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.
The 4th Annual Nationwide Children’s Hospital DISCOVERYx program two weeks ago included our own Chef Blair Arms with a talk titled, Beyond Our Patients: Keeping Families Fed. She was one of 7 presenters selected for the afternoon’s TEDx-inspired event. An email from the hospital to staff said the planning committee was looking for hospital community workers to showcase the sharing of ideas, opportunities, experiences or discoveries and how these have contributed to improving health and wellness at the hospital and beyond. The hospital’s DISCOVERYx event has been enormously popular and some of it’s speakers from previous years have gone on to present at both the Columbus TEDx and National TEDx programs.
The planning committee invited enthusiasts from every discipline or area within the hospital community of employees to apply and selected speakers based on their passion and ability to deliver innovative ideas. A professional coach even helped prepare the selected presenters for their appearance on stage during the live event. Through communication, speakers were expected to share thought-provoking ideas to spark conversation, make connections and inspire others. Chef Blair met that expectation, giving an emotional testimony about why she loves her job of guiding groups of people through the process of making healthy meals for families staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Watch her presentation below.
It’s been an exciting month for book-lovers who stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, and we’re not talking about lovers of e-books. Our library has remained pretty much the same for years. But just a few weeks ago, a team of volunteers came in to revamp our library. Over just a few days this during National Library Week AND National Volunteer Week, a team from L Brands including Susan Geier, Carrie Kenneth, Chris Nowicki, Ed Kunzelman; and KP Designs & Associates painted walls and added new built-in cabinets and book cases. You can even literally curl up with a good book within an in-shelf nook!
The week after we reopened the library, 22-year-old Kendal White, a recent graduate from Ohio Dominican University, arrived at the House with a group of friends and supporters to donate books gathered during a recent book drive. White says he’s passionate about literacy and asked his community of friends, family, ODU alumni, & Central State University Columbus alumni to donate children’s books for our library. He hoped to get 200 books, but more than 1,100 were collected, including some books for adults. Thanks to his group of volunteers for sharing the books – along with coloring activities & games – to support our families. It was a great way to also wrap up National Volunteer Month.
Over the last two months, I’ve had the opportunity to intern at RMH and interact with families, staff, and volunteers, learning a lot about who and what makes up the House with a Heart.
When I first walked in and met with Ryan, my expectations were situated within the objectives of the class that I am taking alongside of this internship. The intended scope – storytelling – fails to encompass what projects I have worked on and what writing I have done during my time here.
My expectations shifted from purely telling the stories of those within our House walls to taking on tasks that are relevant for any writer looking at entering the nonprofit sector. I saw firsthand how necessary it is to be adaptable and oriented to the needs of an organization over the desires of oneself.
My creative writing and storytelling fix was filled through a few blog posts, short interviews with a volunteer and a board member, and shaping short content for our Staff Stuff newsletter. These projects would have been sufficient in exposing me to the voice of Ronald McDonald House Charities, yet my internship went further.
Having a background in business writing and marketing, I found that my technical writing and editing skills were valued in a strategic capacity. Tasks ranged from crafting a press release to teaming up with Jessie, the marketing intern, and creating a small marketing plan. I also edited our website’s copy and made suggestions for revision. These projects, among others, gave me the opportunity to apply the skills I had previously accumulated in the classroom in a “real” setting.
As a student, I think there’s often a fear of being unprepared when leaving campus, graduating, and moving into an organization doing great and wonderful acts of love in the community. Long gone is that fear, as I feel the guidance I received, responsibilities I was tasked with, collaboration I participated in, and the love I saw proves how valuable this opportunity was and is. While my impact at RMH may have been minimal, the impact of this internship for me was massive.
Through writing, this internship presented me with the chance use my voice to amplify Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio’s voice. It has offered me a moment of time I can look back at and know that I was lifted up, for the benefit of both RMH and myself, a student, a part of the Columbus community, and a person who will go on to write and write and write.
For that, I am beyond thankful.
Thank you to everyone in the House who made me feel at home from the start, and especially to Ryan and Rick.