JOPLIN — Area media outlets were invited Tuesday to the 10th annual Ronald McDonald House of the Four States media night event.

"It is our opportunity to invite the area media outlets to tour the house if they have not been here before," said Tara Horinek, associate director of the house. "To find out about our upcoming events, starting in August and going throughout the end of the year, is our busy time of the year for events going on. It is a chance to meet families who have stayed here, hear their stories to find out exactly what Ronald McDonald House means to those families who have called us home. … And, most of all, it is for us to say 'thank you' to the media people for sharing our stories so that people will know that we are here."

The Ronald McDonald House of the Four States is located at 3402 S. Jackson, St., Joplin and has been open 15 years.

"We have had one mission for 15 years and that is to provide a 'home away from home' for families of seriously ill children who are being treated at either of our two local hospitals (Freeman Health System and Mercy)," she said. "More than 2,300 families from 35 different states and two foreign countries have called us home."

The house has nine bedrooms for families to use. The cost is $10 a night per family, however, if they cannot pay for it, "then their stay is covered by individuals and others that will pick that up for them. So, no one is ever turned away because of their inability to pay, " she said.

Over the years, the house has seen families stay as little as one night and the record is 139 nights. Horinek noted that on average, they stay about 14 days.

"It is very important so that those families that have a seriously ill child can be close," she said. "That they can be right there if their child needs them in the middle of the night, within five minutes they can be there. They are not having to drive from Neosho or Pittsburg or Carthage, they are not spending hours a day on the road coming to see their child. We want this to be their home, while they are with us. We have meals for them, laundry facilities, everything that you have in the comfort of your own home and we have here for them."

During Tuesday's event, media representatives were treated to dinner and drinks, but also they could talk to families who have used the house over the years.

Alex and Jessie Cooper of Neosho, along with their 10-month-old son, Bodie, stayed at the house for about nine nights back in late October and early November 2012.

"The main reason is that we live in Neosho and it was a lot more cost effective for us to be able to use the Ronald McDonald House," Alex said. "I was working every day she was needing to be with the baby. It was close if anything happened we could shoot right down there."

Jessie delivered Bodie at 29 weeks rather than the full 40 weeks. He was in the NICU for eight weeks.

Asked how Bodie is doing now, Jessie said, "you wouldn't know that he was a preemie. The Lord has been good. Bodie has not had any complications or problems."

Fast facts

• The Ronald McDonald House of the Four States opened on July 27, 1998.

• There are 130 active volunteers who work at the house during the year

• Since they have opened, a total of 23,671 nights have been used.

For more information contact 624-CARE.