good cause.
Menchenton said she has many friends and family members who have had to travel to receive treatment for various illnesses, such as cancer or Crohn’s. She also knows firsthand how stressful and costly medical-related travel can be.
“My husband actually is a colitis patient and had to have a couple of surgeries. He was very sick. Sadly, we’ve had to travel and we had nobody to help us. We had to do it all on our own and it was quite costly. I felt that if in any way someone could have lifted our burden that certainly would have helped us a lot,” Menchenton said.
“I thought, you know what, we’re right in the middle of Newfoundland, and many people pass through (Gander). Maybe we could be a pit stop for a family that needs it.”
Menchenton has since renovated a guest room in her home to offer to families or individuals travelling across the province for medical treatment.
The room, dubbed the ‘hope room,’ is fully private with an attached bathroom, and includes a fireplace, table and chairs, and a TV. Menchenton said she plans to sanitize the room after each use.
“And if they need breakfast in the morning, that will be provided, too,” she said.
Menchenton began advertising the room on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon, within 15 minutes of posting her inbox was full of messages of support as well as interest in booking the room, she said.
“I really didn’t think anyone would respond, but I’m kind of overwhelmed with the response. It’s wonderful,” she said.
Though the room is ready to host its first guests, Menchenton said her family’s move to their new home hasn’t come without its challenges.
“We’ve had a lot of things go wrong with our home, so the financial burden has been a hard strain on us. We’ve spent thousands and we still have more that has to be done,” she said. “But you can’t wait for your house to be perfect.”
Menchenton, a fitness instructor, community volunteer and mother of two, said she isn’t worried about the extra burden that comes with opening her home to strangers.
“You realize some things are bigger than yourself and you just do it, and figure it out as you go along.”
Although Menchenton said she isn’t looking for recognition or thanks for her decision to offer the room, she does hope it inspires others to do the same.
“We certainly aren’t rich. We’ve been very blessed and we’re very thankful for what we do have. But it doesn’t take much to help others,” Menchenton said. “Maybe some people will say, ‘I can do this in
St. John’s,’ or, ‘Maybe I’ll do this in Corner Brook.’ We just hope others will look at that and do something to help someone else and make an impact on their life.”
Anyone interested in booking the room can contact Menchenton by phone at 424-5189 or 256-7629.