by Marty Demarest & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & P & lt;/span & art of the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile's charm comes from its un-medical approach to health care. A 40-foot-long white truck adorned with an open-armed Ronald McDonald, the Care Mobile can regularly be found around Spokane in parking lots and strip malls. A door in the middle of one side opens into a tiny admitting room. To the right, near the front of the truck, a small room has been equipped for medical exams and treatments. At the other end of the truck, a dentist's chair fills a corner. When appointments are finished, kids are released right back into the world, with no hospital or clinic looming behind them.
Bringing healthcare services directly into the community, as well as providing assistance to financially strapped families, has made the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile increasingly popular with the people in Spokane who need it most. Almost three-fourths of the children served by the Care Mobile come from families with low household incomes, and approximately a quarter of the children helped are non-Caucasian. It's booked solid during the upcoming few weeks in Cheney. When autumn arrives, it will be making the rounds to more than 100 schools and children's programs.
The Care Mobile's success in connecting with the community is a direct result of the program's proactive approach. "We try to always be in the community," explains Julia Shapori, the Care Mobile's coordinator. "Any community event we can be at, we're at. And our schedule is online all the time, so parents can contact us and make appointments for when we're in their community."
Shapori is hoping that as awareness and public utilization of the Care Mobile increases, support will grow as well. "Right now, Spokane's Care Mobile is the only one of its kind in the nation that does not bill its customers for health care. There are no charges for the Care Mobile's services," Shapori points out, "but donations are always appreciated."
The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile was first brought to Spokane in 2002 by members of the local community who saw a need for a flexible, effective system of providing health care to children. Growing up from its grassroots, the Care Mobile quickly gathered community partners -- the Washington State University Intercollegiate College of Nursing, Inland Northwest Health Services, and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Spokane. Despite the involvement of the golden arches, however, Shapori says that McDonalds the restaurant is not actively involved in the Care Mobile's operation. "The restaurants are the restaurants, the Ronald McDonald House is the Ronald McDonald House, and we are a separate entity from either of them. We are all under the same global corporation, but that's it."
That still doesn't stop kids from asking about Ronald as soon as they enter the Mobile. "That's usually their first question," Shapori admits, "but before long they're looking around them -- it's not as scary as a usual doctor's office."
Julie Gardner, a dental assistant who works part-time at the Care Mobile, agrees. "I wonder if they're not actually a little better here. Only a few have cried -- probably two."
For more information, visit www.spokanecaremobile.org or call 324-7291.