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Nearly three thousand visits have already been logged by those looking for rest and recharge in The Ronald McDonald Family Room at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital since the opening of the room in July of last year. Three-hundred seventy-six are the number of families we have served over that same time in this first Ronald McDonald Family Room opened by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. We have been honored to serve these families, most of whom have had a baby in the NICU at Riverside Methodist Hospital. Our Family Room space offers a respite where moms, dads, & siblings can take a few minutes to refresh and relax away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital. A snack, a shower, a recliner, even a video game or two are just a few of the things patients’ families can enjoy while in the Family Room. One of the really great things about the Family Room is that we are able to serve families right here in our local community. While families staying at the House come from afar, the majority of families who use our space at Riverside Methodist Hospital live here in Franklin County! We are delighted to be able to give back to the very community that has supported us for 36 years!
To help visitors to the Family Room, we have more than a hundred volunteers who attend to the guests’ needs every day of the year. Our volunteers present a warm inviting space and help meet the needs of families. Dedicated volunteers like Art and Karli (pictured). Art Hersey always shows up for his shift and kindly asked ONE TIME if he could take his birthday off! And Karli Schomaker is a busy mom of two who often works with Art and knows just what it takes to help parents keep kids entertained for a bit. Our volunteers not only serve families by offering towels and toiletries for a shower (862 showers so far!), laundry detergent to wash their clothes, and a listening ear, sometimes they even provide a hug! We are so grateful for our volunteers who are dedicated to caring for our families!
Our volunteers do it all for the families. We ask guests to leave comments about their experience with the Ronald McDonald Room, and here’s just a sampling of the many positive comment we get back about this valuable resource:
· “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.”
· “So thankful we had this spot to gather our thoughts and nourish ourselves during a very stressful time. Thank you.”
· “Thank you for providing this area!”
· “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.”
· “Thank you for providing a space for our family! Our youngest was in the NICU during flu season and our other 3 children were not allowed on the floor so they spent some time in RM area while we were passing kids off from one parent to another.”
Six-year-old Parker Call’s family has been coming to the Ronald McDonald House here in Columbus for almost all of his life. Parker had been seen at a hospital in Dayton, where doctors recommended a surgery that could be accomplished sooner at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Parker has been coming to NCH ever since then. Around the House, Parker is well known for his brilliant smile and his cordial wave from his wheelchair. His sister Mallori is the attention-getter. She’s the center of attention wherever she goes in the House, usually bursting with energy and leading the way running several steps ahead of their mom, Eve. And sometimes quiet Wyatt, almost 2, will join them for a stay. The family has endeared themselves to volunteers and staff each time times they’ve stayed in the House.
Since 2014, Eve says she and her kids have seen Nationwide Children’s Hospital expand to include 2 new towers, and have also seen our House grow from the 88 rooms to our current 137 rooms. Coming to our House, Eve says, “I really didn’t know what to expect.” Since then, Eve says she and her kids have really come to appreciate all we have to offer. She was especially impressed when the commercial kitchen was added for meal groups to serve guests cafeteria-style. Before then, families would have to circle a kitchen island in one of the family kitchens to serve themselves. And, she points out that her family started coming here, “before the princess room existed!” In all seriousness, though, Eve says being able to leave the hospital environment for rest and relaxation is very important. “It’s nice to be able to get a good night’s rest and be able to be energized to keep up with the busy schedule over there.” She adds, “Once they’re admitted, it gets a little crazy… it’s nice to get a full night’s rest and not worry about spending lots of money in a cafeteria and hotels.”
Eve especially wants the unpaid volunteers to know how much she appreciates what they all do for her family during each and every visit. “They’re awesome!” Asked if she would have any advice for any family preparing to come and stay at our House for the first time, Eve responds by saying she would simply tell them to relax, “it’s just like going to a second home and just like having a second family.”
Today is my first day at the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. I’m volunteering as a Communication Intern for the next few months. I’m a third year student at The Ohio State University and am on a light class load for the semester, so I have some free time – why not give back? In December, I reached out to a mentor downtown to chat about possibilities of volunteering or interning. He mentioned typical volunteer opportunities such as making meals, or professional opportunities, how he gives back. If I have a skillset that can bring value, why not use it for good? Time is perishable – if I don’t use my skills today or tomorrow, they are wasted and those are 48 hours I can’t get back. Those are 48 hours that could have been used to help put smiles on families’ faces. So here I am, a few weeks later – ready to get to work. I am blessed with a supportive family, and am excited to help other families stay together while their children get the care they need! If my work helps one family smile, my time will be worth it.
I live about 40 minutes from the house by bus (it’s kind of a hike), so I was planning on only coming in one day a week. As I turned off of High Street on to Livingston Avenue, I saw Nationwide Children’s Hospital – it is enormous. I’ve participated in Buckeyethon – an Ohio State fundraiser to support Nationwide Children’s Hospital, but have never seen it in person. I then sat in the lobby of the house waiting to be walked back to the office and had the opportunity to watch some of the families. Kids running around smiling, parents asking (and receiving) anything one could fathom and volunteers checking in. I knew this place was going to be special, but couldn’t imagine the immediate connection I felt. So, that one day a week turned into 2 days and some time out of the office.
I am now on a mission – there is now a purpose to my free time.
As a student at Ohio State, I’m constantly surrounded by some of the smartest and most outstanding kids in the world. We have the opportunity to access a world class education and peers trying to change the world. With that said, it is kind of a bubble – students, and I myself am guilty, often don’t see past campus. I think the same thing can be said for society as a whole, but that’s a different discussion. The world is bigger than what we see every day. I’m excited to get out of that bubble and I’m excited to learn. Most importantly, I am excited to help make a difference.
I was raised giving back from when I can first remember – “tzedakah” as we call it in the Jewish religion. I am lucky to be in the position to donate my time, and am excited for this experience.
What are you doing with your free time? Check out how to get involved: http://rmhc-centralohio.org/get-involved/volunteer/
By Blair Arms
Food. If we are fortunate enough, we are able to eat three meals a day; maybe more dependent upon our lifestyle. Some love being in the kitchen, others wouldn’t know what to do with a knife. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by grandparents and parents that cooked. I remember being in my Grandma Lou’s (Grams) kitchen when I was little on Thanksgiving, and seeing her freak out because we forgot the mashed potatoes and gravy! Luckily my Grams, a stay-at-home mom of 5 children, whipped out the potatoes from her pantry and put me to work. “We will use the microwave if we have to!” she said. That memory is one of my first memories of being in a kitchen and learning how to make homemade mashed potatoes and gravy (from the turkey drippings, of course). That memory is also one of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in culinary arts and why I link cooking/baking to family.
So, imagine being told that your child has to go a hospital, far away, for an unknown amount of time, and you don’t know anyone in that city. Not only do you have to go to that hospital, but you have to be at the hospital all day to ensure the best care for your child. When do you have time to shop for food? Even if you find the time, would you really want to cook? Our job at RMHC is to take that stress away and create a home environment so you don’t have to think about how you are going to feed yourself and your child (among other things).
Team Cuisine started in July 2017. One Chef volunteered their time, prepared the menu, shopped for groceries and helped prepare the meal. When the program picked up, RMHC knew they had to make Team Cuisine a full-time position. That’s where I come in!
My position as Head Chef is to ensure that the group has all of the necessary equipment and ingredients to make a meal for the families during their stay and that they can prepare it safely with the best sanitation practices. Upon arrival, I survey the group to see how many there are, break them off into teams, and they work at one of the stations that I have set up. After the meal has been prepared, the group serves the meal to our families, as well as takes care of the dishes and cleaning of the kitchen. The whole process is very hands on and interactive.
When coming up with menus, I consider what is being prepared during the week, and what I can buy within the budget. By doing meals through Team Cuisine, we can ensure that the families are being fed a well-balanced and delicious meal, and that the groups know how to prepare a nutritious meal for 100-150 people.
One thing I try to emphasize when I am working with a meal group is that RMH is first and foremost a house. I want the group to envision them being in their own home and making a meal for their family, putting the love and effort into the meal for RMH just as they would if they were at home. I believe that is what makes the group’s experience more authentic and an avenue for some great memories.
Our motto is Keeping Families Close. What better way to keep families than through food?
By Caitlin Wolcott
“New year, new me” is what every person is saying as the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve.
Every year people are making resolutions for the New Year and the number one resolution always revolves around losing weight or working out more. Six of the local Orangetheory Fitness gyms and Ronald McDonald House Charities teamed up to create the perfect fitness challenge for one week in January to kick start the year to a healthier you.
Team RMHC, the Ronald McDonald House Charities running team, was looking for a way to stay in shape outside of the running season. Runners love to compete and stay fit so a fitness challenge seemed to be the perfect fit. As many of you know, Orangetheory Fitness is the hot new fitness craze. This high intensity, full body workout focusing on endurance, strength and power is the perfect way to whip anyone into shape. Every Orangetheory Fitness across the country operates off of the same workout plan so that no matter which gym you attend, you will be doing the same workout as someone else across town. Therefore was the perfect match for the first ever Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio fitness challenge.
The Challenge will take place from January 22nd through January 27th leading up to Orangetheory’s global transformation challenge. Those who join Team RMHC and are not currently a member of Orangetheory can sign up for this challenge and receive a discount on Orangetheory membership packages. Current members of Orangetheory may join the challenge as well using their existing membership packages. All participants will recruit donors to pledge a specific dollar amount per calorie they burn throughout the week of the challenge. All of the proceeds will benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities here in Central Ohio and the 4,500 families we serve each year.
If you are telling yourself “new year, new me” or simply want to try something new to better your health and help a good cause, sign up now at Runsignup.com/OTFChallenge!
Amanda and Anthony Zari had watched their son, Ashton, now 7, deal with illness for a long time. Around his third birthday, a urinary tract infection escalated into bilateral reflux that damaged his kidneys. It’s an irreversible condition that requires multiple hospital visits at Nationwide’s Children Hospital and several stays at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
Eventually, Ashton will need a kidney transplant.
“The goal is to keep him off dialysis and off the transplant list for as long as we can,” said Amanda, who has two other children, Addison, 4, and Alex, 16 months.
Amanda, a teacher who had to quit her job to care for Ashton and her family, is a frequent visitor at the House with her three children, making friends out of hospital peers and family out of House volunteers and staff.
“Alex learned how to crawl here, walk here, Ashton had his stabndardized testing for school here. All of alex’s major things have happened here. It really has served as a second home for us,” said Amanda. “These people are like my family. To see how many families are helped. It’s just awesome.”
Ashton felt the same way. Just before his fourth birthday, Ashton’s “Birthday Wish” project was born. Initially, his goal was pretty steep.
“When we asked what he wanted for his birthday, he said, ‘I want to give the Ronald McDonald House a million dollars,’” said Amanda. “But we helped him make a more realistic goal. So, we created a GoFundMe page with a goal of $100. That year we raised $500 in two days.”
Amanda and Ashton kept going. Another fundraiser that year earned $1,500, then another $1,500 just before Ashton’s fifth birthday. For his sixth birthday he set a goal of $10,000 and fell just short at $7,500. This year, he set a goal of $10,000 ~ one Amanda thinks he’ll hit easily with all the different fundraisers Ashton leads, along with help from Mom.
“Ashton’s fundraisers are his saving grace,” said Amanda. “It gives him a place to channel all his frustrations and negative energies (about his illness) into something positive. It gives him purpose outside of what hospital procedure he has to do next.”
Would you like to help Ashton hit his $20,000 goal? Head to his website to keep apprised of all the fundraisers he’s hosting and his frequent updates.
Thank you Ashton for all you do for the House!
Julie and Steve Buchanan are parents to five children in southwestern Virginia: Summer, 16; Zachary, 14; Grayson, 12; Jada, 8; and Jazmine, 5.
Their youngest, Jazmine, was born with a birth defect that left a hole in her colon, causing multiple health issues over her young life. For added support, Julie joined a Mom’s group with similar issues as her daughter ~ and that’s when she found out about colorectal specialist Dr. Marc Levitt at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
“He is the man,” said Julie, who said the treatment Dr. Levitt has provided has “made the difference as to whether or not (Jazmine) could live a normal life.”
“We wanted to come to the best place and we were blessed to get approved through insurance,” said Julie, adding that, initially, the family stayed in hotels when they came to Columbus. “But when they set us up at the hospital, the Welcome Center told us about the Ronald McDonald House.”
The first time the Buchanan family used the House was in December of 2015, and since then, they’ve stayed at least six more times through Jazmine’s check-ups, surgeries, and other appointments.
“If you’ve got to be away from home, this is the place to be,” said Julie, adding that the people at RMHC of Central Ohio were what made the real difference. “It’s the way the people are; the volunteers. They don’t just bring bubbles; they play bubbles. They interact so closely with (the kids). That’s meant so much; how the volunteers here and the staff have just been so welcoming and kind.”
“She never asks about shots, or surgery; all she talks about is coming to ‘Ronnie Donald’s’ house…I’m thankful for that.”
~ Julie Buchanan on her daughter, Jazmine, 5.
But what really stands out to Julie, is that when Jazmine knows she has to go to the hospital, no matter what the treatment, she doesn’t talk about the hospital ~ she talks about the Ronald McDonald House, or as Jazmine calls it “Ronnie Donald’s.”
“She never asks about shots, or surgery; all she talks about is coming to ‘Ronnie Donald’s’ house,” said Julie. “(The House) is what’s making that go away. (The House) is what’s staying in her mind. I’m thankful for that. Because she’s been through a lot. She’s gone through it. Just to see that this is what she remembers…you don’t want them to remember the bad.”
How do I explain the complexity and generosity of the Ronald McDonald House in one
page? I do not believe it is possible, but I will try to describe its profound impact and nurturing
As a recent graduate, I did not think I would be fortunate enough to find a job that I
was truly passionate about right out of college. However, upon graduation, I was hired at
Nationwide Children’s Hospital to work with the young siblings of patients in the hospital. Over
the past year, I have spent countless hours interacting with children while their precious
brother or sister was staying in the hospital.
One afternoon, I was playing a very intense game
of Monopoly with a sweet 4 year old boy. I was engaging in small conversation during our
game and asked him, “Did you have a long drive to the hospital this morning?” He replied, “No
we walked…and we live in the coolest house you have ever seen.” Of course, this statement
sparked my interest! I asked him, “Well, what makes it so special?” He then went on to say,
“Grace… it has a lego room….a splash pad….so, so, so many cookies every single day…Ohio
State Buckeye stuff… oh! and a movie theatre – me and my brother watch a ton of action
I acknowledged his statement sincerely, but I assumed it was most likely just
a childish exaggeration of where he actually lived. When it was time for pick-up, I told his
mother about our conversation. She teared up and explained to me that they had been living
at the Ronald McDonald House for over two hundred days due to her daughter’s extended
stay in the NICU. Her two other children had started to truly consider it their home. Without
ever walking through the doors of the Ronald McDonald House, I felt entirely connected to
this amazing organization.
During my time spent at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, many of the conversations I
have with families are humbling, and they make a difference in my day and my outlook.
However, my experience with that little boy and his mother really stood out to me. I
immediately wanted to learn more about the mission of the Ronald McDonald House and find
a way to get involved.
A few months later, I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to
work there. At the house, I have been welcomed with warm smiles, friendly encounters, and
impactful stories by employees, volunteers and residents. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of
such a place? What we do at the Ronald McDonald House has a positive impact on more
people than we will ever know, and for that reason, I am truly proud and honored to be a part
of such an amazing organization.