Every school year, students at Ohio University organize a dance marathon called Bobcathon to support Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. Every year many students in this organization go above and beyond to raise awareness about our mission while raising funds throughout the year so our House can continue to house families that need to be near their children in Columbus hospitals.
But Andrew Connolly is different. He seems to have taken fundraising for Bobcathon to a new level. Ten of his last 12 posts on Instagram were about Bobcathon. “Bobcathon to me is a truly life-changing experience, and an organization that I am so grateful to be a part of,” Connolly told the The Connecticut Post, a daily newspaper located in Bridgeport, Connecticut near his hometown of Shelton. “We work to support the amazing children, families, volunteers and staff of the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio,” Connolly added. “I have learned more — not only about the House and its work, but also about who I am, and where my passions lie.” Connolly, who is director of Ronald McDonald House Activities for Bobcathon, talked to the paper in hopes of inspiring folks in the area where he grew up, to donate to Bobcathon to benefit RMHC of Central Ohio. He’s more than half way toward his personal goal of reaching $1,250.
When a creative team comes along and offers to donate its talents toward helping Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, we really appreciate it because we know the work it takes to turn an idea into something spectacular. That’s just what Pixel Park did this past week when the fruits of their efforts resulted in the birth of what we believe will be the new faces of our pop tab program: The dynamic duo of Fred & Murray, superhero kids who are now the inspiration for our pop tab drive. Pixel Park has been a supporter of RMHC for a few years now, with donations and volunteers in the House. This latest donation solidifies a beautiful relationship with this creative company.
“Pop Tab Heroes is a heartfelt story of two inseparable brothers who become separated… and their journey back to one another. This piece has been a labor of love of ours here in the studio, and we hope you’ll join us in celebrating its release today (and maybe even start collecting tons of pop tabs alongside us!) Let’s make something ordinary, extraordinary.” – Pixel Park
In addition to creating these lovable characters, Pixel Park has launched a campaign for folks to encourage pop tab donations to RMHC, with a goal of getting a mountain of a million tabs to the House!
“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
He was already a rock climber, a repeller, and a sky diver. Then, about four years ago, Clintonville resident Tom Schneider came across a unicycle at a garage sale. It brought back childhood memories, and for five bucks, he decided to buy it. He had been looking for a new sport that would take all of his concentration and he thought this might just be the challenge he needed. Schneider says its just like riding a two-wheeled bike. You don’t forget. Soon, he was buying a mountain unicycle and a long-distance street unicycle. Now he rides his unicycles not just for fun, but for fundraising. “I’ve done well over a dozen charity rides between 25-50 miles each,” he said.
After seeing a local tv new segment about 15-year-old sidewalk chalk artist, Cecilia Martyna, raising money for the Ronald McDonald House, Tom decided he would do the same.
“On Friday, July 31 I will be riding the Scioto mile 25 times for a total of 25 miles for RMHC. I will be riding from the South parking lot to the party house, back to the South parking lot. I hope you’ll join me by riding with me, too!” Tom says he had heard of the Ronald McDonald House but wasn’t exactly sure what services were provided. “The doctors at Nationwide Children’s saved my grandson’s life. Ian is now 17, and quite the healthy young man,” he said. “I can’t imagine what a parent would go through traveling from out of town…don’t know Columbus, never met the specialist, don’t know where to stay….then there’s the Ronald McDonald House.”
“It will be an honor to ride this one as I have a personal connection to Children’s, and am so very thankful for the staff at RMHC for providing a loving, passionate, caring hand in a crazy time of a families life.”
To learn more about Tom’s ride and how you can support his fundraiser, click here.
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.
Oftentimes, creativity shines brightest during hard days. Recently, 15-year-old chalk artist Cecilia Martyna, a student at Dublin Jerome High School, contacted us to ask if she could draw a picture of Ronald McDonald in front our Ronald McDonald House and we gladly accepted the offer. Friday afternoon, she completed this work facing the Ronald McDonald House on the sidewalk in front of our building in just over three hours. Within the next 24 hours, her artwork had been shared to over 1,000,000 people on social media, and her story was aired on television stations in Columbus and Cleveland. (See the progress of her work below)
By using her talent and taking time to create a special encouraging message like this one, Cecilia warmed the hearts of guests at the Ronald McDonald House, as well as front line workers at the Ronald McDonald House and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Do you have an encouraging message to share with guests of the Ronald McDonald House, or our brave employees at Ronald McDonald House and Nationwide Children’s Hospital? Film a simple selfie video and post it to Facebook. Tag us @RMHCofCentralOhio, and encourage our guests and staff!
Thank you, Cecilia, for your contribution. This is a special gift that we will always hold in our hearts. You are an inspiration to our entire community!
This group of women I am emailing now collectively raised over $366,000 for RMHC families in 2019 (at our women-focused fundraising events). Why? Because you each care about something greater than yourself. You believe in helping fellow moms, dads, brothers and sisters, whose faces you will never see, whose hands you will never shake, but whose hearts you did touch. We don’t get to choose when our child gets sick or when we will need help from others. But we do get to choose what we do when faced with a need in front of us. Thank you for becoming an army who kept our doors open for critically ill children and their families last year.
This year, our families’ burdens have only snowballed. With the current COVID-19 pandemic and economic conditions, many families we serve have suffered from recent job loss, a lack of insurance benefits, and wavering financial security. Not to mention the pre-existing worry over medical decisions, mounting medical bills and strain from distant support systems.
Just like a family, RMHC is nothing without those who support us when we need it most. The Columbus Ronald McDonald House is, and always will be, committed to providing a steadfast source of hope for families. And our RMHC family is only strong because of the people who are a part of it.
Please consider sharing this link to your social media to spread our COVID-19 Response Fund. The women included here have more influence over our city than any of us can conceive.
We are thankful for you!
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
In about March 2018, I was asked to attend a “quilt guild” meeting with a friend I had recently met. I have sewn all my life but knew nothing of quilting and thought I had no interest. I mistakenly believed quilting to be all about making a bedspread. But, in an effort to honor my friend’s request, I agreed to go. I was absolutely enthralled with the “pictures made out of fabric” that I saw at that meeting. I knew this was something I must do. I bought a new sewing machine in May of 2018 and took off like a racehorse out of the gates.
My first quilts were a series of nursery rhyme scenes from my own original drawings. I hoped to sell them but figured I could give them to my grandchildren if they didn’t sell. Much to my surprise, when I showed them to the owner of a local children’s book store, she bought them all and asked me to make a few more. She hung them above the bookshelves in her store and they fit perfectly and look great. Then she asked me if I would make a quilt from a watercolor picture that her son had made for her. She wanted this quilt to be bigger so children could snuggle in it on the reading couch in the back of her store. I first spoke with the artist to ask permission because I want children to know that they have ownership of things that they create. I make a big deal out of this with every quilt I make. When I completed this quilt, which depicts a mouse saying “Please read”, I knew I had found a calling. This process combines my passion for children’s original artwork with my lifelong love of fabrics.
The children’s bookstore asked me to put business cards on their counter and I began to receive calls for quilts. One day I met a woman who asked me about my quilting. I will never forget her question to me after we had spoken just a few minutes. She said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could use your talent to honor children who have died?” She told me that she had just lost her great nephew two weeks prior and that she had some of his last pieces of artwork. I was quite taken aback and told her I would think about that. My husband and I decided that we really did not need the money that a quilt business brings in, so……I contacted my new friend and said that, yes, I would make that quilt as a gift to her great nephew’s mother. At that point I began telling each family that there was a catch to this gift. When I brought them their quilt, they would need to refer me to another family that I could sew for. Not necessarily a family who had experienced loss but a family whose child was experiencing illness. This worked well but extremely slowly. I knew I could do much more. I mentioned this to a friend and she told me to contact the Ronald McDonald House so I did. It was a great decision because now I have access to many families that I can honor with a quilt.
I figure it takes me about 20 hours to make most of the quilts which measure about 3’ x 4’. This includes time for fabric shopping and a lot of staring at the original artwork. The most fun part of the process is deciding how to approach the project because the medium used makes different approaches necessary.
I make sure each family receives their quilt within a couple weeks. I have delivered nine quilts to Ronald McDonald families so far.
My very favorite comment was made by a father from Spain. He and his wife bring their two daughters to Columbus every three months for treatments. He pointed at the quilt I had made the girls and he said, “This is great reminder………of you………of here………of all”. That’s about when I lost it and I cried all the way home in the car. I think I would like those words printed on a plaque or something.
I do it because I love to do it. I love to get inside a child’s head as I analyze what they drew first and what later, or how they used the marker or paint brush. I love the honesty and the freedom and the charm of children’s artwork. I love to work with fabrics.
The culture of quilting seems to me to be about two things really: comfort and legacy. I hope that families find physical comfort snuggled under a quilt I have made. And I label each piece carefully so that when it’s found in a box, many generations from now, it will also serve as a legacy for the child that inspired it. I get more pleasure than I can describe from looking at children’s artwork and trying to recreate it. I am beyond honored to be a part of their stories.
I plan to continue to make these quilts indefinitely, as long as I am financially able. I use only quality materials and they are not inexpensive. It is my paying customers that allow me to continue to make gifts. As long as I can rustle up a few paying customers, I will make quilts for the families of Ronald McDonald House.
I have always been a person who goes after what they want; who makes things happen; that type of person. In my retirement years, I have been overcome with the feeling that it’s time to stop that; to just relax and see what comes to me. This new approach to life is working miraculously for me. Not one aspect of my quilt making has been my own idea. Each step has occurred because someone asked me to do something or encouraged me to do something. Two years ago I could not have imagined that I would be doing the things that I’m doing today and I’ve never been happier. As I said earlier, I am beyond honored to be a part of the Ronald McDonald House and the families that I sew for. Sincere thanks to all of you.
In its first five years, BobcaThon raised nearly $350,000 in support of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. But for the Ohio University students behind this year-long fundraiser that culminates in a 12-hour dance marathon, it’s the stories of courage and resilience from area residents served by the nonprofit that will echo throughout their lifetimes.
“There are moments of real emotion where we all kind of realize what the impact of this event is and how important all our work is,” said Maggie Wolf, BSC ’20.
An Ohio University senior, Wolf has participated in BobcaThon since her first year at OHIO and is serving as president of this year’s fundraiser, which will come to a close on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the BobcaThon 2020 12-hour dance marathon. The event is the pinnacle moment in a year-long campus- and community-wide quest to raise awareness for children with serious illness and their families as well as funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, which provides free housing, meals and other assistance to families of children in Columbus-area hospitals.
Wolf has seen the impact of the nonprofit’s work firsthand. A couple close to her stayed at the Ronald McDonald House while their son underwent cancer treatment at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Sadly, the boy passed away last summer.
“That’s the connection I really feel now,” said Wolf, adding that stories like these are the reason BobcaThon exists and a big component of the dance marathon, during which families served by the Ronald McDonald House take the stage and share their experiences.
These stories, Wolf said, don’t always have happy endings, but they remind everyone how necessary their efforts are.
“A lot of the time it’s professors or administrators from the University who are telling these stories about their children,” Wolf said. “And even if you might not know the professor, it’s really eye-opening to see that they live right here in the community and are facing such a challenge.”
Coming off a record-setting year in which BobcaThon raised more than $110,000, the BobcaThon 2020 leadership team worked with advisers in the Ohio University Alumni Association to solicit some expert advice on how to sustain the fundraiser’s momentum. They consulted with an individual who has studied dance marathon fundraisers and who advised them, in light of their extraordinary success over the past five years, to focus their efforts more on awareness than dollars raised.
“We shifted our focus to outreach and trying to partner with as many student organizations as possible, so we could set ourselves up better for future fundraising,” Wolf said. “We added new positions to our team, so I think we grew in different aspects than just the dollar amount that everyone sees.”
Wolf said that organizers expect about 370 dancers to participate this year, 55 more than last year. Each BobcaThon participant has been asked to raise at least $100.
For the students who participate in BobcaThon, it’s an opportunity to make an impact on a community that most of them will only call home for a few years and a chance to see the power of their philanthropy in action.
For Wolf, her final BobcaThon will be bittersweet as the fundraiser has not only been a significant part of her OHIO experience, but one she will carry with her after she graduates.
“BobcaThon is what helped me secure my internship and made me passionate about nonprofits going forward,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about how to present myself in a professional way and how to lead my peers, which at first can be kind of awkward. And, being a part of BobcaThon has given me a chance to give back to a community that has given me the best four years.”
The sixth annual BobcaThon kicks off at noon on Feb. 15 in the Baker University Center Ballroom and ends at midnight when this year’s fundraising total will be announced. For information on how you can get involved in and support BobcaThon 2020, visit the BobcaThon Facebook page.