Congratulations to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio board of trustees member, Dr. Cathann A. Kress for her election to chair of the board at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan. Kress is vice president for agricultural administration and dean of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. She was Outstanding Community Supporter of the year for RMHC of Central Ohio in 2019 and hosted the Dean’s Charity Steer Show in 2018, raising more than $150,000 to help keep families near their hospitalized children in Columbus.
“I’m deeply honored to take on this role of stewarding Mr. Kellogg’s legacy and his unwavering belief in people’s ability to solve the most pressing challenges facing children and families in their communities,” said Kress upon her election as chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Kress has been a board member of the Foundation since 2016. WKKF works across the country and internationally to help children facing difficult situations reach their full potential.
Incidentally, as part of a multi-year initiative, Kellogg’s Away From Home program has generously donated cereal trees and Kellogg’s cereal cups to more than 140 local Ronald McDonald House programs across the U.S., including ours. This evergreen program helps to ensure that families staying at local Ronald McDonald House programs have delicious grab-and-go breakfast options as they manage busy treatment schedules.
It’s a Saturday here at the Ronald McDonald House and I stepped away from my baby’s hospital bedside to do a quick load of laundry and the RMH team just announced over the intercom that lunch was ready for families in the kitchen. An immediate smile popped up on my face and my heart filled with gratitude knowing my husband and I have a “home away from home” when we are more than 2,400 miles away. Enjoying a home cooked meal is just one of the comforts of home we are thankful to enjoy during our stay.
As first time parents, we were elated to welcome a baby boy into our family on August 6th, 2020. As many new moms do, I had read so many blogs and books about caring for a newborn and had learned knowledge on what to expect and because of the pandemic, we took an online birthing class. But nothing prepared my husband and me for learning our son was born with a rare colorectal defect that was discovered when he was 36 hours young after he became ill in the hospital. At 39 hours young, he was transferred to another local hospital with a level III NICU. He had his first surgery and spent six days in the NICU. We learned he would require two additional surgeries during his first year to correct his congenital colorectal defect. We didn’t learn until Malakai was six months old that he is classified with VACTERL association, having three of the seven birth defects listed.
After months of prayer and my time to return to work approaching, my husband and I made the decision to remain home for the last two surgeries. Our son’s second surgery at four months old went without a hiccup and he recovered very well. However, his third and final surgery at seven months old unfortunately was not successful and we along with the children’s hospital back home discovered just how medically complex our son was. After almost losing him to sepsis, MOD, and compartment syndrome, we desperately needed a colorectal specialist. After a miraculous connection, we received a call from a dear mama who referred us to her youngest son’s doctor who leads the colorectal center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Within 48 hours, our son was accepted as a patient. On April 17th, we were medevacked from Central California to NCH.
Our son is now receiving expert care from one of the world’s leading colorectal surgeons and we continue to learn about his rare condition from the entire medical team. Every single day, Malakai is getting stronger and improving. He has three procedures weekly to gradually restore his health. We are literally weeks away from being able to bring our baby boy “home” to the RMH to continue his recovery so we can learn how to care for him medically with experts across the street before he is finally discharged — all in preparation to train us as parents to care for his new medical needs at home. We will recover for 4-6 months back home and will return for round two of reconstructive surgeries. Malakai’s plan of reconstruction will possibly go into his 2nd and 3rd birthdays.
At the Ronald McDonald House, we don’t have to worry about housing, meals, and laundry. My husband can continue to work remotely in a quiet space knowing he’s minutes away from our son. RMH really has become our home away from home. We’ve met families from all across the nation. We’ve shed tears here with other mamas and prayed for each other’s children. We’ve met families that “get us” because they have similar journeys with their child’s rare colorectal birth defects. We’ve sat with Ms. Fran as she helped us make an adorable banner to hang on our baby’s hospital door and she kindly volunteered to help us make birthday decorations to celebrate his upcoming first birthday. We’ve cheered on the children who learned how to cook delicious meals for us during their RMH Summer Culinary Camp. And we’ve walked the gardens and play area just to escape the hospital room to capture a few breaths of fresh air.
All of these experiences bring a huge smile to my face! My heart is filled with joy knowing that our son, Malakai, will be able to experience RMH for years to come when we travel across the country for his future reconstructive surgeries and follow up care. We look forward to future stays and seeing familiar faces when we return. We’re excited to see the continued growth and impact RMH makes on families near and far.
The impact and services the Ronald McDonald House is able to provide are made possible by generous contributors like you. It is your support that allows my family and families like mine, to have a “home away from home.” We are truly grateful for everything the Ronald McDonald House has done to support us on our journey and we will forever be grateful for the opportunity to return “home” for our future hospital stays with our son. Thank you for your support to help families like ours.
With grateful hearts,
Valerie, Patrick & Malakai Kim
Sara & Andrew are parents of a little girl getting care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Their daughter, Zia, was born with several medical issues, so they’ve stayed at the Ronald McDonald House several times since October of 2020, during the height of the pandemic. The Coshocton, Ohio couple is so grateful for being able to stay just 500 steps from their daughter’s room all this time, that they started a fundraiser this Giving Tuesday with funds going directly to RMHC of Central Ohio. While staying in the House this holiday season, they told us what the House means to them. Click the image below to hear from Sara about the family’s journey. If you would like to contribute to the family’s fundraising efforts, click the donation button below to be taken to our donation page and type “ZIA” under the Tribute section after checking the box letting us know you’re supporting this family.
“We didn’t have any warning that I was going into labor it just happened, so we were just so in love with her when we saw her we didn’t have time to be scared about her journey ahead,” said Katie, a new mom staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus from Cambridge, Ohio.
Morgan was born at twenty-three months and two weeks gestation and, since the moment she entered this world five months ago, she’s been in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. First at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, where she was born, then a week later at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital NICU. A social worker at Riverside requested a room for Morgan’s mom and dad, Katie and Devin, at the Ronald McDonald House across the street from the hospital where Morgan was getting care. Katie was discharged from Riverside while Morgan transported to the children’s hospital for tests and where her care would continue. “It was a very rough day,” Katie recalls. “We had just left her for the first time – she was still at Riverside – and her doctor called us to tell us about her brain bleed which was unexpected on our end. So honestly, we didn’t look at much of the house or remember much other than that call and headed straight back to the hospital.”
Now, Morgan has been seeing a lot of medical teams while in the hospital. Katie praised the hospital experts helping her grow, listing them off. “She has her neonatologists and nurse practitioners that see her every day, neurosurgery – who now check on her monthly for her grade 4 brain bleed, which has been stable – and an intestinal support team, who follow her for her bowel. She has had her normal occupational/physical therapist, music therapy, massage therapy…”
It takes a lot of work by a lot of professionals to keep a baby alive initially, then more to help that baby progress day by day. While the doctors & nurses at the hospital work to get Morgan to the point where she can leave the hospital, her parents Katie & Devin rearranged their lives to support her through virtually every waking moment of their lives. A lifestyle change Katie says couldn’t be done without being able to stay across the street at the Ronald McDonald House. “It allows us to be at her bedside from early in the morning until late at night to be there to take care of her as much as we can and also feel comfortable being close enough to get some sleep at night.”
Katie added that it’s tough to be away from her daughter as she struggles with medical issues, so being just a few hundred step from her room makes all the difference. “It has been such a blessing! We didn’t have time to think about where we’d be staying it all happened so fast, let alone resources to pay a hotel or rent a place to stay up here as long as we have been. I’ve never left since she’s been born and my husband went back to work after 6 weeks. I am so happy that I am just right across the street from her. I’m not someone who can sleep in the hospital, so it is a place for me to go and recharge for a little bit before I head back over to spend time with our daughter. They provide food so we didn’t have to waste time at first going to the store when all that we wanted to do was be with our daughter. Being able to do laundry has been fantastic as well I can’t tell you what we’d do without the laundry being available. We don’t spend much time at the house but it is nice that we have somewhere to go for a break but also not be too far for comfort from our daughter.”
Katie & Devin are looking forward to taking their daughter back home to Cambridge, Ohio. But, during this month of gratitude, they want to make sure donors of money & time to the House know they are thankful for these investments in the future of their family an so many others. “It helps to take extra stress off us during the most stressful time of our lives and lets us focus on our daughter and her healing and development. I don’t think I can truly put into words all the blessings this house has meant to us. They were able to get us in so quickly and easily we truly could just focus on our daughter and not worry about anything else. All the staff and volunteers are always friendly! It’s so refreshing to encounter friendly faces all the time here.”
Friendly faces she hopes to see again, even after her daughter’s journey leads them all back home.
Fran Green recently celebrated her 6th year anniversary as a volunteer who helps families make banners. We interviewed her for a vlog post to celebrate her August anniversary. The story caught the attention of NBC4’s Audrey Hasson, who spotlighted her in a recent report. Click the image above to watch this feature report focusing on Fran’s dedication to help families.
Becket was born in a small Indiana town near the Illinois border. He was found to have a heart murmur and taken to an Indianapolis hospital for treatment. Doctors there couldn’t get to the root of the problem, even after surgery and recommended his parents take him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Here, they talk about what they’ve gone through with their young son and their experience with our Ronald McDonald House.
The following is a profile from Nationwide Children’s Hospital spotlighting 13-year-old Andy, one of its Patient Champions for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon next month. Andy and his mom, Carolina, have been coming to our Ronald McDonald House for almost half of his years on earth. While staying at the House, he became a Columbus Blue Jackets fan after catching a few games thanks to free tickets donated by The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation to the House for families staying with us.
Andy was born via C-Section at 35 weeks. From the moment he was born, he had trouble eating and gaining weight. When Andy turned two, he was diagnosed with Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
After many years of fighting and encountering problems due to his oral aversion, his doctors decided on the implantation of a Gastrostomy button to help maintain his nutrition.
In 2016, Andy was diagnosed with severe Gastroparesis. His doctors decided to change his Gastrostomy tube to a Gastro-Jejunal tube, which then prevented him from eating by mouth. After this diagnosis, his local Gastroenterologist in Oklahoma referred him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Andy and his family travelled from their home in Oklahoma to Columbus where they met with his new physicians and doctors. The team of doctors ran an assortment of tests and the results indicated that Andy was a candidate for the gastric pacemaker. Andy had the pacemaker implanted in March of 2018 and his life changed drastically for the better.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital is proud to treat children in 49 U.S. states and 54 foreign countries. Andy and his family have been traveling to Columbus almost monthly for regular checkups with his doctors. “This hospital means hope and for us, and peace of mind that our son is under the best medical care. We are truly grateful for the medical team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital,” says Carolina, Andy’s mother.
Andy is a huge fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets and NASCAR! He also enjoys playing with his friends, reading books and attending school. He loves to play video games and basketball.
Andy is travelling the distance to get the care he needs.
My name is Maria Spain. I have been working as a Family Service Manager at Ronald McDonald House Charities for just over three years. My journey with the Ronald McDonald House started when I was a sophomore in college. I was struggling to pick a major, unsure of what career path I wanted to pursue, and seeking inspiration. One day I was speaking with a close friend who works at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and she recommended I get involved with RMHC of Central Ohio, because she had only heard great things about it. I was interested in getting involved with a non-profit, so I decided to walk in one day and see if there were any opportunities for me.
I met with Vicki, now my supervisor, and she showed me around the House. As I walked past all 122 guest rooms, I couldn’t believe how big the building was. The hallways were clean and the guest rooms were cozy. What impressed me the most, though, was all of the intricate details inlaid in every corner of the House. The music room was full of more instruments than I could think of. The library had teddy bears larger than me, and in the kitchen there were seats that looked like hamburgers. The art on the first floor walls made you feel as if you were walking through all 4 seasons in the span of 30 steps. The interior of one elevator looked like the inside of a spaceship, and it led us all the way up to a room that looked like outer space. It was truly so fun. What was more impressive than the uniqueness of the space, though, was that all of it is funded and created directly by our community. If you get to experience RMHC, you get to experience firsthand the impact that compassion and giving can do.
I started as a summer intern, and I was grateful for the opportunity to learn. I worked with some amazing people and learned so much about how a place like this runs. The good that RMHC does is a direct result of the hard work and kind hearts of all of the volunteers and staff members that show up every day to serve families. It was truly amazing, and every day that summer I was thankful to be even a small part of something so good.
In the past three years, I went from a summer intern to a full time staff member. As my knowledge has grown deeper, so has my appreciation for this RMHC chapter. I have met families from all over the world, and seeing their resilience through times of struggle encourages me daily. One of my main responsibilities at work is greeting families when they first arrive and checking them into their rooms. I am passionate about making families feel comfortable and supported during their time here. The magic of RMHC has remained just as strong as when I first walked through the hallways of the House years ago. I would encourage anybody in the community to come volunteer and experience some of the joy that RMHC brings to families.
Easton’s mom, Tania, brought her son to Nationwide Children’s Hospital from Wheeling, West Virginia hospital where he had been on a ventilator with BPD. He was discharged on very high levels of oxygen, but had to be readmitted. That’s when Tania decided to bring Easton to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where he made progress and was discharged. Now, Tania and Easton are back in Columbus so Easton can come off of his feeding tube by learning to eat orally. Tania knew she could come back to Columbus because she and Easton would be able to stay at our Ronald McDonald House. Click the image above to watch our interview with Tania and hear her talk about how helpful having the House has been during this trip and previous trips with the whole family.
Fran Green has been a family activities volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House for six years. She helps families string together pieces of construction paper and foam that are cut-out shapes and characters with letters to form a banner for their room, the patient’s hospital room, or for a sibling back home. She tells us about her experience and the gratification she gets helping families be creative during a difficult medical situation with their children. At the end of the video, she gets a big surprise! You can see the creations from many families on her Facebook page, facebook.com/funwithfran. Watch the video below.