What a year. That’s what many folks were saying about 2020 as that year wrapped up and people gleefully rang in the new year. Lots of people were glad to see 2020 end and that was no different at our chapter of Ronald McDonald House Charities. The year started out with positive possibilities. For instance, here at RMHC of Central Ohio, we were looking forward to opening a brand-new Ronald McDonald Family Room inside the new Nationwide Children’s Hospital Big Lot’s Behavioral Health Pavilion. It would be the second family room at a second hospital for our RMHC chapter. Then, the pandemic hit. That meant no grand opening and no tours of the beautiful new much-needed space for families inside a one-of-a-kind pediatric mental health facility. What’s more, it meant immediate and drastic changes for the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world and the existing family room at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital.
“I can remember early on, we asked all of our employees to wear fabric masks because we were going to protect people,” CEO Dee Anders recalls. “This is before anybody started, really. And we got a little push back from people thinking this is odd. Then we got pushback from hospitals saying those are not going to work and then it was maybe a month later everyone had to wear any viable mask we could get and I was so glad that we had our staff do it because we stayed safe that way.” Of course, masking wouldn’t be the only major immediate change to take place at the House. Suddenly, we had to stop allowing volunteers to come in, yet everything had to be cleaned and disinfected even more than usual for an already especially clean facility housing families far from their homes. And there were still families that had to come to Columbus for the sake of their children’s health, pandemic or not. The hospitals stopped having elective surgeries and started having telemedicine appointments where possible. Visitors to the hospitals had to be limited to just the legal guardians of the patients and that’s all we could have at the House too. The RMFR at Riverside hospital couldn’t have any visitors and was repurposed as a place of respite for hospital staff who were now working around the clock with Covid-19 patients.
Dee says, “It was a challenge only because there was so much uncertainty everywhere else and nobody had been through a pandemic and nobody knew what to do exactly. So I think the hardest thing about the whole pandemic was you would get one plan in place and you were thinking, ‘it’s good and here’s what we’re going to do’ and then somebody would shake that snow globe and it would be like, ‘okay, now we’re going to change that plan’ and it would happen daily… like twice a day!” But Dee says we had great partners to help our chapter through the start of the storm. “We got great direction from Nationwide Children’s Hospital; we got great direction from Ohio State; Ohio health; and even Nationwide Insurance jumped in and said, ‘Hey here are some things you should do.’ And then our global organization, of course, was on top of it because they have houses all over the world, so they even saw a different view of it. Just seeing what was happening to a house in Europe… houses in Asia… where everything was different.”
Having weathered this storm with the organization, Dee says the experience has changed her as a leader, for the better. “We had certain restrictions put on us for eight weeks from our global organization and I was counting down like 7…6…5… okay it’s the last week… then it was like, ‘ just kidding we’re going to extend it,’” she says with a smile. “There was so much uncertainty that I’ve never experienced before, and it shapes you. You know you’re thinking you got a plan and then you suddenly realize, two months down the road, no you don’t because you have no idea what’s coming. And if you would’ve told me last year at this time or even a month later that we would still be in this, I would’ve never believed you. Never in a million years.”
But Dee says what has always remained paramount for her and the entire organization, without even verbalizing it, was safely continuing the mission of our chapter: Supporting families who needed to have a child in Columbus hospitals. “The one thing that I kept hearing over and over and over from family members is that they were glad we were still open and they felt safe here. They knew that there was protocol here and they knew that we were following it and that we were concerned, and we took care business. People said we trust the house, and we felt safe and we did do a good job.”
Through it all, the staff has been a point of pride for Dee as CEO of the organization. She says, “You try to make sure you recognize your volunteers and your supporters during a time like this. But I tell you what, the staff at this place is second to none. They stepped up in every possible way. We knew we couldn’t have volunteers, so our volunteer management team… our service managers… they split their shifts. People that usually work 8 to 5 worked overnights to cover things. So, without this staff we wouldn’t have been able to get through this whole ordeal. They just stepped up in every way and did whatever was asked. We would have Family Service Managers that weren’t quite as busy at the front desk helping paint rooms and do other things too. Every single person pitched in and they were happy to do it and learned more about our mission in other ways. That was absolutely the best thing that happened to this place during the pandemic. Staff got to know each other and for them to step up and just embrace this place and take care of all the families that still came was amazing to experience.” Dee herself even pitched in, making holiday cookies while staffing the RMFR at the NCH Behavioral Health Pavilion for a 12-hour day and meeting with families.
As for what comes next, Dee says the organization and its supporters will be just as creative in dealing with whatever is thrown our way. “I think this is going to be a challenging year for us again, financially, because people are still uncertain what their futures look like. I think we’re going to be okay, but it’ll be another challenging year. We have a lot of special events and we had to sort of reinvent those over the past year. Hopefully we can get back to normal at some point. We’ll just be creative again and get it done in the meantime. This past year we got creative with starting a large garden, for example. We probably got a thousand pounds of food from that garden that families were able to eat. We made it because we’re an organization that people believe in and I’m confident we’ll make it again this year.”
Any family that has had the unfortunate experience of having to get their young patient to a Columbus hospital during the holidays, and had to stay at the Ronald McDonald House instead of being home, knows about what’s known as Santa’s Workshop inside the House. Thanks to generous donors in our community, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio finds it’s basement storage area filled with toys & gifts from these special elves for family members of all ages during the holidays every year. Santa’s gifts for babies & kids are made available for parents to choose from in one of our large common rooms that’s closed off for parents to shop for their children privately and, of course, without charge. It’s one of the ways RMHC tries to alleviate the stress of being away from home while a family’s child get’s the care they need. This year, the pandemic has made this workshop even more necessary, to avoid having to risk making a trip to a store or waiting for a package to arrive.
Stephanie Stanavich of WBNS 10-TV reported on one family’s recent experience with Santa’s Workshop. Click the image below to watch the story as it aired Christmas Day, after a brief ad.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital recently celebrated six months of serving children needing mental health care at its Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion. The Ronald McDonald Family Room is celebrating three months of serving families of those patients, having opened on the fifth floor of the BHP on September 15. In the short time that this important family resource has been available, families have expressed to us their thankfulness for the family room. We would like to share with you one of those
Abigail Brumme often greets those family members when she’s working at the front desk in the room. Here, she shares some of the moments family members have expressed gratitude for our family room.
Abigail Brumme writes, “I stopped at the [Ronald McDonald] House today before heading to the BHP [Ronald McDonald Family Room] to load up on some needed items.” She gives credit to Lulani Gualberto, one of our volunteer coordinators, for what happened next. “It ended up being the perfect time because Lulani had made some fresh bagel chips so I grabbed a few bags to bring to the family room. A dad stopped in the room and told me how thankful he is for the snacks we have. I told him about the bagel chips and he said “Something homemade?! You know I have to try it!”. He said they were delicious and was so excited about a freshly made snack. Something as “simple” as something homemade/fresh can bring a moment of happiness. When being away from home for your child’s care, it’s the things like this we get to offer to make a difference for every family we serve.”
Abigail concludes, “Lulani, thank you for making the delicious bagel chips! You definitely made that dads day a bit brighter.”
Another shared moment from Abigail involves the grandmother of a patient at the BHP who struck up a conversation with Abigail as the woman’s daughter and granddaughter were going through the check-in process elsewhere in the building.
“She came up to the desk and asked me if I wanted to see a cute video one of her other children/grandchildren sent her,” Abigail notes. “It was a video of her other daughter and two year old daughter singing “Skinnamarink a Dink a Dink” which I hadn’t heard in SO long. The grandma was in tears about how much it meant to her that they sent them the video of encouragement. Which was a reminder to me of how important the little things are really such big things in life – like the moments we get to create at work for the families where we probably don’t even realize the impact it has on people.”
This comment was just this past week: “There is a mom that has been using the BHP Family Room to shower since her kiddo has been inpatient for a week now. When she was leaving the room today she asked me if there was a way to donate to the Ronald McDonald House because in her words “This room has been a life saver. It almost feels like I’m home.” Those words were the sweetest reminder that we’re all doing what this organization was created to do.”
Abigail, we’re thankful for you sharing these moments that show the difference we’re making at the BHP.
We can now call our own volunteer Master Gardener Bill Mount an award-winning gardener. Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Garden’s Growing to Green program promotes community gardening and city beautification. On October 15th, the Conservatory hosted its annual Growing to Green Awards virtually with a Zoom meeting online and Bill was invited to attend.
“We’re proud to host this event every year to honor the amazing work of urban farmers and community gardeners across central Ohio,” the Conservatory’s webpage proclaims. “The Growing to Green Awards honors the dedication and hard work of many central Ohio communities and individuals while furthering Growing to Green’s objective of promoting participation in city beautification and community gardening.”
Bill was announced as the winner of The Community Gardener of the Year award. Each year, FPC says the award is presented to an individual who is exceptionally dedicated to their neighborhood garden and or the movement of community gardening in central Ohio.
An award of $250 will be given to Bill to be applied toward the Ronald McDonald House Garden. Thank you, Bill, for all of your hard work and congratulation on this prestigious award!
Recently, Sue Orme, Clinical Educator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion asked that we provide an introduction of our Ronald McDonald Family Room by way of a blog post that will be published in the BHP’s internal staff e-newsletter. Our program manager, Vicki Chappelear, wrote the following wonderful synopsis for our partners at the BHP.
Who we are: The Ronald McDonald Family Room is a program of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. The Ronald McDonald House opened in March of 1982 with 15 bedrooms as a result of passionate volunteers who had a vision to start a House in Columbus. We have now grown to 137 bedrooms. The Family Room at the BHP is the second Family Room in Columbus with the first being at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist which opened in July 2017.
What we do: Our Family Room space serves as a respite for families away from the demands of inpatient and outpatient units. We offer a quiet place to make phone calls, grab a cup of coffee, eat a snack, do laundry or even take a shower! Families can also access a beautiful, serene outdoor courtyard where they can get a breath of fresh air and sunshine. We truly understand family centered care means keeping the whole family healthy and we are doing our part to meet those needs outside of patient care.
Where we are: The Ronald McDonald Family Room is located just off the elevators on the 5th floor. We are adjacent to the west courtyard.
Why we do it:
• I think the Family Room is important because it allows families to remain close while also providing a space for family members to take time for themselves. Whether it’s getting a cup of coffee, enjoying the courtyard, or doing a load of laundry – the Family Room is a spot for families to feel relaxed and refreshed. I think family members are best able to care for and encourage their kids receiving treatment if they’re also taking care of themselves and the Family Room provides that space for that to happen. Abigail Brumme, RMCH Family Activities Manager
• Families with children at the BHP need a place to rest and disengage from the stress created by having a child with mental health issues in treatment. Darla Stover, RMCH Program Director
• “This was truly my home away from home. I felt I had a safe place every day to go to. I will never forget. I am so grateful and appreciate it so, so much. Took so much off my mind, so I could focus on (my child).” – a guest of the BHP Family Room
When families walk into the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, we want them to forget they’re in a hospital. The room is open to family members of patients in the Pavilion starting Tuesday, September 15. It will offer families a place to rest and regroup just steps away from the patient while the young person gets the help they need. Research shows that staying close by allows parents to better participate in their child’s care. Centrally located in the Pavilion, the Ronald McDonald Family Room offers families a place to rest and regroup while remaining close to their child by providing a welcoming, homelike environment.
This Family Room will be the first in a children’s hospital stand-alone mental health facility specifically for pediatric patients. The space is really more than a room with conference room, office, lockers, mother’s room with breast pump, laundry room with washer & dryer, full bathroom with shower and bathing supplies, kitchenette area, and an outdoor courtyard.
This is the second Ronald McDonald Family Room in Columbus operated by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. The first Family Room opened by the RMHC chapter was in 2016 inside the OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital for families of inpatient children and babies at that hospital.
“We are in this together.” That phrase has become a call to action across the community. For us at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio, it means going the extra mile to provide a safe environment for the families we serve. Heading into our fifth month of the living thru a pandemic, the Ronald McDonald House continues to be a refuge for families with a child in the hospital.
Feeding our guests was a top priority when news of the Pandemic began. Typically, thousands of volunteers provide both the food supplies and people power to create meals for our guests. Our team was unsure how we would source and afford fresh and healthy foods. But like our inspirational guests, we don’t give up too easily. We decided to be proactive and grow healthy food! The photos at the bottom of the page are of the Ronald McDonald House garden which was planted by staff and a few volunteer gardening experts.
Regardless of the pandemic, young people still have existing medical and mental health needs. The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile (RMCM) has been working in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to continue to provide access to much needed primary care. The Care Mobile serves as the medical home for many children and has an obligation to continue to provide the highest level of care possible. Our team of medical professionals on the RMCM helped divert patients with no covid-19 related symptoms, but still needing medical services, from urgent cares and emergency rooms.
In addition, we were training and preparing for our September 15 opening of the new Ronald McDonald Family Room (RMFR) in the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. This new Family Room will provide support for those dealing with childhood mental health challenges, the only facility of its kind in the US. Hospital staff encourage breaks from the hospital floor for the wellbeing of family members. Physical wellbeing; feeling refreshed and recharged. Psychological and emotional wellbeing; feeling less stressed. The Family Room allows family members to switch from the role of providers of care to recipients of care. This experience provides respite from the stress and challenges of their circumstances.
This unique RMFR will also provide the opportunity to find relief from worries and stress related to financial pressures. Families that use this space will generally save $37 a day on average in meals, laundry and travel. They can also shower, store some food in a fridge, have a nap, prepare food and drinks, do some laundry, spend time with their family, talk openly about their feelings, or be alone in a relaxing homelike environment.
Young people have an extraordinary need in Central Ohio and across the country for more behavioral health services and research to help children and adolescents. The Ronald McDonald Family Room is located within the walls of a unique facility dedicated exclusively to child and adolescent behavioral and mental health issues on a pediatric medical campus. The facility features inpatient services, intensive outpatient services, a Psychiatric Crisis Department and research all under one roof.
Family centered care is a priority and the Ronald McDonald Family room will offer respite to families who have children being seen in all these areas. Family-centered care is a priority. Outdoor courtyards, a sanctuary and the Ronald McDonald Family Room offer respite to families. Family-centered care is a priority. Outdoor courtyards, a sanctuary and the Ronald McDonald Family Room offer respite to families. This integrated pediatric behavioral health approach serves as a model for other health care systems across the nation. We are extremely proud to offer this much-needed service to children and families in Central Ohio and beyond.
I want to personally thank each and every one of you who has stepped up to support the services that we provide at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. If you would like to learn more about how you can support our mission, please visit RMHC-CentralOhio.org or feel free to contact me or someone on our team directly. We truly are better together.
If you would like to make a donation to support families at the House: https://rmhc-centralohio.org/donation-form/
With deepest care,
CEO and Executive Director
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio
Recently, Shala Graham, a student at Licking Valley High School, presented a speech centered on Columbus’ Ronald McDonald House as part of a competition at the school. In an email, Shala’s teacher, Amanda Suttle, explained the competition called, the Nonprofit Persuasive Speech project: “I loved the project because it covered so many learning standards I teach (research, reading, informative and persuasive writing, outlining, speaking & listening) with a focus on helping others that also gave the students complete freedom in their choices of the topic (problem & charity).”
Suttle continued, “The process involved students researching a societal problem they cared about and a charity that addresses it. Using their researched sources, they wrote informative pieces about both the problem and the charity with the goal to “teach” me about both of them in their writing. They then outlined a persuasive speech using skills we had just begun to practice in class before school closed. Their goal was to convince their classmates to contribute to the charity by persuading them about both the seriousness of the problem and the effectiveness of the charity. They recorded videos of their speeches…everyone could view everyone else’s videos. I told them they had $500 in fake money to “donate” in $50 increments to the classmates whose speeches they found most convincing. Shala won for her class by a landslide.”
Then, Suttle turned the fake donations into real donations by asking her neighbors in Worthington for contributions to give to the charities supported in the winning speeches from her four “English 11” classes. She collected $460, so that brought in $115 dollars to RMHC of Central Ohio from Shala’s speech.
You can hear her speech by clicking the image above, or read the transcript of her speech below.
Thank you, Shala & Ms. Suttle, for sharing this with our community!
When Jeff Heimberger was very young, he almost drowned. The co-owner/operator of Coffee Connections in Central Ohio is the living embodiment of a medical miracle. As his mom, Alice, described in a letter to her son about those terrifying days years ago, it was a “great contrast between trauma and calm.” The calm came from the support Jeff’s family received from staying at a Ronald McDonald House. Jeff shared the letter with us and we’ve highlighted some excerpts from the letter here.
In the letter, she describes the start of that fateful day. “Picture about 70 people at a church picnic. Lots of good food, followed by laughing, talking, kids and teens having great fun in the pool. Later on, “Time for lemonade & ice cream” and everyone headed across the yard. Well, all but the 3-year-old boy who, unseen by the others, fell into the water.” That little boy, was Jeff. As Jeff’s mom described it, the teens at the party ran back to the pool after quickly finishing the ice cream and one tossed a quarter into the deep end of the pool, challenging the others to find it. Jeff’s 13-year-old brother, Paul, outran the others and dove in. Instead of the quarter, he found his brother’s lifeless body at the bottom of the pool.
“[Your] father, a nurse anesthetist with considerable experience in high stress situations, and another medical professional were right there. They did CPR, noting there was no response of pupils to a flashlight. This was really bad. Daddy hoped for intubation supplies in the ambulance. Oh, no. Adult-sized only. He felt helpless, stunned, & scared,” she wrote about Jeff’s dad, Dale, frantically trying to save his son.
Jeff was taken by ambulance to a local hospital in northeast Ohio, then flown by helicopter to Akron Children’s Hospital where he was put on a ventilator while in a coma. Leaving Jeff’s brother Paul & sister Janelle with family, his mom & dad drove to be with their son. Alice says, upon arrival, she and Dale were told Jeff “might not make it through the night and also that young children who do survive a drowning usually have little or no long-term damage or else severe physical and mental impairment. It was a harrowing night. For the siblings, thoughts of the day and not knowing what was happening to their brother were intensified by separation from their parents.”
Alice writes about waiting for hours for brief times of standing at Jeff’s bedside and watching him hooked-up to tubes to keep him alive. She describes the staff, monitors, beeping/flashing equipment and other kids in the ICU in life-threatening conditions as being overwhelming. She goes on to say, “Then, back to the waiting room, in close proximity to the number of others experiencing and expressing details of their grief and trauma. Hours of clock-watching and overhearing the telling and retelling of nightmares all too real.”
Fortunately, the next morning, young Jeff came out of his coma and was moved out of ICU to a regular room. “At that point, Ronald McDonald House became home for dad, mom, brother, & sister for several days until discharge,” Jeff’s mom wrote. “What a sigh of relief: a place to gather the family from their scattering and to begin healing from the shattering scare. It provided privacy and a calming atmosphere. Ahh. A shower, beds, space, home-prepared food, non-intrusive but very caring support from volunteers.”
She tells her son in the letter that one of the setbacks he was having during the recovery was very unnerving. “…at first you fell down whenever you tried to walk and asked the same question over & over. Having been warned of possible impairments, this was very troubling. I went from Ronald McDonald House at 3 a.m. to ask nurses to check your medicine side effects that were listed under Dilaudid, which you received because of seizures in the helicopter due to brain swelling. It’s good just knowing there are Ronald McDonald Houses for those difficult situations, those needing ready accessibility to hospitals, financial help, family stability, ability to be supportive to their patient and in communication with medical personnel as directly as possible, etc. They are also beneficial to the folks who participate as community helpers – a sense of purpose, an outlet for kindness, through practical service to others…”
The happy ending to this story, of course, is that Jeff was released from the hospital and had none of the lingering affects forewarned to his parents by doctors that are so common after a near drowning. Thanks to Jeff for sharing this miraculous story as written to him by his mom for this special Mother’s Day post.
At Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, we continue to support our families of seriously ill children during this unsettling time. The global pandemic adds worry to their already stressful situation and compromised health. We are committed to providing clean and healthy family-centered spaces for families to rest and recharge. Our families rely on us to provide warm meals, daily essentials, and a safe place to rest their heads at night. And when there’s a crisis, our support is even more essential, providing families with a sense of relief and stability in their already challenging lives. The health and well-being of our guest families, staff, and the communities in which we serve is, and always will be, our first priority. Therefore, in order to prevent exposure and the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we have made the following changes:
We remain focused on our core mission of providing overnight accommodations and support for the families of hospitalized children. The above changes will have a significant impact on our operating budget, and your help is critical as we continue to care for families during this global crisis. With challenging times come opportunities for heroes to emerge and assist those in great need.
Please be our hero and make a donation to our Coronavirus Response Fund to help support our families during these challenging times. Any donation helps in providing a safe place for families of hospitalized children.
With your support, we are incredibly grateful to be able to keep families together and close to the resources they need.