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As many of you may know, we have a full calendar of family activities here at The Ronald McDonald House in Columbus. Usually, there’s something for families to do every day at the House. Sometimes siblings and patients have a little down time from the hospital or just need to do something to take their minds off of medical stuff for a moment. Some activities are geared toward the entire family. Some are meant for just the kids. It’s all thanks to volunteers who might have a special skill or talent that they can share to those family members who might be interested.
Most Thursday afternoons, you can find “Jack the Woodcarver” set-up somewhere in the House dining room with a stack of plywood and a variety of carving tools. If they didn’t hear the announcement, some folks walking by might think he’s working on some sort of maintenance project. But Jack Paese (as others might know him) is volunteering his time to carve images of beloved cartoon characters onto these slabs of plywood for children who staying in the House and happen to be around at that time.
Every week Jack takes the time to trace a variety of cartoon characters from coloring books onto individual pieces of plywood with pencil. He then brings a variety of them with him when he sets up in the dining room. When an announcement is made over the intercom in the building that Jack is in the House, children come to choose which cartoon character they want him to carve for them. Then Jack gets to work doing the methodical task of following his outlines until he has a finished product for the child. Sometimes the kids will add to the work of art by coloring in the character with crayons.
Jack has known about RMHC of Central Ohio for a while now and he started volunteering his time and talents a few years ago when one of his friends from a wood carving club brought Jack with him to the House. He enjoyed his first experience here so much, he decided to keep coming back and sharing his talents. And now, he does it every Thursday.
Jack said his favorite part about coming to the House is getting the opportunity to meet kids as well as their families.
If you, your family, your friends, co-workers, or fellow organization members would be interested in volunteering to host a family activity at the house, click here for more information and to fill out a form to be considered for your own family activity event!
Lance & Marianne Matthes have been able to turn tragedy into triumph. Six years ago, their daughter Elizabeth Luke Matthes arrived stillborn. And yet, somehow, they were able to work through their grief and found a unique way to carry on her memory: by setting up a small non-profit charity group in her honor. Elizabeth’s Book Drive provides books to hospitals, group homes, and other service organizations that focus on the needs of children such as the Ronald McDonald House. And now, the group does so much more than that, helping to volunteer or even provide meals and more to organizations in need.
Marianne says she, her husband Lance, and their 3 1/2 year old daughter Daphne, choose to honor Elizabeth on the day she would’ve been born, July 25th, by delivering donated books and doing something special for a different child-centered organization every year. This year, they chose our Ronald McDonald House. She says she had volunteered at the House with her workplace, Keller Williams Greater Columbus, making a meal last Valentine’s Day and was so impressed with the House, she knew she wanted to do more through her own charity to help RMHC of Central Ohio. So the Matthes family, friends, and Elizabeth Book Drive volunteers came to make lunch for the families staying in the House, and donated hundreds of books to our library. In addition to that, the organization sponsored a guest room at the House.” We choose to donate to the Ronald McDonald House because as a parent, all we want for our children is for them to be safe and healthy.” Marianne said. “To have to watch your child be sick is agonizing and heartbreaking. We are so glad there is a place like the Ronald McDonald House that can be a home away from home to care for families during these trying times. What a blessing to be able to give to others in their time of need.”
To date, nearly 40,000 books have been given to children in need through Elizabeth’s Book Drive. You can donate new or used books by sending them via Media Mail to: Elizabeth’s Book Drive, 684 Agler Rd., Gahanna, OH 43230. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
This week’s blog is a “thank you” note to all who have made The Ronald McDonald Family Room at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital such a success in it’s first year. Since opening in July last year, the room has served over 500 families, including more than 7700 family members, for nearly 2300 hours. Those are hours spent taking a break from the patient’s room nearby and taking an opportunity to grab a bite to eat, get a cup of coffee, doing some laundry, taking a quick shower, relieving a little stress playing a video game, or just relaxing at the kitchen table.
Here are just some of the recent comments folks have given after using the family room:
“So thankful for this room. My second son was in the NICU before you had this room and I wished there was a place that my husband could have brought my other child and I could have visited. It would’ve been fun for my son too. My third son was in the NICU three months ago and this room helped so much. I stayed at the hospital with my newborn for 2 weeks and going up to this room even to just shower was a nice break from reality, even if it was only 30 minutes.”
“Loved the NICU family night. Glad to have the ability to bring my food to the hospital and have a space to keep it cold and heat it up. Saved me money.”
“It was awesome to be able to sit down and talk to parents who were going through the same thing. It was calming and relaxing to talk to other parents.”
So “thank you” to all of the donors and volunteers who have made this special room possible and who continue to help us keep families close. Thanks to our partners at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital for making the room possible. Thanks to the hospital’s employees & volunteers as well as the staff at Nationwide Children’s NICU at Riverside who all make sure families take advantage of this amazing space. And thanks to The Blue Jackets Foundation, The Lady Jackets, Worthington Industries, and Safelite AutoGlass for making Central Ohio’s first Ronald McDonald Family Room possible right from the start.
The Ronald McDonald Family Room is always looking for volunteers. If you would like to get more information about volunteering at the family room inside Riverside Methodist Hospital, email Vicki.Chappelear@rmhc-centralohio.org.
Kathy & Bill Scharff were long-time volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House when The Ronald McDonald Family Room opened at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital on July 10, 2017. The couple decided to add volunteer hours at The Family Room to the schedule they already had at the House. A year later, Kathy still volunteers at the House, and her husband still joins her to volunteer at the Family Room. In this video edition of our blog, we sat down to talk to them about the family room on it’s 1 year anniversary.
By Erika Thomason
Our little adventure started April 16th at 6:27am and 6:29am when our little precious babies entered the world very eager at 26 weeks gestation. Our son, Reid weighed 2lbs 3.5 ounces and our daughter, Raelyn weighed 1lb 15 ounces at birth.
We had many visitors that first week of our twins’ lives and sometimes too many to fit in my recovery room. We were very fortunate to have access to the Ronald McDonald Family Room at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital to allow some of our guests to hang out, grab some coffee and give others time to visit.
Our kids continued to grow and reach so many milestones. While most children are born with the ability to suck, swallow, and eat on their own, we have had the opportunity to watch our kids fight for breath with a furrowed concentration that was immediately followed by relief, as they taught themselves to do something that the rest of us take for granted. Not many parents are fortunate enough to watch their children achieve these types of milestones.
Our children were born 14 weeks early, which means we have had a long journey ahead of us here at the Riverside Hospital. The Ronald McDonald Family Room has been such a blessing for so many reasons during our daily visits to the hospital. I pack my lunch most days and the Family Room allows me to store my food in the fridge. They provide snacks and water everyday and during my long hours at the hospital (usually 9:30am to 10pm) I am in desperate need for little snacks. The room has also allowed me to get away from all the beeps of the hospital room, to take a break, to sit down in some comfy chairs and just give my mind a break.
The volunteers have really become friends and I look forward to seeing who is working that day or afternoon. They are all so friendly and welcoming and so helpful. Recently, my son got to come home and I bring him to the Ronald McDonald Family Room at the hospital for lunch and the ladies are soooo happy to see him and always offer help to cooking my food for me, holding my baby and I just enjoy their company so much throughout the visits.
The Family Room has offered some fun things for the moms of the NICU and High Risk such as a Thirty-One Gifts party that gave some great goodies for the mothers. The room has offered free beauty nights with volunteers coming in to style hair.
Another piece that we love about the room is Pizza Night for the NICU families. It’s a meeting that takes place twice a month for NICU parents to get together, share what is going on, a place to lean on one another or to have many laughs. My husband and I have made good friends throughout these nights and we are always looking forward to that next Wednesday.
Our journey in the NICU is hopefully coming to an end as my daughter is eating more and more consistently. We have been here for 86 days. The nurses have been absolutely amazing to our children. We really are so grateful for the opportunity to learn to take care of our children in the NICU as it has really prepared us to be better parents at home.
My husband and I really want to thank Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio for everything they provide not only for our families, but for so many other families. They offer laundry, showers, play area for kids, meals and so much more for families at the Ronald McDonald Family Room here at Riverside Methodist Hospital. The volunteer staff is absolutely wonderful and we will cherish all the delightful conversations with the people who keep the room operating to provide families comfort and a chance to feel a bit at home.
By Joel Merrill, Facilities Director
I was asked recently to write a few lines for our blog this Independence Day. It was suggested that maybe I write a little about myself and my work here at the House. A spotlight of Joel Merrill, if you will.
I am not the story. I am just a person who is thankful this July 4th for having this incredible opportunity to utilize my years of maintenance training and my love of the Ronald McDonald House Charities all at the same place.
I consider myself the luckiest guy on the planet. I am able to work with the many volunteers and staff members that are here to keep the Ronald McDonald House a wonderful home away from home for the families that have sick and injured children at one of Columbus’ local hospitals. Families from all across America that may be far away from other relatives & friends with whom they might usually be grilling out with or sharing a fireworks show with on this holiday. While there are too many local volunteers to give good credit to here on this blog, they all, without exception, give their time, energy, and experience every time they come in. The volunteers have the biggest hearts and care so very much for the families from across the country and around the world. After all, volunteering is the all-American thing to do.
The volunteers that I am honored to work with the most on a daily bases are people that we call our “craftsmen.” They work on projects mostly that involve making things or making things work again. They build benches, event sets, and toy boxes, among other things. They make repairs to the buildings. They upgrade rooms. They keep the yard mowed and trimmed. They help keep this big House the great temporary home away from home that it is. And we wouldn’t be able to do it all without the help of group volunteers who sign up from time to time to come in and help spruce things up. Groups like workers from the Honda manufacturing facility in Marysville. Or the workers from American Family Insurance that set aside a Saturday last month to come in and help with landscaping and painting rooms, for example. We even have a Deloitte Day every year when so many of those folks get to leave their computers at the office and come in to get their hands dirty. That’s what America is all about.
I have been involved with the Ronald McDonald House in some way for about 10 years now and have never lost the awe of just how the volunteers can do what they do.
I hope that I never become so involved with being a staff member that I lose the “sight’ to see and observe how my fellow staffers and volunteers interact with the families that are our guests. It is just amazing to me to see the joy in the children’s faces when Mel sits with them and just talks. Or to see the love that Dottie puts into every room that she “restocks” for a new guest. Or how warm Courtney is with the guests. Those are just a few examples of the “Heart” that is the Ronald McDonald House.
Take a little time to reflect, during the 4th of July holiday, on how wonderful heart -warming the Ronald McDonald House is and how much of an all-American welcoming, positive “vibe” there is here. If you haven’t had a chance to see inside the House, yourself, we invite you to call and set up a tour. Listen to the interactions. Observe the love, the compassion, and the caring that is spread by all.
I do not know how anyone can spend 5 minutes here and not fall in love with everything/reason that the Ronald McDonald House is here.
By Kirby Boes
June 19, 2018
Hi, I’m Kirby! I’m from Worthington, Ohio and will be a senior at Miami University in the fall where I am double majoring in Strategic Communications and Psychology. Today is my first day interning at the RMHC Marketing & Communications department and I could not be more thrilled to be here!
This is the story of how I ended up here at the Ronald McDonald House for my 2018 Summer internship.
In the spring of my senior year of high school at Columbus School for Girls back in 2015, I needed to fulfill our senior “May Program” graduation requirement in which we were to individually find any company, business, or organization to intern/shadow at for the month of May leading up to graduation. After taking time to think about what I wanted to get out of this experience I realized I wanted to intern somewhere that was a good cause and made a positive impact in our community. So, I ended up at the Ronald McDonald house working in the Donor Relations department, where I assisted in planning the RMHC Golf Tournament fundraiser, along with several other fundraising events. I truly could not have asked for a better experience! Over the past few years since this experience, I’ve never forgotten how much I enjoyed my time at the Ronald McDonald House, which is why it was the first place to come to mind when searching for communications/marketing related internships this summer before my senior year of college!
After reaching out to RMHC Senior Director of Communications and Facilities, Ryan Wilkins, about a summer internship he immediately welcomed me back on board, which is why I am sitting here today writing this blog post on my first day of this great internship at the RMHC Department of Marketing & Communications.
So far, I have been here only 4 hours and have never felt so welcomed anywhere in my life. Ryan and the other members of this department have all gone out of their way to welcome me into the RMHC team. I can tell they truly care about my growth and success here at RMHC and that is such a wonderful feeling.
Today was focused on goal setting, where I outlined what I hope to get out of this internship as well as what I would like to work on during my time here. This was to help Ryan understand what I would like to accomplish, however it turned out to help me in a number of ways too by giving me the chance to really think about what I want to gain through this experience, what I would truly like to focus on, and how I can play an active role in the RMHC community. Additionally, this goal setting activity made me feel wanted and appreciated by the RMHC staff, demonstrating that they are actually happy to have me on board and that they value my time here as much as I do.
Today was an outstanding first day and I cannot wait to learn more about RMHC, communications & marketing, nonprofits, and myself during this time at RMHC. I’m very happy to be here!
By Melissa Ransom, Family Services Manager
Three years ago I joined this great organization, the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. What an absolute joy and honor it has been to have a window into the amazing community that surrounds and supports this home away from home for so many. Each year, I’m honored to help this House provide rest for thousands of families that find themselves in such extremely difficult circumstances. As a Family Services Manager, I feel fortunate to be able to be there for folks who just need a helping hand in the form of a bed to sleep in, a homemade meal to eat, or just escape from the hospital to enjoy a bit of normalcy.
A big part of my job serves as that first contact for the families as they arrive here at the RMHC of Central Ohio and go through the check-in process and then again at the end of their stay as they are able to be discharged to go home. This is such a unique experience as each Family Service Manager is able to hear a bit of the story of each individual family and their experience with their stay at the house. On one such evening about a month ago as I was checking out a very grateful family, the mother began to pour out her thankfulness to me and explain how this House was such an absolute stress reliever and answer to her prayers! With tears in her eyes she communicated her gratefulness, as she lived in a very rural area in Michigan and was not familiar with big city life at all. She was very overwhelmed at the thought of traveling to a big city and then to arrive here and be greeted by this home away from home – one in walking distance to the hospital where her son was being treated – was beyond her expectations! Over and over she thanked me as we completed the check out and she walked of my office leaving a huge smile on my face.
There are so many stories similar to this and yet there are such heavy and hard ones as well. In some instances, the family comes back from the hospital where they’ve received difficult news that any parent or grandparent would struggle to comprehend. In those instances, we’re here just to give a hug or to sit and cry with the family as we do our best to comfort them with all the empathy and concern we can give. Overall, its all the amazing stories of triumph and brave children and all the positive outcomes that make serving in the position so gratifying. Having this role allows us to be eyewitness to the strength of families and allows us to feel fortunate to help provide an amazing service to so many that just need someone to take the time to help them when they need a little extra support during a tough situation far from home.
That also means we’re in a wonderful position, as Family Services Managers, to also see firsthand, how the greater Columbus community comes together in so many ways to work toward a single, common goal of supporting those who’ve been thrust into our midst because of an ill child. It’s one of the greatest joys anyone can experience and I am blessed to be able to do that on a daily basis here at the Ronald McDonald House.
If you’ve ever worked at a place where you have the opportunity to read the comment cards or feedback posts from your employer’s customers or clients, you probably have seen your share of disgruntled remarks. After all, even the best-run businesses aren’t perfect. When a family comes to check in here at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, they’re given a checkout sheet so those staying in the House know what their responsibilities are when they are given the good news that their patient has been discharged and it’s time to prepare to go back home. These responsibilities include emptying the waste baskets in the room, pulling the linens off the beds and piling them up, doing a simple cleaning of the bathroom, and making sure surfaces are cleaned. When that’s all done, the checkout sheet instructs the family to come to the front desk to checkout. That’s where they are directed to a Family Service Manager who wraps up the checkout process for them, including taking the completed form from the parent before wishing them well on their journey home. On the back of that check-off list is a survey that we ask a member of the exiting family to complete and a comment section where the guest can leave some thoughts. As you can imagine, except for a very rare few over several months, the responses are always very positive. Usually, the guest struggles to put into words just how grateful they are for having been able to stay at the House, so close to their child. Here’s just a recent sampling of some of those comments from various guests over just the last week:
“All child illnesses of course are serious to families, but we met folks in the RM House who had huge & heart breaking stories. The feeling of everyone being in this together I think is a help to many. Thank you!”
“Just a thank you for the amazing resource you have provided our family through the years! I cannot tell enough people to send their donations to the RMDH!! We are so incredibly grateful for the service you provide to the families-including ours! Thank you!!”
“We had a wonderful stay! Everything was great and I couldn’t ask for more. This is so convenient for us with hospital appointments and is truly appreciated. We felt at home away from home.”
“We loved it.”
“Very helpful to a family that wouldn’t have been able to stay if it wasn’t for Ronald McDonald House. THANK YOU SO MUCH.”
“We love the Ronald McDonald House!”
“I cannot thank you enough.”
“My daughter always looks forward to making banners with Fran. Thank you for all the extra activities.”
“As always, thank you!”
“We appreciate the hospitality & know it would be more difficult getting to & from appointments and affording the lengthy stay since we are from out of state. Thank you!!”
“We found out at the last minute that our pilot could not fly us out on Friday and had to scramble to find a way home. Our last day here was supposed to be Friday but I explained our situation and you guys let us stay one more day. Thank you so much, that helped a lot and we were able to get a commercial flight home. We cannot thank you all enough for everything. It was one less thing that we had to worry about and that means everything.” (Many patients and their families come to Ronald McDonald House from across the country. Some special needs ambulatory patients who have scheduled medical treatment at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, use charitable air transportation services donated by owners of private planes and private pilots so they can get to and from Columbus. But sometimes bad weather can force smaller planes to be grounded until the weather clears up.)
“We really appreciate someplace in walking distance of the hospital.”
“Everything was well beyond expectations. Staff was amazing.”
“We really appreciate everything that everyone did to make sure we felt comfortable and at home; it really is one less stress for every parent.”
“We had a wonderful experience and am very pleased and grateful for your services.”
“All was perfect.”
“Thank you for all that you do for all of the families who stay here. It is greatly appreciated!!”
Hey all, Anna B. here – I recently graduated from Miami University and landed my dream job working for the Ronald McDonald House! Throughout high school and college, I pictured myself in just about every career aside from this one. I simply never considered it an option to work somewhere I’ve come to know and love. The Ronald McDonald House always just seemed like a fun place to spend an evening baking for the families or stopping by to drop off pop tabs. I never thought I could actually work here. That is, until I sat down with my soon to be boss (shout out to you, Jamie Fotlz!) about a year and a half ago to hear about what she does for a living. She opened my eyes to the world of fundraising and development – specifically, the role of planning fun and unique events to achieve the mission of an organization. It was that day that I decided I wanted to start building a career at RMHC and join the team of people who “keep families close”!
My earliest memory in the Ronald McDonald House was back in 2009. I was in seventh grade, and my friends and I came into drop off pop tabs. My mom’s trunk was full of them! It was the start of summer, and after a full school year devoted to taking every single pop tab off of the Gatorade cans at lunch. It cracks me up every time I tell someone from middle school that I work here. They immediately bring up the memory of my friends and I wearing big janitor gloves digging through the very full (and very gross) trash cans during our study hall. I don’t remember what exactly sparked this kind of devotion to RMHC – but, we loved collecting pop tabs. We came in and got a tour of the House. I was amazed by how much fun and love filled a place that I assumed would be really sad. I am still captivated by the love and joy that fills this home-away-from-home. Its proof that kindness for one another goes a long way.
Now, its 2018 and I am still collecting pop tabs, but I finally get to spend my days here at the Ronald McDonald House full time! I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to work alongside so many amazing staff and volunteers. Jamie had flowers waiting on my desk on my first day, Tom the volunteer invited me to ride on the dolly during lunch on Thursday, and George, the craftsman made me my very own ice cream scoop. Everyone has been more than welcoming my first few days. There has yet to be a dull moment.
I’ve always liked the quote “a house isn’t a home without a family” because it rings so true, especially inside these walls. I owe everyone here a huge thank you for welcoming me into this McFamily!