Drive for the House

by Ryan Wilkins

Having a child in the hospital is beyond stressful. I unfortunately know from personal experience. When Dylan, our first son, was born in February of 2005, he had a fever. After measuring and weighing him, nurses took his temperature, and all of a sudden, the air was sucked out of the room. Their faces changed, and the doctor was called over for a hurried conference. Then they turned around to my wife and I and told us the news no new parent is ready to hear – “we need to take your child to the neonatal intensive care unit.” The joyous birth of our first child turned into the most frightening experience of our lives in the span of about two minutes.

While we were in the delivery room trying to process what just happened, the only thing on our minds was doing everything we could to fight for our baby’s life. For the next week amazingly sweet and gentle nurses cared for Dylan, helping cure a severe infection. Had it not been for modern medicine, he likely would not have survived. But thanks to the expertise and hard work of the medical professionals, he is a healthy and happy third grader today.

While Dylan was in the NICU inside that clear plastic box with tubes all over his body, there wasn’t anything that could tear his mother and I away from his side. Like many parents thrown into these circumstances, we couldn’t imagine not being there for him. Even though there was nothing we could do for him medically, we knew somehow that being there for him would make a difference. So, for that week, we slept anywhere we could find a place to sleep in the hospital. It wasn’t the optimal situation, but we made it work. What I wish is that there would have been a Ronald McDonald House across the street from that hospital.

At the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, we help families who are going through circumstances just like mine. The goal is simple – provide a home-away-from-home near the hospital for families whose children are being treated. Such a simple thing can make a profound difference in the life of the whole family. We slept on uncomfortable couches back in 2005. However, had there been a Ronald McDonald House right across the street, we would have been able to get a few hours of sleep, take a shower, grab some food to eat, and connect with other families going through similar situations.

That is what drives me every day as I perform my duties at as Director of Community Relations and Marketing for RMHC of Central Ohio. Everything we do is to help moms and dads, just like me, to be close to their children who need them desperately.

When I work to encourage people to donate their vehicles to provide a whole week at the Ronald McDonald House for a family, I think of what it would have meant to Sarah and I to be able to stay at a Ronald McDonald House and have that provided by a generous donor. When we are working to tell the story of the families at the House, I can’t help but put myself right in their shoes. The Ronald McDonald House is such a wonderful gift that we can give to families who are going through the most stressful circumstances.

As we grow to be the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world, I am so proud to be a part of something that is more than the biggest – it will be a support to up to 122 families every night so they don’t have to worry about where they can sleep or what to eat. They can rest assured that a warm bed and comforting community of caring people will be there for them at the House, right across the street, every night. That is invaluable.