For 19 years, one of the biggest hotel groups in the world has offered free rooms for Thanksgiving and Christmas at all locations in the United States through its "Room In The Inn" Program.

Anyone visiting a friend or family member who is hospitalized or in a nursing home or treatment center over the holidays is eligible for a free room at many Marriotts, Hiltons, Comfort Inns and Holiday Inns Express, any of the hotels operated by the Tharaldson Lodging Company...

The idea for extending such holiday hospitality arose many years ago when company owner Gary Tharaldson and his wife Linda were visiting relatives over Christmas and their nine-month-old son became seriously ill. He was hospitalized for several days and they spent that holiday isolated in his hospital room awaiting their sons recovery.

In later years, Linda's father passed away due to cancer at Thanksgiving time and her brother was killed in a car accident just days before Christmas. Linda became impressed by the burden that the added expense of a hotel room could place upon families, especially during the holidays and the strain of finding lodging -- especially in unfamiliar cities. When her husband became owner of a company operating 350 hotels she instituted The Room In The Inn Program to offer hotel rooms to families and friends of patients free of charge during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Paula Harbour has been general manager of the Fairfield Inn in Mansfield, Ohio for 12 years. She's seen firsthand the joy created by Linda Aamold Tharaldson's program on the faces of people who don't even know it exists, but who are are given the discount at check-in.

"I've had people come in who told me they were visiting their father in a nursing home for the holidays, and their face just lights up when I tell them about the Room In The Inn Program, especially those of modest means. It's eighty bucks back in their pocket that they can spend on something else. That's all because of Linda."

The Fairfield Inn in Mansfield hosts about 2-3 families each season, on average, and offer rooms on four days, Thanksgiving Day, Thanksgiving Eve, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

The Mansfield hotel spends time on outreach to hospitals and nursing homes, even assisted care facilities distributing brochures about the program and try to get the word out to help more families.

The Potomac Mills Residence Inn in Woodbridge, VA is calling local newspapers to try to rustle up some publicity for their free rooms. Sales Manager Angela Mitchell says they are "proud to be participating in the Room in the Inn program and want to make it a little easier for people to visit their loved ones in area hospitals, nursing homes and treatment centers on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve."

Every one of the more than 350 hotels managed by Tharaldson Lodging Companies will honor your request for a free room. They include:

Residence Inn by Marriott
Courtyard by Marriott
Springhill Suites by Marriott
TownePlace Suites by Marriott
Fairfield Inn by Marriott
Hampton Inn by Hilton
Homewood Suites by Hilton
Country Inn & Suites
Holiday Inn Express
Comfort Inn
Comfort Inn & Suites

Check their website for locations and call them locally for details.