Some may not be aware that we are required by Nationwide Children’s Hospital to have staff members, not volunteers, welcome families and family members to our Ronald McDonald Family Room in the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion. That’s why many of us who wear different hats professionally with our chapter, can often be found greeting folks to our room in the BHP.
I just wanted to share a short chat I had with the grandma of a patient being cared for here in the BHP, where I’m working today. When checking her in to our family room, she said she was from nearby Pickerington, Ohio and she’s been here to the room several times over that past several weeks, but the patient is being released and she would be headed home today…except that now, a hurricane is probably destroying her house as we speak. She further explained, with tears in her eyes, she’s the patient’s grandma from Florida and she’s actually been staying with the patient’s parent’s home in Pickerington to support them and her grandchild during this tough mental health crisis for the family. However, she actually lives in Punta Gorda, Florida where Hurricane Ian – a category 4 storm at the moment and one of the worst in a hundred years to hit the area – is currently baring down. She tells me she may not have a house to go home to now and feels fortunate to be staying with family up here a little longer, until the storm passes and she can return to assess the damage. There have been more than a few families here today in the sitting area watching The Weather Channel coverage of the storm with great concern for those they know there.
It’s a good reminder of the additional stressors, unrelated to their medical journey here, that can be playing a part in the lives of the families we’re caring for when they’re in our House or one of our family rooms. We here at RMHC of Central Ohio are also thinking of our volunteers and “extended work family” here who may be in Florida, have homes there, or who themselves have family members there as well as all of the RMHC chapters in Florida – especially along the west coast – who are facing quite a stress-test right now themselves. Here’s hoping everyone who lives in Florida is staying safe and has the best possible outcome.
The Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, Ohio is growing for a million reasons. Click the image below to watch the video that aired on NBC4 this week featuring two of our board members, Bruce Burkholder and Tammy Roberts Myers, speaking with Shawn Ireland on the Live Happy, Live Well program. To learn more about our campaign, visit www.RMHC-CentralOhio.org/amillionreasons .
Our daughter, Ashlee, and her husband, Jacob, lived in Florida and were visiting Ohio the last weekend of May 2021 for a bachelorette/bachelor weekend at Hocking Hills to celebrate our youngest daughter’s upcoming wedding that August. Ashlee was 31 weeks into her pregnancy and developed severe preeclampsia. She was triaged in Hocking Valley Community Hospital, then transported by ambulance to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital unit at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital where the medical team helped her deliver their first child, Gabriel. Our family went into support mode for Ashlee, Jacob and Gabriel as they were more than 1,000 miles from home and without anything except what they had packed for their vacation week.
Ashlee, Jacob, and two of our family members who served as their NICU additional support team used the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Riverside Hospital as a place to rest, eat, and refocus during the seven weeks that Gabriel was in the NICU. Ashlee and Jacob also were blessed with the opportunity to live at The Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, which gave them a beautiful and supportive place to live while Jacob and Ashlee were learning to parent a son in the NICU and who both were unable to work because they were so far from home.
As Ashlee’s mom, I was the visitor who was able to be their support person from The Ronald McDonald House. During this time of Covid-19, just one visitor per family was allowed in the Ronald McDonald Family Room, so I was also able to visit them at the hospital and retreat to the family room where I was close by when they needed me. I saw firsthand how the staff and physical space of both the Ronald McDonald House and the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Riverside Hospital impacted the ability of Ashlee and Jacob to navigate the deep challenges they faced during those first seven weeks of Gabriel’s life. As a pastor who has journeyed with people in many different hospitals, I can say that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and the Ronald McDonald House Family Room at Riverside Hospital are two of the biggest gifts I have ever seen for families who are in some of the most emotionally and physically overwhelming days of their lives.
Gabriel will celebrate his first birthday at the end of this month and we are forever grateful for the gift you gave our family of support, space, and help during his first weeks of life. Thank you for your wisdom, vision, teamwork, commitment, and love for our family and thousands of others!
My name is Bryana Wallace, I am 18 years old, and I am currently a sophomore in the nursing program at Ohio University. All throughout high school, I participated in competitive and school cheerleading as well as cross country. In January 2019, I was throwing my flyer around at competitive cheer practice, when she came down and elbowed me in the neck causing swelling. We thought nothing of it. I sat out that week until the swelling went down. After the swelling went down there was a lump right above my collarbone. For months we thought it was nothing, I had an ultrasound, and everything seemed fine. I was told it was just an internal bruise and it would go away on its own. Many months went by, and the lump was not getting smaller, some days it even looked bigger. A biopsy was then taken and on August 15th, 2019, I was told I had stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The week of August 19th, 2019, I had many scans and appointments with the doctor only to hear I would be starting Chemo treatments August 23rd. I attended the first day of my junior year and on the second day of school I started chemotherapy. After treatments began, I could not go to school. I missed half of my junior year but thanks to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Ohio State University and Alexander High School, I was able to get a robot that I could connect to from home so that I could be in classes.
The nurses and doctors at NCH were amazing. They made me feel as at home as possible. I might have been receiving chemo and going through the hardest parts in my life, but I will never forget the amount of comfort I felt at NCH. The nurses made a big impact on me personally. I knew I always wanted to be a nurse, but I wasn’t quite sure just what kind of nursing I wanted to do. It wasn’t until a nurse came in who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s at the age of 16. She told me her story and to see where she was now, inspired me. It made me realize that I wanted to help other children and be able to share my story as a Pediatric Oncology Nurse.
The Ronald McDonald House will forever have a special place in the hearts of me and my family. On the eighth day of my chemo schedule, like clock-work, I would get a fever about 4 hours after treatment. I lived about 2 hours away from NCH so whenever I got a fever, I was sent to my local ER, then was taken to NCH by an ambulance. After that first ride in an ambulance, we knew something needed to change. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to stay at the Ronald McDonald House with my family. After staying that first night, my family and I made it a point to stay there after day eight of each cycle, knowing what was coming. The workers – including volunteers – at the Ronald McDonald House were the sweetest people with the biggest hearts. They made sure everyone had what was needed, snacks were provided all day, and they arranged for people to come in to make food for the families staying there, including mine. I was not able to stay an entire night at the House, except for the last cycle of treatments. That’s because after getting a fever, I would be admitted, of course. However, whenever I had to go to the ER, the workers at Ronald McDonald would allow us to keep our bags in the room until we had time to go back over and process our check out.
The Ronald McDonald house helped relieve a burden for my family by providing all of the comforts of home and knowing we were right across the street from the hospital when I would get sick. It can never be expressed enough how valuable a resource the Ronald McDonald House is and the services they provide to people that desperately need them. I can never thank the Ronald McDonald house enough for not only me but all of the other families that have stayed, are staying there now, or ever will stay there in the future as the House gets bigger.
In 2020, I spoke at the Bobcathon dance marathon and shared my story. After hearing that they raised money for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, I knew this would be a great opportunity to give back. I am currently the Director of Fundraising for the student group. The biggest event I planned was a 5k. We ended up raising over $1,500 for the Ronald McDonald House! I have learned so much being a part of Bobcathon. Being able to raise money for such a great place has been amazing. RMHC helped not only my family but thousands of families as they go through some of the hardest journeys in their lives.
To all of the supporters and potential sponsors of this year’s Bobcathon, I cannot begin to thank everyone enough. Without the support of many people around not only the Athens community but all over, we would not have been able to make this all possible to help the House. Knowing that so many people have already donated to the Ronald McDonald House hits really close to home, especially in my family. No family should have to fight their battles alone!
Some households in Central Ohio now have some skilled young chefs in their kitchens. Sometimes when our Chef Blair Arms is cooking up a meal in the kitchen, she’s had curious children who are staying in the House, come up and ask questions. Sometimes, with the permission of their parents, she’s included these culinary curious kids in making her creations. That got Chef Blair to thinking: What if she were to invite local kids into the Ronald McDonald House main kitchen and teach them how to cook?! It was really an idea born out of necessity.
During the height of the pandemic, the House became very quiet without siblings being able to stay with us. Blair didn’t have that regular opportunity to show kids how to have fun with food in the the kitchen. She also was busy preparing meals by herself with many volunteers unable to help make the meals due to so many safety restrictions in place to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. With few, if any, Team Cuisine meal groups paying for family meals on a regular basis as before the pandemic shut-downs, the budget for family meals began to dwindle. So the plan was forged for Chef Blair to hold the very first Culinary Camp for Kids as soon as we were able to have a small group of children back in the House. Not only would she be able to share her love for cooking with eager kids looking for something to do this summer, the donations would help bring back the budget for family meals!
Kids ages 10 to 14 got to learn cooking techniques while learning their way around a kitchen and how to create meals. What’s more, they got to learn the importance of helping others. The children participated in a hands-on learning experience each day, led by Chef Blair. Columbus Downtown High School’s Culinary Teacher Chef Anthony, who also fills in for Chef Blair at the House from time-to-time, also taught the students invaluable lessons. They even created lunch two times for all of the families staying at the House on two of the days during the five-day camp. Chef Blair also invited a few other distinguished guest chefs to join the class throughout the week and impart their special knowledge to campers too. Chef Virginia Bistriceanu taught a crepe class one day that allowed the children to learn how to make one of Chef Virginia’s signature crepes, which can sell for as much as $20 in an upscale restaurant! Chef Virginia showed the campers how to make crepes as thin as possible, but still allow the pancake-like confections to hold the fruit filling.
Two pros from the Ohio State University also helped teach the kids during this camp. Dr. Lyda Garcia, Assistant Professor for Meat Science and a Meat Extension Specialist taught the kids all about beef one day, while Dr. Michael Cressman, Assistant Professor, Professional Practice, with the Department of Animal Sciences showed the children how to properly divide up a whole chicken for grilling.
The final, second lunch was also be open to the parents of the campers. Some of those parents expressing that they would like to participate in a Culinary Camp themselves! They saw that their children learned the importance of nutrition and gained valuable kitchen skills, all while serving families and learning about the mission of our charity. Stay tuned to our Events webpage for possible future in-person Culinary Classes by Chef Blair.
NBC News senior investigative correspondent, Cynthia McFadden, and her crew were the first TV news cameras allowed inside the new psychiatric tower at Nationwide Children’s Hospital recently. McFadden aired a lengthy feature report on the Today Show this morning as part of it’s Mind Matters series, and followed up with a more serious report inside the crisis department for Nightly News with Lester Holt, as the anchor broadcast LIVE from Cleveland for an 0n-the-road edition of the newscast.
We’re proud to have the first-of-its-kind Ronald McDonald Family Room in a pediatric-specific psychiatric facility, where family members can take a break from the patient’s room, but still be close by. Since the hospital can’t offer tours to groups, this rare glimpse inside the hospital shows the important work going on that we’re so happy to support.
The pandemic has led to a troubling increase in mental health issues for young people across the country, even as many resources are shrinking. The past year has brought a stunning increase in the proportion of mental health visits to the ER — up 31 percent nationally for those 12 to 17, and 24 percent for kids 5 to 11. The hospital’s new Behavioral Health Pavilion is one of only a few pediatric psychiatry hospitals in the country with in-patient treatment.
Watch both of McFadden’s reports below and take a tour of our family room in the third video.
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!