Sarah & Adam Martin of Talladega, Alabama are often on the road with their two young sons. They travel around the country so Colt can ride youth motocross competitions. But the trip to Columbus is never very easy. The family has been coming to Nationwide Children’s hospital since October of last year so Colt’s younger brother, Mason, can get the care he needs. Describing how it felt as she and her husband looked at what lay ahead for Mason, Sarah explained, “It is a scary and hopeless feeling to not understand what is happening to your child. Especially when they are so young and cannot just tell you exactly what/how they are feeling.”
Mason was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and Tethered Spinal Cord at Children’s of Alabama. Chiari Malformation is a condition in which brain tissue extends out of your skull and pushes on your spinal cord. Tethered spinal cord syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column. The Martins were referred to Nationwide Children’s hospital during their journey to find out Mason’s diagnosis. Sarah said, “We had been trying to find a doctor to help Mason for two and a half years before we were referred to Dr. Leonard. Mason had de-tether surgery in October 2019 and decompression surgery for his Chiari in January 2020.”
When planning for the first surgery, the Martins found out about the Ronald McDonald House. “It was great having somewhere to stay to close to the hospital. They make you feel at home and Mason loves the playrooms,” Sarah said with delight. “We were there during Christmas last year and he got to see Santa. The House helps Mason feel more comfortable.”
Mason’s parents believe staying at the House helps Mason decompress after a stressful day seeing doctors. Referring to the trips to Columbus, Sarah said, “He was happy to be there, just not so much the hospital. There were wonderful people that would cook for lunch and dinner was so great. After Mason’s second surgery, he wouldn’t eat. I remember there was a restaurant that came in and cooked different pastas. Mason would not stop eating and they were so sweet to him.”
Mason likes to get his bicycle out of the van full of motorbikes and equipment that the family sometimes brings when coming to Columbus and, fortunately, the House has a big back yard for riding around. “I think Mason loves dirt bikes more than his brother, ” Sarah joked. “Mason loves motorcycles more than anyone. I feel like anywhere we go Mason has to have his motorcycles and is always racing.” It seems Mason really looks up to his older brother. “My older son, Colt, got his first motorcycle at three-and-a-half years old and started racing when he was five. In 2018, he won the Loretta Lynn National Championship. Colt is 9 years old now and we are heading back to the National Championship in about 4 weeks for the fourth year in a row.” Sarah pointed out that the motocross community is like a huge, extended family for Mason and the family has made many friends through the sport. “Motocross is a family atmosphere and there is nothing like it,” Sarah exclaimed. “Mason likes to yell at his brother and tell him to go faster or jump higher. He also loves helping his dad work on the bikes. All he wants to play with is dirt bike toys, be at the dirt bike track, and ride.” When it comes to taking Mason on the road for races, Sarah says there’s no place he would rather be. “Mason has a high pain tolerance and he fights through the pain most days to be able to play with his dirt bike toys and watch his brother race. Mason will get down a lot at the races and we travel in a van with a bed so it allows Mason to lay down during the day.”
Some parents might be scared watching their young child riding a motocross bike on a challenging course. But, Sarah said her real apprehension centers on the course Mason’s ailments currently have him on and for any surprises that may come up surrounding those challenges. “It is scary not to know what Mason’s future holds. Mason still suffers from pain in his back, bladder and bowel issues. We are unsure what the future holds but we will make the best of it for Mason.”
Though the trip to Columbus may not be as fun as a trip to another race track for Mason, Sarah says she and Adam have a simple message for volunteers & supporters of the House. “Thank you for all you do. When a family is going through a scary time in their lives, the Ronald McDonald House is a light in the darkness. It is a wonderful atmosphere for the kids and we could not be more thankful for it helping Mason through the tough times. Mason has a lot of anxiety with doctors and hospital. The House makes his experience a lot better.”
Click here to see the viral video of Mason next to his brother at a starting gate that’s been seen eight million times. Safe travels, Mason and family.
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.
This is so sweet. We recently received this message on Facebook about quite a collection of pop-tabs to be donated to our Ronald McDonald House. It’s a good reminder that pop-tabs help our House. We get thousands of dollars worth of pop tabs every year and we use the revenue to pay the electric bill at our House.
Hello, my son Cody and I and Cody’s Grandma have stayed there many times. Cody has seen the house that holds pop tabs when we have been there. Cody wanted to save pop tabs and we had a teacher at his school make saving pop tabs a competition with the different grades to see what grade would collect the most tabs. We also had a few gas stations we put fliers in with a can to collect tabs, we also had a few local bars collecting tabs. I shared what we were doing on Facebook and that we were collecting tabs for the Ronald McDonald house where we stay and it went viral. The newspaper heard about what we were doing and put an article in the paper on the front page! We had people mailing us tabs from all over the United States. This was so Awesome!! I can believe how many we collected. I believe it was like 900 pounds of tabs. I am also sending you a picture (above) and a video of what Cody has accomplished. He is so proud of what he has done. The next time we come for a visit to Nationwide Children’s Hospital we will be bringing them. Cody said you better have someone build a bigger house for the tabs to be collected in. lol!
– Melissa Winburn, Marseilles, Illinois
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.
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!
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.
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!
Thinking of the best way to describe what the Ronald McDonald House provides families in one word can only be summed up as “relief”. Our family first became familiar with the Ronald McDonald House Charities when our twins, Grayson and Annalise, were born prematurely at 33 weeks exactly. We live in Michigan and the twins were born at Toledo Children’s Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. At the time of their unexpected birth we also had a 2-year-old daughter. One of the NICU nurses brought in an application for their Ronald McDonald House as a place for my husband and our oldest daughter, Annabella, to stay. As parents juggling the roller coaster of the NICU along with trying to maintain a sense of normal for our oldest daughter we were grateful to have this bright colorful place to just be with her. Little did we know at the time how big a part the Ronald McDonald House Charities would be in our lives.
Grayson and Annalise had a rocky first year of life with multiple hospital stays in our local children’s hospital; there was a constant back and forth between the twins of high fevers over 105 for 6-10 days, rashes, joint pain, inflammation, headaches, and poor growth. We had exhausted our local resources and our pediatrician recommended going to Nationwide Children’s Hospital for a 2nd opinion and the ability to see more extensive specialist. Our first appointment was shortly after the twins 1st birthday with Oncology/Hematology and they began to put the puzzle pieces together. Unlike most with their disease, a rare Autoinflammatory disease, we were lucky that our twins were diagnosed early at 18 months and began a lifelong treatment to minimize damage. We were travelling from Michigan to Columbus, Ohio sometimes weekly that first year as everything was sorted out. The trip for us is usually around 7 hours round trip which with small children especially when they were “flaring” is miserable for all involved. Our specialist tried to coordinate the twin’s appointments as much as possible but there were still times when we had a test on Monday and then see a specialist on a Wednesday or times when only one was admitted.
It is during these moments when we are trying to figure out how to juggle whether we should drive back and forth, get a hotel, what to do with the “healthy” siblings, that the comfort and relief of the Ronald McDonald House is indescribable. Instead of Nationwide Hospital being a place our children dread they love going “home” to see their family at the House. The house has taken the burden of worrying about mounting travel expenses off of our shoulders, the worry about packing enough to entertain two toddlers, where to go to eat, and how I am going to do laundry is erased because the house has a solution for all of that. Our family has made countless memories within the walls of the house over the past 2 years. This past trip in December was one where both twins have been very stable for the past month; seeing them climb the tree house, run around the playroom, and fined joy in the Christmas decorations of a place that truly feels as if it has some magic is something we will always cherish. As we watched them just enjoy being 3 year old’s my husband and I were discussing those many times that they didn’t have the energy to play, they physically couldn’t climb the tree house because it was too painful, and we spent hours rocking them in our room because of pain.
As parents of chronically ill children we cannot say thank you enough for all that you provide. You may not see it but the relief that this house brings to families is innumerable. In a world where our children are fighting a battle that nobody should endure you provide those much needed moments of hope, the laughter amongst tears, sweet I love you between families, and those moments where mom and dad can breath a sigh of relief and know that they are in a place where it is ok to take a deep breath and only worry about the most important thing, their family, because their family in the house will take care of everything else.
Thank you so much to everybody who tirelessly supports the Ronald McDonald Charities. Your support brings hope to families like ours.
“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.