My name is Maria Spain. I have been working as a Family Service Manager at Ronald McDonald House Charities for just over three years. My journey with the Ronald McDonald House started when I was a sophomore in college. I was struggling to pick a major, unsure of what career path I wanted to pursue, and seeking inspiration. One day I was speaking with a close friend who works at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and she recommended I get involved with RMHC of Central Ohio, because she had only heard great things about it. I was interested in getting involved with a non-profit, so I decided to walk in one day and see if there were any opportunities for me.
I met with Vicki, now my supervisor, and she showed me around the House. As I walked past all 122 guest rooms, I couldn’t believe how big the building was. The hallways were clean and the guest rooms were cozy. What impressed me the most, though, was all of the intricate details inlaid in every corner of the House. The music room was full of more instruments than I could think of. The library had teddy bears larger than me, and in the kitchen there were seats that looked like hamburgers. The art on the first floor walls made you feel as if you were walking through all 4 seasons in the span of 30 steps. The interior of one elevator looked like the inside of a spaceship, and it led us all the way up to a room that looked like outer space. It was truly so fun. What was more impressive than the uniqueness of the space, though, was that all of it is funded and created directly by our community. If you get to experience RMHC, you get to experience firsthand the impact that compassion and giving can do.
I started as a summer intern, and I was grateful for the opportunity to learn. I worked with some amazing people and learned so much about how a place like this runs. The good that RMHC does is a direct result of the hard work and kind hearts of all of the volunteers and staff members that show up every day to serve families. It was truly amazing, and every day that summer I was thankful to be even a small part of something so good.
In the past three years, I went from a summer intern to a full time staff member. As my knowledge has grown deeper, so has my appreciation for this RMHC chapter. I have met families from all over the world, and seeing their resilience through times of struggle encourages me daily. One of my main responsibilities at work is greeting families when they first arrive and checking them into their rooms. I am passionate about making families feel comfortable and supported during their time here. The magic of RMHC has remained just as strong as when I first walked through the hallways of the House years ago. I would encourage anybody in the community to come volunteer and experience some of the joy that RMHC brings to families.
Jared Bugay recently joined the Marketing & Communications team at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. He wrote the following guest blog to introduce himself.
My name is Jared Bugay and I am a Senior at The Ohio State University pursuing a degree in finance. I was born in Missouri but moved to Delaware Oho at a young age where I have lived for the majority of my life. I decided I wanted to pursue a finance degree because I have always had some interest in personal finance. Also, the stock market was always interesting to me being the biggest factor in why I went down the finance path. As of right now, I don’t know exactly what I want to do right out of college, but I do know I want to get a job in banking to start. I would like to have a career 5ish years out is being a financial consultant for people, once I have more experience in the field.
I was looking for an internship this summer and was connected to Ryan Wilkins at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. At first, I didn’t know much about the charity, but by doing further research, I thought about what they did and its slogan to be a great thing by helping families stay together during extended hospital stays. So I took the opportunity to Intern for them this summer as I saw it as a chance to further grow.
My first impression of the building as a whole was how big it was I didn’t fully realize how many families stay here at 1 time when I initially looked up the House. I came in with the idea that it will be an enriching learning experience this summer and as of right now I can say that my expectations will be met and maybe even exceeded. As my first week is coming to an end, I have fully realized how much I will experience this summer. Learning about how a non-profit charity markets itself to the community to keep revenue coming in will dovetail nicely with my future in finance. I look forward to learning more about the charity and how it operates day-to-day.
Congratulations to Lulani Gaulberto, our new Executive Assistant here at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. Lulani is from Pickerington and was a volunteer at the House before becoming a Volunteer Coordinator and has helped the development team on several occasions organizing auction items. Happy Administrative Professionals Day, Lulani! We did a quick Q&A with Lulani today and she was gracious to answer our questions so the community can get to know her. [Photo credit: Lulani Gaulberto/Facebook]
Q: How did you first come into the RMHC of Central OH community?
A: I started volunteering in 2017 when I was in a work transition. I chose Mondays so that I could start my week on a good note!
Q: What has been your position lately and what kinds of projects have you been working on?
A: In the past year, I’ve been a Volunteer Coordinator helping prepare & serve meals, receive donations; helped in Development by putting together Auction packages and assist with the Bake Sale; I’ve had some shifts staffing the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at the OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Big Lot’s Behavioral Health Pavilion; and I’ve worked two shifts as a Family Service Manager.
Q: Has there been a moment, since you’ve been with the House, that particularly touched you? Perhaps a moment involving one of our families or being at an event where you really felt you were part of something special?
A: I’ve had numerous moments but the most recent was when I was checking in a family from Kentucky. They had just arrived and she was very concerned about her granddaughter. She had not gotten any rest or sleep or a meal. I got her checked in and was giving her the details about the room, meals, their stay and then I told her that if she needed anything else, all she had to do was ask. I told her I would pack up dinner for her daughter and herself and gave her one of our Thirty-One Gifts welcome bags and she burst into tears. I nearly burst out crying myself but pulled it back in. I saw them a few days later when I came in to volunteer and she and her daughter looked rested and found out that the patient was doing well. How much better can it get?
Q: What are you looking forward to in your new position?
I look forward to contributing to all the House activities – raising money, fostering/planning/organizing/recognizing the amazing job that the McDonald’s restaurants are doing in their Round-Up campaign, supporting Dee Anders (our CEO) so she can do her thing, and being part of this growing chapter!
The RMHC garden is growing again. When two dilapidated houses behind our main building were acquired and raised by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio in late 2019, that gave rise to the opportunity to turn the 10,000 square feet area into a resource for the many more families we began serving after adding 57 more rooms in 2014. And so the planning began to grow a garden in the void left by the houses that were torn down. Our volunteer director, Kate Becker, was able to help convince Scott’s Miracle Gro to provide a grant through The Columbus Foundation as seed money for the project. Next, she was able to convince longtime volunteer craftsman, Bill Mount to be our chief gardener (for which he immediately won an award from Franklin Park Conservatory & Garden). Bill was able to convince some local businesses to donate nutrient dirt, some plants, & seeds. He has a big tractor and was all set to bring it to the planned garden area to rototill the ground. Only one problem: This was city soil. It was full of bricks, rocks, & archeological finds such as bottle caps and pieces of drywall. The bigger items needed to be removed.
Kate was working on recruiting more volunteers and volunteer groups to come work in our garden with the ultimate goal that the produce grown in our garden would be used by our Chef Blair Arms to make meals for our families. Then, the pandemic hit. Suddenly, volunteers couldn’t be at the House. But we persevered. Staff was filling in doing all kinds of things that wouldn’t normally be part of their duties. That included helping move the big rocks and other large items from the garden space, while everyone was at least six feet apart and wearing masks. The precautions also allowed Bill to come back with his big tractor & rototiller to break into the ground and ready it for planting.
After allowing small groups to come back to work in the garden, we even had a team of Nationwide Children’s Hospital physicians help plant the first rows of vegetables. Local real estate agents & brokers came in small groups to volunteer safely in the garden area too.
So despite the pandemic, we were able to harvest more than 1,000 pounds of produce to help feed the families staying at our House in 2020.
Now, a year after it started, Bill & Kate (pictured together at just arm’s distance this week) are back in the garden and beginning to plant this year’s crop, with the help of staffers Blair Arms & Mekia Hilles (pictured sitting on the ground this week) and some volunteer craftsmen. More volunteers are expected to be invited back as we ramp up preparations for growing season and families are expected to begin helping in the garden even more this year!
Angie Hartley has been with our Development Team for more than a decade. Over this last year, we’ve all been working hard to keep the doors of our Ronald McDonald House open. Those doors can only stay open with revenue and that’s something Angie is focused on throughout her workday. She took a moment from her important work to answer a few quick questions about her time at RMHC of Central Ohio. Below is the result of this Q & A.
How long have you been working at RMHC and what is your current position with our chapter?
I have been working at RMHC Central Ohio for 11 years and currently serve as the Senior Development Director. I started in January 2010 as the Development Director and moved into my current role about six years later.
What drew you to work here?
There were a few things that drew me to RMHC. What first drew me to RMHC was the opportunity to work with Dee Anders again. Dee was my boss at a previous non-profit and I really enjoyed working with her. She was teaching me so much and she’s successful in fundraising. I wanted to continue to grow and learn under her so when the opportunity came for me to join her, I was very excited. The second thing that drew me here was the mission. I am a firm believer that to be a successful fundraiser you have to believe in the mission yourself. When you do believe in the mission, it never feels like a job, it feels like a passion you get to share with the rest of the community and invite them to come along.
I became a mother while working here and it truly made me thankful to have resources like this in our community. It wasn’t until a few years later that we would get to understand firsthand how beneficial RMHC is to families of hospitalized children. My son had to be hospitalized for four days for pneumonia. While my husband and I chose to stay bedside, we absolutely did not get the rest, nutritious meals, and – more importantly – the breaks we should have taken to be in the best state possible for our son. Seeing him hooked up to all the machines and having to wear an oxygen mask, we just felt like we couldn’t leave him. I still have a photo of my son and me holding hands while he slept in the hospital bed and I slept in the recliner next to him.
What’s the most challenging time you’ve had here?
I would have to say the most challenging time I have had here was during the pandemic. Our doors remained open to serve families in what was truly their greatest time in need. The community plays an integral role in the services we can provide through time, talent and treasure they provide. We had to completely reinvent how we approached fundraising and did not have a “play book” to work from to help us navigate these new waters.
I believe the best part from all of it was that our team became closer, we became creative and flexible in our approaches and continually adapted to the ever-changing restrictions and environment. I think we all grew in different ways that we never would have without the pandemic.
We are continuing to grow, learn and adapt and it will be interesting to see where this takes us moving forward. I’m grateful to the wonderful team, volunteers, board, and community we have who remain dedicated to the mission and programs of RMHC. Without them we couldn’t do what we do!
What have you enjoyed most about being a part of our chapter?
What I enjoy most about being at RMHC is the fact that we get to work in the same building as our families are staying. We get to be immersed in the programs and mission. We meet the families and become connected to them on their journey. It makes you feel good knowing that you are playing a small part in helping them on their road to healing.
Do you have a particular story about a moment with the chapter that’s especially heartwarming?
In the past 11 years, it is hard to narrow down a moment that was especially heartwarming as there are so many. But a few that stick out in my mind include a time when I was providing a new corporate partner with a tour of the House. We entered the kitchen and I was explaining the Team Cuisine program to them and how it is a great way to engage their associates. At this time a little girl (whose family I have interacted with for days) walked up and held my hand. It was this sweet moment that made us all smile. Her parents tried to get her to return to them, but she wanted to help me finish my tour. When I returned her to her parents in the kitchen the group had an opportunity to talk to learn about their journey. It really stuck with them and with me.
What do you see for the future of the chapter?
I see wonderful things on the horizon for RMHC! We are really working hard to meet the needs of the community and our partner hospitals. The growth I have seen in our organization over the past decade makes me excited to see what the next decade will bring.
When the first semester of my first year at The Ohio State University began I, like many college students, embarked on the journey of discovering what career I wanted to pursue post college. With over 200 majors offered at OSU, I had many to choose from. With a passion for design, as well as interests in mass media and visual marketing, I began to explore a communications degree and what a career would look like in this field.
Although the major of communications is pretty broad, OSU does an excellent job of narrowing it down into four undergraduate focus areas for students to choose from. After reviewing each focus area, the one that shined out among the rest was New Media and Communication Technology. This aligned with my interests in design as well as how to creatively use technology in marketing, such as social media, to grow brand awareness.
Fast forward a semester or two. I began growing a desire to see what this could look like in “the real world.” As great as the little paragraph description of a communications and visual marketing career was, I wanted to get first-hand experience to know if it would truly be the right fit for myself. Thus, began my search for an internship.
In this search I not only wanted to find a company that I could learn communication and marketing skills from, but also one where I could learn the value of developing relationships and impacting others within the community. When the opportunity to intern with Ronald McDonald House Charities presented itself, I couldn’t say no. I truly believe it is exactly what I have been looking for! I love the heart behind RMHC and their ability to impact so many families’ lives around Columbus and the world. It is truly something that I am proud to be a part of, even in the smallest way through a communication internship.
Overall, my goal for this internship is to get a better understanding of how the communications team effectively grows awareness around the RMHC brand and company. I hope to contribute to this in any way I can whether that is with writing more blog posts, helping with the behind the scenes of campaign projects, drafting emails, creating fun TikToks and other media content, or even just data entry… I am excited for it all and to be a part of the Ronald McDonald House Charities team.
My name is Kenna Scaife and I recently started as a Development Associate here at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. I will be working on Paint The Town Center Red and the Dublin and Fall Handbag HULLABALOO!™ events.
When I was in High School, I was introduced to The Ronald McDonald House through a club called Club Hope. The club’s mission is to raise awareness for childhood cancer through various fundraising events and volunteering for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I loved all the work the club was doing so I decided to run for president! I was president of Club Hope for two years and throughout my time, we would make blankets, wrap Christmas presents, and serve dinner at the house. Once I was able to come to the house myself and take a tour, I knew that I wanted to work here some day!
I went to college at Ohio University. Go Bobcats! I graduated in 2019 with a degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Public and Environmental Health. After graduation, I landed a job with The Muscular Dystrophy Association. I was the lead on their event Muscle Walk and had a hand in numerous other events. I loved every moment of my job with MDA and cherish all the relationships I built with the families. My journey has now led me to the wonderful Ronald McDonald House and I am so excited to get started with planning events! I have always hoped that I would end up working here and I am so grateful the opportunity presented itself! Working in the house and seeing all the families motivates me even more to have the most successful events possible. Seeing first-hand the impact these fundraisers have on the families is incredible and I am so happy I get to be a part of that.
Recently, Sue Orme, Clinical Educator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion asked that we provide an introduction of our Ronald McDonald Family Room by way of a blog post that will be published in the BHP’s internal staff e-newsletter. Our program manager, Vicki Chappelear, wrote the following wonderful synopsis for our partners at the BHP.
Who we are: The Ronald McDonald Family Room is a program of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. The Ronald McDonald House opened in March of 1982 with 15 bedrooms as a result of passionate volunteers who had a vision to start a House in Columbus. We have now grown to 137 bedrooms. The Family Room at the BHP is the second Family Room in Columbus with the first being at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist which opened in July 2017.
What we do: Our Family Room space serves as a respite for families away from the demands of inpatient and outpatient units. We offer a quiet place to make phone calls, grab a cup of coffee, eat a snack, do laundry or even take a shower! Families can also access a beautiful, serene outdoor courtyard where they can get a breath of fresh air and sunshine. We truly understand family centered care means keeping the whole family healthy and we are doing our part to meet those needs outside of patient care.
Where we are: The Ronald McDonald Family Room is located just off the elevators on the 5th floor. We are adjacent to the west courtyard.
Why we do it:
• I think the Family Room is important because it allows families to remain close while also providing a space for family members to take time for themselves. Whether it’s getting a cup of coffee, enjoying the courtyard, or doing a load of laundry – the Family Room is a spot for families to feel relaxed and refreshed. I think family members are best able to care for and encourage their kids receiving treatment if they’re also taking care of themselves and the Family Room provides that space for that to happen. Abigail Brumme, RMCH Family Activities Manager
• Families with children at the BHP need a place to rest and disengage from the stress created by having a child with mental health issues in treatment. Darla Stover, RMCH Program Director
• “This was truly my home away from home. I felt I had a safe place every day to go to. I will never forget. I am so grateful and appreciate it so, so much. Took so much off my mind, so I could focus on (my child).” – a guest of the BHP Family Room
“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
Hi! My name is Meesha Sparrow. I went to school for Business Administration with a minor in finance. I’ve held several positions including being a receptionist for various law firms, providing mortgage services for a big bank, and even working directly with engineers in Germany for a car company. My first job was as a youth leader at a small neighborhood church when I was 14. During high school, I interned at a middle school and hospital.
I was first introduced to the Ronald McDonald House through Thirty One Gifts as a consultant. At the time, I was going through a big career change and working on understanding what I was truly passionate about. During this time, I worked on getting to know my personal core values and finding out what was important to me: honesty, compassion, gratitude, hope and children. In 2018 I became a volunteer. I was a “go getter” and would mainly clean rooms every Monday evening. I quickly discovered all the volunteers shared a lot of my main core values. I felt like I belonged.
When a position opened up for a family service manager I was thrilled. Working overnights, I get a whole different perspective than what you’d see in the day. There are many overnights I’ve witnessed parents/caregivers just needing to decompress. Being able to vent and share experiences with other families and staff like myself is so important for family members staying at the House. You can see in their faces the relief of not being alone and knowing people are here for them.
During the pandemic, I got the opportunity to work with the development team! What an amazing team. I was pleasantly surprised that not only the volunteers share my core values, but the staff too.
I never expected to get more than what I put in by being a part of the House. The Ronald McDonald House helps me be a better person. From the continuous love and support from the staff and volunteers, the families who make you feel as if you’re their family, to the kids going through so much and still effortlessly smiling at you. I’m proud and grateful to be a part of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.