It was a million-dollar evening as 400 guests gathered at the new Ronald McDonald House at Akron Children’s Hospital on Saturday evening for “Make Our House a Home.” Guests got a first look at the new facility that will add 42 new rooms for families to stay while their children are patients at the hospital.

Rennick Andreoli chaired the event along with John Blickle, president of Rubber City McDonald’s, and Bill Considine, CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital.

Andreoli told the crowd that “$700,000 has been raised so far, but our work is not over, our house is not complete,” as he persuaded them, with the help of auctioneer Brooks Ames, to donate an additional $300,000, to make it “a million-dollar evening.”

Janis Worley, president of the board, said the original Ronald McDonald House was built in 1985 when a group of concerned parents, along with Bill Considine, saw the need for a place where parents could stay to be near their ill child.

“Since then we have served families from all over Ohio, 23 other states and six countries,” she said, “but we need additional space so we can provide a home away from home for families.”

“But when do I get to speak?” 7-year-old Liam Fiocca asked his mother, Alexis Fiocca, as the Fiocca family shared their moving experiences at the Ronald McDonald House when Liam was hospitalized for a bone marrow transplant. “I spent a year here,” Liam said.

Alexis and Pat Fiocca and their children Talia, 10, and Tatum, 5, were able to be together for Thanksgiving, Christmas and all the holidays. Talia, who was the donor for Liam’s transplant, said the Ronald McDonald House was their home while Liam underwent six surgeries and 150 blood transfusions. The Fioccas were joined by grandparents Connie Fiocca, David and Janet Mock and aunt Jennifer Fiocca.

The new addition will be ready for occupancy in January 2018, Anne Collins, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House, said as she thanked the many sponsors for their ongoing support of the $12.6 million addition.

Chef Beau Schmidt and his staff at Beau’s Grille provided a delicious buffet, and Edson Pinheiro of Hotel Tech Partners provided music and audio for the event, while not eliminating the sound of the Hospital’s Care Bear helicopter as it took off from the roof of the hospital.

Spotted in the crowd were: Steve Comunale, John and Bonnie Childs, Dee Andreoli, Andrea Wlaszyn, Dr. Tom and Mary Ann Jackson, Becky Considine, John Zoilo, Rae Brown and Mark Ford.

On the scene ...

Who: Akron Children’s Hospital

What: Ronald McDonald House

Why: Make Our House a Home