By Christin Dornback
This is Christin, the new writing intern at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. I come to RMHC by way of The Ohio State University and their commitment to connect students and community through direct service-learning courses. I am a senior English major minoring in Nonprofit Management, and my biggest motivator is community and our shared stories. I love running and yoga, warm, caffeinated beverages, trying to keep houseplants alive, and hiking!
I’ll be contributing to this blog by sharing the stories that RMHC of Central Ohio holds, and I hope to connect the world outside with the magic that goes on inside of the house– because it really is magic.
During my freshman year of college, one of my loved ones, Erin, was diagnosed with a degenerative cognitive disease. For the months before and the months following the diagnosis, Erin was in and out of a children’s hospital. Although our family didn’t stay in a Ronald McDonald House during that time, I became aware of the specific needs that a family has while their child is in the hospital. I understand, on some level, that the place between needs and the fulfillment of them is where the magic must come in.
When you enter Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio, you understand that this is where magic lives.
Here at the House, there is an abundance of support and love in the air here – and it’s not simply because Valentine’s Day is approaching! There is kindness, smiles, and laughter throughout the halls: results of the dedicated care and efforts to bring comfort to our families by the staff and volunteers. I hope to share this magic, show you the hearts of our families, friends, staff, and volunteers, and help us all focus on joy in the face of hardship as RMH is Keeping Families Close in our community.
February is related to two things – being the coldest month of the year and Valentine’s Day. Because you can feel the effects of February’s subzero wintry temperatures, I will write my first blog about the later. That topic is obviously more warm and fuzzy!
Valentine’s Day! It’s a day to appreciate those we love and shower them with gifts of flowers, chocolates, clothes (fun socks are my favorite), or jewelry. Some may find themselves at an exquisite restaurant sharing a nice bottle of wine to pair perfectly with their dinner. Or, for me, I like the practical and simple – spending time at home with my kiddo and husband-soaking up the smiles and laughter.
At the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio, it’s Valentine’s Day 365 days of the year. On my first day in my new position I felt nothing but LOVE! There is a sense of kindness in the volunteers, an affection from the staff and comfort in the families because of the love they feel in the House.
The staff at RMHC greeted me with warm smiles and welcome notes, sharing how grateful they were to have me! A Tervis sat on my desk that read, “Share the LOVE”! Throughout the hallways of the House there are signs that have such comforting phrases as, “Life takes you to unexpected places, Love brings you Home.” My favorite place in the House (right now), is at the end of a hallway, where a set of large scrabble tiles spell out the words, “FAMILY, HOME, LOVE”, next to a comfy chair with a fluffy pillow.
The people who fill the House, take extra special care of each other. Volunteer groups come in and prepare meals, baked goods, and prepare activities for the families. For example, the Banner Lady, (this is how she refers to herself), brings in cut-out shapes and letters which she spreads across two tables for families to construct banners. These brighten up their patients’ hospital rooms or their own rooms here at the House. The banners hang with as much love as was put into making them. Generous donors make contributions allowing for families to wash their clothes, sleep in a comfy beds, have running water for a shower, access computers, or enjoy the piece of the outdoor garden.
There are so many other expressions of Love that I could tell you about, but I invite you in to visit the House and see that LOVE in action for yourself. Come see the smiles, come see the gestures of kindness, come see families giving other families comfort sharing their experiences & challenges.
The Ronald McDonald House has always had a special place in my heart and in my first few days as a team member, it has become a whole new level of special to me! Ronald McDonald House Charities, truly does keep families together and Valentine’s Day happens 365 days-a-year here!
Four years ago this month, I toured the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus for the first time. The House and everything it offered blew me away! I told myself I would volunteer and make a difference. But I didn’t follow through for a long time. Life got busy and I was working in an industry where my schedule had no consistency.
Five months after touring that house with 88 bedrooms, an accident on a family vacation left my youngest brother, Austin, paralyzed and on a ventilator and my family checked into a small Ronald McDonald House in Tallahassee, Florida with only eight bedrooms. I can’t begin to describe the surreal feeling of going through the motions of getting to the hospital, waiting in a room for the doctor to finally come talk to you, and that doctor telling you that this accident will have a best-case scenario of your brother being a quadriplegic. Those first hours were honestly the scariest moments of our lives because we had no idea the outcome and it wasn’t anything that we could ever have been prepared for. Austin spent June 1 through November 18 of 2015 in the hospital with my mom by his side while the rest of us split our time between working and traveling back and forth from Ohio to his new hospital in Chicago.
I know firsthand that what we here at RMHC of Central Ohio provide for families is more than just a bed near the hospital. It’s the community of support that comes from strangers taking care of you and every family going through something completely different who can still relate to the chaos that comes with the daily uncertainty of a hospital stay.
Since that fateful year, I’ve been a volunteer, a volunteer manager, and now a member of the development team here at RMHC of Central Ohio. As Strategic Partnerships Associate, I’m working with the community to make sure families with ill or injured children in the hospital can rely on our House for years to come. I’ve been blown away by the support we’ve received from the community because it takes a village to keep the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House running.
One of the “Villages” I am immensely involved with is our Red Shoe Society, which is a group of young professionals dedicated to supporting RMHC of Central Ohio and our families. Each month, week, and day I’m amazed by what this group accomplishes. From Saturday morning breakfasts, to Friday night kitchen cleaning, to various community fundraisers this group has fun while supporting the House. With each member of RSS donating just $12 each month to RMHC, we’ve raised over $8,000 to support the house! Can you imagine the impact on the lives of our families if more young professionals joined us in supporting our 12×12 program for the House? The possibilities are endless and only requires a minor budget adjustment.
I’m optimistic about 2019 and all the ways families from all over the country – and the world – will be impacted by the relief that is provided by RMHC of Central Ohio this new year and for years to come.
Marilyn & Bob Holb like to volunteer their time reading to students at Salem Elementary School in Columbus. About a month ago, Marilyn read the book, “How I Became a Super Hero” to fourth grade students at the school.
The book was written by our House’s frequent guest, 8-year-old Ashton Zari. Ashton was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease around his third birthday and since then, he has spent more than 300 nights at the Ronald McDonald House. Ashton says he decided to “write a book to make people in the hospital feel better”. He also says he wanted to encourage people to understand the power of kindness.
After finishing reading the book to those 4th graders, the Holbs informed the children that all of the profit raised by the book is donated to The Ronald McDonald House. This inspired the children to do a little writing of their own. They decided to write greeting cards to Ashton to thank him for writing the book and for helping the Ronald McDonald House. They also wanted to let him know the book was uplifting for them too. Marilyn & Bob delivered the cards to Ashton while he was staying at the House recently, and we were able to listen in as Ashton read a few of the cards aloud to his mom, Amanda, sister Addison, and brother Alex while sitting in the Ronald McDonald House dining room. Click the links below to hear Ashton read a few of the cards.
Ashton just celebrated his ninth birthday on December 20th while staying at our Ronald McDonald House and shared the celebration by giving to other kids staying with us . Happy belated birthday, Ashton! For more about Asthon, visit Ashtonsbirthdaywish.org, or you can purchase “How I Became A Super Hero” directly at Ashtonsbirthdaywish.bigcartel.com.