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.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is committed to the health and well being of our community. Our team is working diligently to address concerns with the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). In an effort to maintain the safety of our community, we have suspended non-essential volunteer groups. In addition, many meal groups have cancelled or rescheduled for a later date. As you know, the Ronald McDonald House and Ronald McDonald Family Room are completely dependent upon volunteerism to operate.
In these challenging times, we are fortunate to have many people asking how they can help us at RMHC. If you are interested in helping us provide meals to guests of the Ronald McDonald House, please consider making a donation. To learn more about supporting the meal program, called Team Cuisine, please email Katherine.Becker@RMHC-CentralOhio.org. To make a financial donation to support our operations, please visit rmhc-centralohio.org/donation-form/.
In addition, RMHC of Central Ohio has postponed our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and Handbag HULLABALOO! Dublin in compliance with Governor DeWine’s Executive Order. We will be working with our event committees to announce the rescheduled dates for those events as they become available.
Please know that we sincerely appreciate the support of our community, and look forward to the day that we can open our doors once again to volunteer groups.
RMHC of Central Ohio
If you’re passion is your vegetable garden, you probably think of your garden even in the winter. Otherwise, most folks may not be thinking of gardening in February, even though it has been unusually warm during the start of the month. We here at the Ronald McDonald House, however, have been thinking of gardening because we’re excited about our a new garden – our garden – behind the House!
RMHC recently acquired older houses behind our main building and those structures had to be demolished because they were in terrible condition. “With two empty parcels now within our fenced area we wanted to beautify the space,” says our Volunteer Director, Kate Becker. So with the plan green-lit, and funding from a grant approved by Scott’s Miracle Gro via The Columbus Foundation, it was decided that the 8,000 square-foot space would become a garden full of tomatoes, herbs, beans, squash, broccoli and flowers.
“Our intention is that we will use the produce that we grow to help feed the families staying here,” Becker said. “Since we have a Chef on staff who is focused on creating healthy homemade meals for our families this was a perfect fit.”
Of course, it doesn’t just take money to make a garden happen, it takes gardeners. With help and enthusiasm for the prospect of a garden at our House, regular volunteer Bill Mount jumped at the opportunity to help get this piece of our new property growing. Mount is an experienced gardener with contacts in the world of community-gardening, so his help will be invaluable.
Stay tuned for updates about the garden as spring comes!
Here at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, we’re fortunate to have the support of many organizations in the Central Ohio area. One of the comments we often get from folks who participate with groups that come to the House is how much they gain by being here. Meal groups participating in our Team Cuisine program learn new cooking tips. Cleaning groups pick up household tricks for removing tough stains. Some volunteer groups learn tips about making simple household repairs from our team of volunteer craftsmen. Beyond those more obvious gains, there’s also the reminder and appreciation for what you have and just the satisfaction of giving your time. Sharing the love just feels good to the one who is sharing. But the benefits of working at the House can have even more of an impact for special needs students who regularly come to help our House.
For these students, learning even more about life at the House helps them to grow to become their full potential. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio partners with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities in a program called Summer Youth Work Experiences where students get real-world work experience as they help to keep our House in tip-top shape. OOD recently produced a video which follow the work of Max, one of the students that benefits from working at the Ronald McDonald House. You can watch the video here:
Sometimes, the special needs students who come to the House also leave a positive impression on our families and their child patient. Be the One is a program that was started at Walnut Ridge High School by Dawn Heideman, a teacher in the Columbus City School District, after witnessing the impact of tragedy on a student’s life. Dawn decided that she would be the one individual to provide comfort, guidance, and encouragement to students who had experienced traumatic anger, depression, & loss in hopes that those students will be the one person to go on to make a difference in another young person’s life too. The program expanded two years ago to Linden-McKinley High School and now helps 125 students who have been through traumatic life experiences at a young age.
Several times a year, Dawn brings her students here to the Ronald McDonald House to meet families of seriously ill children and to spread joy by hanging seasonal decorations in our large dining room. Last year, her students met with a patient named Orian from Maryland staying at the House. The students and Orian developed a bond after learning that he had been bullied because of his disabilities. Inspired by the Six Word Memoir project, Be the One students were encouraged to write a book of their own experiences for Orian who has been encouraged by the book every day. Read about the Be the One’s gift of the group’s book to Orian in a blog from Six Word Memoirs by clicking here.
“Thank you Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio for supporting my family and my GrandBoo in the #ronaldmcdonaldfamilyroom at OhioHealth Riverside NICU. Being in the NICU is a challenging time for all families. Some families spend months in the unit caring for their newborns, but to experience a place where families can go and relax and be taken care of, was truly a blessing. Thank you for being there for families and my family! My granddaughter JB thanks you too! Greatly appreciated! ❤”
This was the kind comment left by Cassandra White-Graves in response to the above picture of her and her granddaughter, Alaya Anderson, taken last month in the Ronald McDonald Family Room at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. It was posted to our Facebook page after we captured the moment of the two taking advantage of the play area in the room while awaiting the arrival of Alaya’s sister. Our Ronald McDonald Family Room at the hospital is the first RMFR in Central Ohio. It has only been open a few years and thousands of family members have already made use of the room to relax and recharge in between visits to the NICU or pediatric patient’s room.
One thing that visitors to the RMFR often say in feedback about using the room, is how grateful they are for the staff member who welcomed their family into this restful space. Yet, there aren’t staff members keeping the room available 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. The fine folks that keep the room open and attend to the needs of families using it, are actually always volunteers! Recently, a web page was set up as a way for folks to show support for the RMFR and the volunteers who make sure the room is clean and whom provide an ear of empathy and sympathy. If you would like to contribute to this volunteer-based fundraiser, just click here.
On Wednesday, July 10, the Ronald McDonald Family Room at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital celebrated it’s 2nd anniversary with cupcakes for visitors to the room. Families and hospital staff were invited to the family room to take part in the celebration. We invited Trish Wright, president of the Wright Ways Foundation, to the family room. She and her family had used the family room almost exactly a year ago. Trish had given birth to Chosen at the hospital and Chosen had to stay in the NICU for a few months. Her family found the family room to be just what they needed during that time. Chosen and her family came back for our celebration and to help Trish donate care bags for NICU moms on behalf of the Wright’s Way Foundation. Click the image below to hear her story.