By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For more than 30 years, the Ronald McDonald House Charity has been providing shelter and support to families of sick children in the Upper Midwest. And now, for the first time in Minnesota, those services are available without ever leaving the hospital.

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Wendy and Mark Frick are among the first overnight guests in Minnesota’s newest Ronald McDonald House. Opened back in November inside Minneapolis Children’s Hospital, it is just now available for overnight stays.

Opening a wood-paneled door to one of 15 rooms, Children’s RMH director Mike Orum says, “This is one of our bedrooms.”

At first glance it has all the touches of an upscale hotel. You will notice beautiful leaded glass windows bordering the hallway. A family sitting area includes a stone hearth and gas fireplace, anchored by a massive leather sofa.

Its 15 guest rooms include two double suites to serve larger families. Rooms are decorated in Mission-style furnishings and are accented with original art.

“That was definitely our goal. That when you walk through the bedroom or into one of the suites that you feel like you’re at home and that you feel like you can relax,” explained Orum.

But for guests here, like Wendy and Mark Frick, it’s anything but rest and relaxation. Families in need of accommodations are facing some of the toughest days of their lives. The Frick’s newborn son, Cole, will soon undergo major surgery to place a shunt on his brain.

As Wendy Frick explains, “I can’t imagine having to be separated, so it’s great to be right here.”

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“Right here,” is on the third floor of Minneapolis Children’s. Parents like the Fricks can relax in a private room yet be just steps away from their child.

Prior to the opening of the Ronald McDonald House, parents would often try to sleep on chairs at the child’s bedside with the constant beeps of alarms and monitors.

This is the Midwest’s first Ronald McDonald House built within a hospital and only the fifth in the nation.

“It really allows families to again get away from the bedside but it’s not too far away, it’s just steps as you’ve seen,” said Joy Johnson-Lind, Director of Children’s Family Services.

Furnishings have all been donated, like Tempur-Pedic beds, Anderson Windows and flat-panel TV from Best Buy. Families are often treated to home-cooked dinners which are prepared by volunteers.

And the times when a family wants to cook for themselves, there is a fully stocked pantry with groceries donated as well.

It’s all designed to lift a family’s burden — because in a time of obvious worry, getting some rest shouldn’t be another one.

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As parent Mark Frick puts it, “we never knew what it would be like to be on the other side of the fence. And now we know and we just can’t say ‘thank you’ enough!”