Eight-year-old Matthew Offers is a big fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team. So imagine his surprise when head football coach Urban Meyer and his wife Shelley walked into his room at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to visit him this past Saturday. The Offers family is from Licking County and often stays at The Ronald McDonald House here in Columbus. Matthew was born with congenital heart disease and has spent much of his young life in Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The family was staying at the House this past weekend when Matthew’s dad got a call on his cell phone from a phone number he recognized as a Dublin area phone number. Matt Offers says he recognized the prefix to the phone number because he’s an employee of Cardinal Health, which is headquartered in Dublin. He thought it was work calling. But it was Coach Meyer asking if he and his wife could make a visit to Matthew in the hospital. WCMH-TV reporter Dan Pearlman came to the House to interview Matt & Heather Offers about the visit. You can watch Pearlman’s report 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.
By Jamie Wintinger
Ella Wintringer is 10 years old and a member of the Skating Club of Western New York in Buffalo, New York. She started on the ice when she was 5 years old and fell in love with the sport. Ella also loves to read, play her flute, practice Tae Kwon Do and play with her new puppy Penelope. She has two brothers; Andrew and Joshua who love watching her figure skate. Ella has skated twice at the New York State Empire Games in Lake Placid, NY on former Olympic ice and in February 2018 placed 3rd in her Freeskate program, qualifying for the 2019 State Games of America.
Ella’s figure skating hasn’t always been easy because of her medical disorders. When Ella was 3 years old she became very sick with motility problems that led to a long journey involving numerous hospitalizations, various hospitals, specialists, tests, procedures, surgeries, medications, etc. that did not make Ella better. In 2013, Ella was referred to Nationwide Children’s Hospital Motility Center and we experienced the amazing Ronald McDonald House in Columbus. This past fall, Ella had her lower gastrointestinal tract reconstructed and the House became our home away from home. Ella had repeat motility testing and an intensive colorectal program which required us to be there for two weeks in April. These two very long stays were much easier to get through with the wonderful volunteers at the House supporting us along the way.
Even our short trips for doctor follow ups over the years are just as amazing! The House creates a comfortable environment for friendships to form between suffering children and Ella has always left having made a new friend or enjoyed a new experience. Our family is so thankful for Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House. Whenever we return from an appointment, test or surgery in Columbus, Ella laces her skates and glides onto the ice like nothing ever happened. Skating is her passion and provides a place where she can leave all of her medical worries at the rink door. Skating truly heals! Ella is extremely excited to be a part of Skate It Forward and support Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio!
We learned about Skate It Forward at Ella’s last two-week stay in Columbus while we were looking at the House’s Facebook page. We saw they shared something from Skate It Forward. We were interested and approached a staff member at the House. We wanted to give back to RMHC because Columbus’ Ronald McDonald House has been so amazing and generous to us over the years! (Ella’s brother has also been a guest there when he had to come for testing to see if he had the same disorders as Ella.)
Skate It Forward presented Ella with the opportunity to skate her Obladi Oblada Freeskate program in their show on Satruday, June 16th! Ella is beyond excited for this incredible opportunity! It is the perfect combination. Skating and giving back to the community are two of her favorite things! She has given back to Nationwide Children’s Hospital Motility Center, locally to Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and to Make-A-Wish of WNY, so adding Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio to her give-back projects was absolutely perfect!
We hope to see you at the rink!
Editors Note: If you would like to attend the Skate it Forward event, click here for tickets.
By Kelley Baster
I first started volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House when I was a student at Ohio State. I was still figuring out what I wanted to do in terms of a career. When I changed my major (again), my new class schedule left me with some extra time, which I decided to spend volunteering. Little did I know that this would actually answer my career question more than the classwork did.
Seven years later, here I am working as a Family Services Manager. A lot has changed since my volunteer days. My job duties now consist less of laundry and more of checking families into the house, giving them the information they will need while staying with us. The house has also grown significantly. The addition of 40 more guest rooms has allowed us to serve more families, and the Lego room and princess room have provided countless hours of fun for patients and their siblings.
Nonetheless, even as things have changed, many things remain the same. I sometimes see volunteers and families that were at the house when I started, some of whom have even been coming here for years before I started volunteering. And, even more importantly, our purpose here has remained the same: to keep families close and lighten the load that they are carrying. I once overheard a guest here saying that her friends and family back home don’t understand nearly as well as her Ronald McDonald House family did. She said this in a conversation among three families of drastically different backgrounds. The fact that she was focusing on how much they had in common truly stood out to me. She, like many here at the Ronald McDonald House, recognized how much we’re all in this together.
These are things that you can’t experience by working or volunteering just anywhere. That’s why I always tell people this is the first job I’ve had where I don’t look for a new job when I go home after work!
Hi there! My name is Megan Renner. I am a full-time, second shift Family Service Manager here at the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. I work the busy second shift weekdays. I feel so blessed to be able to say that I work for this organization. My journey with the charity started in March of 2016 when I took a tour of the house while considering becoming a volunteer. I fell in love with this big House full of heart. I became a front desk volunteer, interacting with families full of questions and guests who were usually coming in to help the House in one way or another. In July of 2016 I felt fortunate to begin an internship with Family Services and interned until December of 2016 when I graduated from the Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. After graduation I began working at the house part-time as a Family Service manager on the weekends. The hours changed every other weekend. One weekend I worked overnights on Friday and Saturday and on the opposite weekend I worked Saturdays in the morning. I continued working these various part-time hours at the house for a little over a year, and loving the work I was doing every moment because it’s so satisfying knowing the ultimate purpose of my job: taking care of families with an ill child. This past February I was offered a fulltime position and felt that I could not pass it up! Around the same time that I began working part-time, I also became a member of our young professionals group that helps support the house. It is called the Red Shoe Society and throughout the year we put on a number of community events that help raise funds and awareness for the house.
Working at the house is fulfilling on so many levels. When you tell someone you work at Ronald McDonald many are quick to say things like “that must be so hard” or “that must be depressing” but honestly that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is one of the happiest places and I look forward to coming into work every day. Here at the house it’s the little things that have the biggest impact and I am so honored to be a part of it all. Second shift is not an ideal shift that many people would choose to take. That is also one of the busiest shifts in the house especially for check-ins. I like to stay busy so it works really well for me. There is not really an ordinary day in the house, which keeps me on my toes and the job interesting. During second shift I get to interact with the families a lot more than those Family Service Managers might on some of the other shifts. That is by far my favorite part. Every family that is staying here has a child that is either admitted in the hospital or is in town for outpatient appointments. It is interesting hearing where the families are from and every family’s story is different in some way. To be able to help a family even if it is just getting an extra pillow for them, or being an ear for them to vent to is self-fulfilling to me. It also brings me back to reality. My worries or problems seem so small in comparison.
My favorite story from the house is a time that I was behind the front desk. For those that do not know, we have a large plastic tub full of donated Beanie Babies that we sometimes pass out to the kiddos in the house which is located behind the front desk. A child was crying and a little upset that he had to be here. I offered to let him pick out one of the Beanie Babies from the tub. After he picked one out he instantly hugged me, said thank you, and it brought the biggest smile to his face and mine! I knew right then and there this is where I am supposed to be! Going from volunteering, to interning, to working part-time with families and working with other young professionals to support the House, to now working full-time with incredibly resilient children and parents, has touched me beyond words. If you are looking for a way to fulfill a need to help others, consider checking out our volunteer opportunities here: https://rmhc-centralohio.org/get-involved/volunteer/
Your involvement with the Ronald McDonald House may just end up being as fulfilling as mine!
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: https://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!