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By Jesse Wildman
Somebody has to maintain the House, right? Here at RMHC Central Ohio, we are lucky to have a team of “somebodies”. Highly specialized volunteers dubbed “The Craftsmen”. About a dozen members make up this team, and about 6 of them are in the House at a time. I had the opportunity to chat with Ed (volunteer for 12 years) and Jim (volunteer for 3.5 years) while they fixed the hydraulic opening mechanism on the top of the door – or something like that?
They began our conversation by telling me what they were working on – it was like a foreign language – all I got was that they were fixing the silver mechanism at the top of the door – but this instantly told me all I needed to know. These guys are team players and will figure out how to fix anything.
The rooms in the house used to be carpeted – until The Craftsmen ripped it up and put down linoleum. The tv’s are hanging because of this team, and they even make some of the “fine furniture”, but it seems like there is some debate. They were both sure to mention The Warren House, one of the houses behind the main Ronald McDonald House that’s now part of our campus. The Warren House was a 6 month project. They did everything other than the mechanics – even redesigning the bathroom. They are definitely proud of their work, and rightly so!
Most importantly, they have fun by doing it. They mention that their team brainstorms and bounces off of each other, and I can only imagine the laughs that these guys have. Both agreed that when a family comes up and thanks them, their day is made.
Ed volunteers because he believes in the mission that all families deserve a place to stay and be comfortable, especially when a loved one is sick. Jim says that anyone interested in volunteering should apply, then arrange a visit to see the House – that is all it takes “to get it”. He mentions that anyone can find a niche in which to volunteer. By the way, the team of Craftsmen only have that nickname because there are currently no women with the group. But, of course, women can sign up too. So, whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re welcome to join this group or any of our volunteer opportunities: http://rmhc-centralohio.org/get-involved/volunteer/
“Cayden Jolliff is 1,113 days old today.” That’s how his mom, Gretchen, updated her family, friends and supporters yesterday when sharing the lastest news about her son. That’s how she always starts to give a daily update to the group, which she calls “Cayden’s Crew.” It shows just how much she treasures every day Cayden’s been alive. On Monday, Gretchen, Cayden’s dad, Kevin, and Cayden’s grandma Ruthann, came back to the Ronald McDonald House with Cayden. The family was coming back to the House where they had stayed for just over two years from the moment Cayden was born. This time, it wasn’t to check-in because Cayden had to have another stay in the hospital. It was to give back to the House. And this time, they brought with them two luggage carts filled with donations, including household items and thousands of pop tabs. If that weren’t enough, they also presented the House staff with a check for more than $1,500! Gretchen says it was all the result of that group of supporters, Cayden’s Crew. The family had asked them to gather needed items for the House instead of giving gifts to Cayden for his birthday, on March 23rd, and they came through with quite a haul.
But what made this visit to the house much more special is that it was the first time Cayden had ever been in The Ronald McDonald House. “Cayden decided today on the way down to Columbus that even though it was his nap time, he didn’t want any part of that and pretty much cried all the way, ” Gretchen said of the car trip to deliver the goods. “Once we got in the house, he began to look around and wasn’t so sure what he thought about Ronald,” she said of Cayden’s first impression seeing the Ronald McDonald statue sitting on the bench in the House lobby area. “He didn’t hate the statue, but was just staring at him with a questionable look.” “We were able to see so many of our friends at the house today. It was weird actually having Cayden there with us and not staying,” she added.
Gretchen says they expect to return to the House some day soon with another donation and a big announcement. Meanwhile, Gretchen says Cayden’s doctor appointment that day went well. “We will start to wean another med over the next few months. This wean will be VERY VERY slow as Cayden depends on this med for his nervous system.” But she added, “Even without the nap happening today and a little bit of grumpiness, today was a really great day.”
By: Amy Smith, Volunteer Coordinator
Volunteers are the heart and soul of the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio and I’m honored to be working alongside them. I started my journey as a volunteer purely to feel closer to a place that had given my family so much.
At 11 years old, my cousin stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Dayton on and off for two years. They were able to give my aunt a place to stay and be close to her son. After a LONG two years, my cousin was healthy and no longer had to stay at the Dayton house. My aunt always talked so highly of Ronald McDonald House and how hard the volunteers worked every day. Those words had always stuck with me. That’s why I decided to give of my time at the House in Columbus.
I started as a volunteer here at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio in 2016 and instantly fell in love with the House. Volunteering gave me the chance to meet people from all different walks of life all working towards the same goal: making families feel as comfortable as possible. The house holds such a special place in my heart, I would always say I would do anything for the house.
After volunteering for some time, I was given the opportunity to become a coordinator for volunteers here at the place I love. I said I would do anything for the house, and this gave me the chance to use my skills to really do anything for this house. Since I stepped into this new role, I have a seen volunteers go the extra mile for our families and the house. They go above and beyond the call of duty and their passion for the house is like nothing I’ve seen before. Their passion drives my passion and I can never say “thank you” enough to them for all the hard work they do.
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!