The families that stay at RMHC of Central Ohio share the most incredible stories with our volunteers, donors, and staff. Some of these stories have the potential to bring you to your knees and give you a reality check, while showing the incredible resilience and grace of our families. It helps keep everything in perspective.
On Monday, I had the opportunity to sit in with The Columbus Dispatch while they interviewed a family whose daughter is receiving treatment at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and are also guests here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Their daughter has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This disease takes away the ability to eat, swallow, walk, or breathe. It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants.
The parents had a very candid conversation about their daughter’s diagnosis, and shared some very heartbreaking statistics during the interview, such as 90% of children with SMA don’t live to their second birthday. This family handled their daughter’s diagnosis with such grace and optimism, though. During their interview, they said, “we live in the present with our daughter and know that every day is a gift. We have high hopes for her and hope the treatment she is currently undergoing will help future children with SMA and we hope one day there will be a cure.” During their interview, they laughed and smiled so much with their sweet baby girl, which was very endearing to watch.
I have a tendency to focus on the past and not embrace my present blessings. Hearing this family say they live in the present made me realize just how important it is to be grateful for our present situation. This family can be a model for others to follow—they focus on what they can do for their family, and in this life, family is the most important thing. Although life has the potential to be bleak, we can be thankful for the small things in our lives—whether that is a smile from your child, a phone call from a loved one after a hard day, or a warm chocolate chip cookie—these little things can lift our spirits and we have the ability to determine our attitude every day. I am going to follow this family’s example and find the good in each day and be thankful for my amazing family, and that’s what RMHC does for our families—allows them to focus on their child’s health and their family, and remember that each day is a gift.
By Mackenzie Schuler
In addition to housing over 4,000 families per year, occupying more than 135,000 square feet on 5 acres of land and a green space for families with a splash pad, playground and healing garden, following are some of our staff, volunteers and families favorite things at the Ronald McDonald House:
1. Talking to Families
The families are truly the heart of the House. They come from all over the world and all have a different story to tell. The staff, volunteers and guests all become one big family, all sharing experiences and strength.
Anyone that spends time at the Ronald McDonald House knows that the highlight of the day is finding out what we are having for lunch/dinner. Much conversation surrounds who is serving the food, what time is the
meal and most importantly, what is for dessert. Baked goods and to-go snacks are plentiful.
3. The Blue Jackets floor
After touring all three floors of the Ronald McDonald House, one can’t imagine there is more to see, but wait, the Blue Jackets area awaits in the basement of the House. The Blue Jackets floor is complete with a family room with video games, a pool table and a big screen TV as well as two family laundries, a 2nd TV room and a playroom to entertain the children while waiting for clothes to wash and dry.
4. My co-workers
The people who work and volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House all have a common thread-they are compassionate, they want to make world a better place and they are so dedicated to the mission. As a result, the staff and volunteers become a group of close-knit friends.
5. Resiliency of the families; keeps everything in perspective Families are thrown into a foreign world with complex medical terms and long stays away from home, many times apart from loved ones. Despite the adversity, the families remain gracious, optimistic and dedicated to the healing of their children. They serve as role models to all of us and we have the utmost respect for their tenacity.
6. Having spaces that allow families to escape
The Ronald McDonald House has many spaces to which families can escape the beeping of monitors at the hospital and the solitude of their guestrooms. Some of these rooms include a meditation room, spa where free haircuts and manicures are available, library, music room, arts and crafts room and a workout room.
7. The brownies
Brownies are important to healing as are all baked goods. Brownies are especially popular with the staff and volunteers. I won’t mention names, but some are very particular about the gooeyness of the brownies. Many baking groups come to the Ronald McDonald House to make goodies for our families. Staff and volunteers taste test the baked goods for quality control.
8. Number of people from the community that come in to help
I like to say that it takes a village to run the Ronald McDonald House. We are so fortunate to live in such a giving community with philanthropic companies and individuals who give back through making meals, volunteering, sponsoring events, naming opportunities as well as contributing monetarily.
9. McDonald’s coffee
One of the clear benefits of working, volunteering or staying at the Ronald McDonald House is McDonald’s coffee. Who doesn’t like McDonald’s coffee?? The coffee is a must-have for our folks who are working overnight to make sure our families have what they need in the wee hours of the night.
10. The rooftop patio
The rooftop patio is one of my personal favorites. You can look out at the whole RMH campus and take in a few rays of sunshine at the same time. The rooftop patio is a great place to read a book, catch up on e-mail (yes we have wi-fi on the rooftop) and to host a small event.
11. The treehouse
The treehouse is one of our newest and most unique spots in the Ronald McDonald House. Lucky for us, the NHL chose the RMH stairwell to showcase the legacy they have left in Columbus, home of the 2015 All-Star Game. The treehouse provides an interactive space where kids can get exercise without leaving the building. Children can play hockey, plinko and crawl through a tube to the penalty box.
12. The backyard
You can’t believe our backyard until you see it for yourself. Three giant cement hearts make up a large part of the space. Within these hearts are a playground, healing garden and a splash pad. Throughout the grass you will see ants, logs, mushroom tables and chairs as well playhouses where children can climb and play. This playspace is the backyard to both the main RMH building but also the 5 long-term stay houses for large families or guests that will be staying for a year or more.
13. The people-all encompassing-volunteers, staff and all the people in the world that stay at the Ronald McDonald House Because we have a small staff, we rely heavily on our Housewarming Volunteers and Kitchen coordinators who all so generously give their time. We have over 400 volunteers who work at the Ronald McDonald House and another 1,000 that work events that benefit RMH. These individuals are the most caring, giving, loving, hard- working people that you have ever met in your life. Without them, we couldn’t run the Ronald McDonald House. They are the glue that keeps the House together. They keep smiles on the families’ faces and make everyone’s day a whole lot better.
14. BBQ Pulled Pork
A rare but much loved treat at the Ronald McDonald House. I see some happy campers when they smell the BBQ pulled pork cooking in our new commercial kitchen.
15. The kids
Last but most certainly not least, the kids. They pull at our heartstrings daily. Their innocence, their resiliency, their ability to smile and laugh despite their medical condition is beyond words. They are the reason we volunteer, fundraise, work all night long, advocate and put our heart and souls into making sure that their families can be close to them while they are healing.
By Darla Stover
When people think about RMHC Volunteers, they often picture volunteers inside the House, restocking rooms or creating meals for our families. Our event volunteers are a very important role too, although you won’t necessarily see them inside the House.
Every year we have numerous special events that raise funds so the Columbus RMH can continue to operate and serve families. Without our event volunteers, these special event would not be possible. Event volunteering is a unique way to give time. Event volunteers often don’t step foot into the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. They support families by selling raffle tickets, serving drinks, speaking on behalf of RMHC and supporting various community fundraisers and event. The people who volunteer at events understand that even though they are not directly interacting with the families and children at Ronald McDonald House, the work and time they are donating is just as important.
If you are considering donating your time to the Ronald McDonald House, please consider becoming an event volunteer. Our opportunities are varied and there’s an event for everyone.
Thank you to all of our volunteers, both in and outside the House, for working to make Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio a home-away-from-home.
Director, Volunteer Program
The term “Community Service” has many meanings. For some people it’s about giving back to a community they call home. For others it’s a great way to meet new people. And sometimes it’s about feeling like you are part of something bigger than yourself. But for Red Shoe Society members “Community Service” is about all of the above.
For those of you that don’t know, The Red Shoe Society is a group of professionals, between the ages of 25-45, that come together for one common mission; serving children and families at The Ronald McDonald House. These young people come from varying professions and backgrounds across central Ohio. They volunteer their time making breakfast for families on Saturday mornings. They host fundraisers that help provide more nights of rest to families; including the first ever Red Shoe Run on August 1st to kick off a full month of service activities and fundraisers. And when they aren’t serving families and raising money, they find time to network and get to know one another better. And that’s where my story really begins.
You see as I’ve built up and managed The Red Shoe Society over my past 8 years at the House, I’ve seen how these young people come together. They find a common bond in their volunteer work that creates life-long friendships and sometimes even more. This past weekend, I was honored to celebrate with two of our Red Shoe members as they said their wedding vows to one another. And I got to watch as another Red Shoe member officiated their wedding ceremony. And as two other Red Shoe members presented readings that captured the love that brought them together. And as countless other Red Shoe members made the long drive to Hilton Head to celebrate with them. It was our very first Red Shoe wedding.
That’s what The Red Shoe Society does. It takes a common bond, The Ronald McDonald House, and turns the least likely of people into forever friends. It’s through the time spent providing for others that one can really see the good in another. Our Red Shoe Members have found friendship in each other and a bond that grows with every single cracked egg, dollar raised, and life touched.
If you are between the ages of 25-45 and think “Community Service” is about all of the above, email me at Jamie.firstname.lastname@example.org and you too can be on your way to building forever friendships while making a meaningful impact on people who need it the most.
Dear Ronald McDonald House Volunteers and Staff,
My husband and I would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Our baby, Clay, was transferred here very unexpectedly after being born prematurely. We have now spent almost a month at Nationwide Children’s Hospital as our son has grown and learned how to eat. We would not have been able to manage this without your help! We live two hours away and have a three year old son at home. While my husband has stayed home with our son, it has been a comfort knowing I had somewhere safe to stay that is so close to the hospital. This has allowed me to watch over our baby and be involved in his care. Everything from the room to the services you provide has went above and beyond. This is truly a wonderful place! Thank you all for being so good to our family!
The Boggs Family
By Katie Cannon, Team RMHC Member
I promised myself that I would run a half marathon before I turned 50. Being that my longest run ever was 4 miles, this truly would be a major accomplishment for me.
I am not a runner. In fact, I hate to run. When I saw that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House had a fundraising team for the half marathon, I joined immediately. Running for RMHC was the incentive I needed to keep on training, especially because I have personally witnessed why the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is a necessity for families at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t give up on myself because I would then be giving up on the families that needed the RMH!
My oldest child, Rachel, was born on December 4th, 1991, with a very serious heart defect. Her first three months of life and many, many future days and weeks were spent in Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
During this stressful time, my ex-husband and I had the luxury of our child being hospitalized in the city in which we actually lived. We could go home every night to our own bed; our families kept our fridge stocked with food, and we never lacked for visitors to sit with us during the scariest times ever of our whole lives!
I couldn’t even imagine dealing with a Rachel’s hospitalization, far from our own home and support system. Yet I met so many parents that were doing exactly that and remaining strong because of the Ronald McDonald House. Until my time with Rachel at Children’s, I just thought the Ronald McDonald House was basically a hotel that parents could stay in for a very small cost. Wow, was I ever wrong!
The Ronald McDonald House does provide the hotel-type rooms at very little or no costs. However, it provides so much more. RMHC families get a true family to go home to every night by just walking across the street, instead of driving hours to their far away homes. There are home cooked meals waiting every night. Most importantly, because of volunteers, there is a built in support system, to help through those very long and scary times.
Thank you to RMHC of Central Ohio! I am so proud to have helped this great cause! I thank you for being the incentive to check “run a half marathon before you are 50” off of the bucket list!
By Vicki Chappelear
A bright-eyed four-year-old, little girl walked into my office and gave me a big smile. She looked me straight in the eye, placed her hands on her little head and exclaimed, “I don’t have any hair!” She said it as if I didn’t know, but I did know. Her story is much like that of many of the kids I see daily.
I have the privilege of working with the families of kids who are pretty sick. I have seen all types of illness come into my office—cancer, spina bifida, heart issues or an illness yet to be diagnosed—you name it, chances are good I’ve have met a family dealing with it.
There is something that stands out to me about these kids—their resilient attitude. They do not sit around and feel sorry for themselves. I’ve actually witnessed five and six year olds comforting each other and having conversations about medical procedures I do not understand. Many of these little ones don’t know any different; this is their normal. Few of them know life apart from feeding tubes, wheelchairs or a complex cocktail of daily medicine.
The parents do an amazing job of trying to maintain their childhood innocence; their strength is incredible to me. What is a parent to do when their hopes of what is considered a normal childhood is dashed? When bikes are traded for wheelchairs and playgrounds for exams rooms and ORs? They do their best to keep things as “normal” as possible, all the while feeling the pressures of making wise medical decisions and the never-ending barrage of medical bills that they will never be able to pay. And yet, these moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas put on a brave face for their little ones.
I believe these amazing kids have a gift to see life for what it is, to embrace the life they have, to make the most of every moment. God has given them the strength to handle unimaginable trials with grace and a smile. They are not upset with their situation; they do not compare what they are going through with those who are not going through a life-altering experience.
I no longer see children in wheelchairs or children from whom childhood has been stolen, but rather, I see their smiles. The twinkle in their eyes and their love of life as they know it. It’s not about what happens to you or what you are going through, it’s about the eye through which you see those circumstances. These little ones are far wiser than their years.
So when I hear the squeal of laughter coming from a child in a wheelchair or even see the precious smooth, round head of a bright-eyed little girl, I smile because I am reminded there is joy in being alive. This is the path God has chosen for them and they embrace it.
By Diana Beil, RMHC of Central Ohio Volunteer
In 1991, my brother was a patient at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. For several months, my mother stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House while he was in the hospital. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a group of coworkers who prepared a meal for the families staying at the House. Being there reminded me of all the stories my mother shared about her time staying at the House and how blessed we were to have the House during such a difficult time. After that visit, I realized I wanted to become more involved with the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and I have been volunteering ever since.
My favorite part of being a Housewarmer is the interactions with the families. It is a great feeling to know the simplest of tasks – providing directions, providing forgotten toiletries, etc. makes their day just a bit easier. I am always fascinated by the distance people come to receive care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I have a great sense of pride for the Hospital and the House, and feel confident telling the families that they are in the best place they can be for their child. I also have met some of the most generous people working at the House. It is nice being surrounded by others who value volunteerism and giving back to our community.
My mother came to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House with me a couple years ago to take a tour. It is very different than the small house she remembers. I can’t wait to have her come back and check out the new addition. I think the most rewarding part of being a volunteer at the House is knowing I’m making my mother proud and giving back to such a wonderful place that helped our family all those years ago!
By Abby Brumme
“As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.” –Dieter F. Uchtdorf. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was pretty much always that I was going to be a teacher, an actress, or ballerina, but we all know how that goes. If you asked me what I was going to do for my career when I started college, I would have again said that I was going to be a teacher. Here I am at my desk at RMHC of Central Ohio as the Development Associate with a Communications degree and I couldn’t be happier.
How did I end up here? Miracles. Miracles like Jenna, Brandt, Jackson, Lyndon, Robert, Carly, Dylan and so many more. I was lucky enough to get to know these little miracles through Dance Marathon, which raised money for the local children’s hospital at BGSU and I knew immediately that my career path was going to be changing. I met children who spent the beginning of their lives in the hospital, children who have beat all the odds, children who have gone to more doctors’ appointments in their short lives than most people will ever have to, but most importantly children who never wiped the smile off their faces or gave up hope no matter what they were going through. Spending time with these miracle children led me realize that my path in life was going to change and for the better.
Never in a million years would I have thought that I would have graduated college and within weeks begin working for such a rewarding organization. Every day at work I see new miracles coming through our doors who are also working to beat the odds against them. Not only do I see the many miracles who stay here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, but I also see countless volunteers, community members, organizations and so many others who selflessly give to create a welcoming home-away-from-home for the many families who stay with us. It’s true what the quote says–by losing myself in the service of others I found my path and my happiness.
By The National Board
One day, a mom and a dad will walk out their child’s hospital room with heavy hearts and seek solitude together in the Safelite Serenity Rooftop Garden of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. There, dozens of engraved pavers will line the walkway and represent to those parents that a community cares about them and their child.
This is why The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors is honored to be one of hundreds of donors who support the selfless cause of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House through participation in its rooftop garden paver program, and are truly grateful that such a charity exists for seriously ill children and their families.
The National Board has been tied to the good works of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House through the volunteerism of its employees and collecting items for the Wish List during the holidays. Additionally, in 2010, Nationwide Children’s Hospital donated its 40,900-pound watertube boiler to the National Board to be used as part of the training program the organization offers to pressure equipment inspectors from around the world.
About the National Board: Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, since 1919, The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors is a non-profit organization that promotes greater safety to life and property through uniformity in the construction, installation, repair, maintenance, and inspection of pressure equipment. Learn more at www.nationalboard.org.