When families walk into the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, we want them to forget they’re in a hospital. The room is open to family members of patients in the Pavilion starting Tuesday, September 15. It will offer families a place to rest and regroup just steps away from the patient while the young person gets the help they need. Research shows that staying close by allows parents to better participate in their child’s care. Centrally located in the Pavilion, the Ronald McDonald Family Room offers families a place to rest and regroup while remaining close to their child by providing a welcoming, homelike environment.
This Family Room will be the first in a children’s hospital stand-alone mental health facility specifically for pediatric patients. The space is really more than a room with conference room, office, lockers, mother’s room with breast pump, laundry room with washer & dryer, full bathroom with shower and bathing supplies, kitchenette area, and an outdoor courtyard.
This is the second Ronald McDonald Family Room in Columbus operated by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. The first Family Room opened by the RMHC chapter was in 2016 inside the OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital for families of inpatient children and babies at that hospital.
Laikyn Howard was born to Jenna and Jeff Howard at 24 weeks and five days. She’s now ten weeks old. Laikyn is another modern miracle. After the couple spent the first 5 weeks at their local hospital’s NICU in Huntington, West Virginia, Laikin was transferred to the NICU at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Fortunately, when Jenna learned her baby would be going to the world-renowned hospital in Columbus, she already knew where she would be staying.
Jenna had learned about the Ronald McDonald House years ago from a friend who works in the development department at the local House in Huntington. In fact, Jenna says she and her husband have made donations to the local House and Jenna has often volunteered her time with a group at the House back home, even bringing Laikyn’s 9-year-old and 5-year-old sisters to help cook meals for families staying there. “When we had an idea we might be transferred to either Columbus or Cincinnati, I had reached out to her and asked her if they were open…if they were taking guests…if there was a waiting list,” Jenna said. “I told her I never thought I would ever need a Ronald McDonald House and she said to me, ‘If I could only tell you how many times people say that. You never know you’ll need it and you get more of an appreciation for it, especially when YOU need it.’”
When it comes to convenience for families with a child in the hospital, Jenna pointed out that it’s such a relief to be at a Ronald McDonald House so close to the local children’s hospital. “We just keep one car and my husband goes back and forth and it’s just easier for us right now, so I can walk wherever I need to go. And with them providing the meals, that’s another huge thing.” Jenna said.
There have been some major changes at hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses since the pandemic arrived. One major change at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and our Ronald McDonald is the inability for siblings to be able to visit, which can be hard on a family. Knowing their daughter would be in Columbus for a long time, the Howards made up a schedule so Jeff could continue to work back in Huntington but drive up to Columbus to stay at the House every other weekend. That would give Jenna time to go home and see Laikyn’s sisters. Of course, Jeff also comes up for major procedures at the hospital too. Fortunately for Jenna, she was already a tele-work employee, so she finds working from the room in our House very easy. Jenna said she especially appreciates the meals served at the House which allows her and Jeff to refrain from possible exposure to COVID-19 at a public grocery store or restaurant.
Jenna does look forward to the day when she’ll be able to bring Laikyn’s sisters to the House to show them where they’ve been staying. “We’ll be up here for appointments. Maybe they’ll have restrictions lifted. I do think one day down the road, hopefully, we’ll get to show them where we’ve stayed because right now, they can’t picture where we’ve stayed,” said Jenna. One thing’s for sure, she added, the family is certain to keep supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities now that it’s so much a part their family. “We have always been supporters and we’ll be supporters for life because you don’t realize how much it’s appreciated and needed until you’re faced with it. I had two perfect pregnancies and went into pre-term labor with her and it came out of the blue. You never know when your going to be faced with needing something.”
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!
Families need quality time in a place that feels like home when they have a child getting medical treatment. The Ronald McDonald Family Room® in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion will be a place where families can gather to de-stress. This space will serve as a welcoming environment where families can feel at home and a place where families can be close to their children as they receive treatment and support at the pavilion. This Ronald McDonald Family Room® will be the first in a stand-alone behavioral health facility specifically for children and adolescence which gives hope for the future of families with children working through mental health difficulties. Dee Anders, Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, and Vicki Chappelear, Program Manager, talk about the importance of this new family room in a video produced by the video team of the spring Immersion Class at Capital University’s Convergent Media Center. Special thanks to the students, staff, and advisors from the PR & communications company, Fahlgren-Mortine.
“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
Kourtney Kilner and her daughter, Annika have been have been coming to our House for three years. Kourtney says they always feel welcomed and safe at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Kourtney & Annika were recently featured in a video greeting to golfers at this month’s 34th Annual RMHC Golf Tournament. Click the image below to hear Kourtney talk about their experience coming to the Ronald McDonald House during these especially stressful times.
Congratulations to long time volunteers Fred & Jill Winer who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Flag Day, June 14, outside their Columbus home with a ride around the block in a carriage pulled by two Clydesdale horses. Friends and family gathered at the couple’s home to help the couple celebrate while wearing masks and social distancing. Fred wore his RMHC of Central Ohio shirt, Jeff Duffield, one of our craftsmen volunteers, also attended with his wife and provided entertainment playing his calliope. Ronald McDonald House partner Graeter’s Ice Cream Truck was there selling ice cream to all who turned out for the occasion. Graeter’s Ice Cream Truck has continued accepting donations for the Ronald McDonald House on the truck’s order-ahead page on Street Food Finder since the special occasion. The couple even set up a donation jar so those gathering from the neighborhood could make a donation to the House!
Fred says he was a chemist at Chemical Abstracts where he worked for 40 years. He says a manager at the company, Kathy Leavy, decided to leave the chemical industry and get into community service work. That’s when she got a job at the Ronald McDonald House. Soon after that, Jill was retiring having worked in elementary education, wholesale pharmaceuticals, and computer sales but wanted to stay active. Fred suggested to her that she look into volunteering at the charity where Kathy was working. That was about 14 years ago and as Fred was nearing his own retirement, he came to the House to see if he could help in 2011.
Since then, Fred has been a “jack of all trades” at the House while Jill has helped answer questions at the front desk. Fred says it’s been wonderful, especially meeting families from all over the world and from different cultures. “You count your blessings,” he says about seeing what families go through when coming to Columbus for their child’s healthcare.
The couple has 2 sons and three grandchildren. A few years ago, all of the family members joined Fred in celebrating Jill’s birthday by coming to the House and preparing a meal for the families.
Thanks, Winers, for helping the House in so many ways and, again, congratulations!
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.
It’s now been about 6 months since all the planning of the 10,000 square-foot garden directly behind the Ronald McDonald House really began to come to fruition. The plans for the garden had actually begun last year, by Alex Paquet, Summer Fellow from The Columbus Foundation during his position with our chapter. After dilapidated houses had been razed on the lots, which RMHC of Central Ohio had recently acquired, the ground began to be prepared to become a large home for vegetables, fruits, & herbs. When it was planned, it was expected that we could have large groups of volunteers helping to start and regularly tend to the garden. Then COVID-19 interrupted that plan. Though there was a pause in the cultivation of the garden, the determination to make this garden happen couldn’t be stunted. In fact, it seemed more important than ever to get the garden going.
Since the cold start, one regularly-scheduled volunteer has really made it his mission to make the dream of a garden a reality. Bill Mount already spent a lot of time outside at the House, mowing the lawns. An avid gardener, he was determined to get this large outdoor space prepared for planting. Now, he was bringing a much bigger tractor to the House, to till the soil in the garden. But this soil is city soil. All kinds of brick and pipe pieces and stones had to be hand-picked from the soil for the tiller on the back of his tractor to do its job. With now only some staff coming into the House, besides the families themselves, it was decided that the available staff would get busy helping to remove large objects from the dirt, at a physical distance and with masks on. That would be a great start, but volunteers were still needed for the next steps.
When the governor gave the word that our state would begin to slowly re-open, that allowed us to schedule a few small groups to come help prepare the garden for planting. Being a large, open space outside, it was determined only a few small group of volunteers could come help Bill get the garden started while taking distancing precautions. After the weed mats were laid over the ground, a torch device was used to burn holes in the covering to begin planting. One of the small groups to help with this process was a group of doctors affiliated with Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The garden was now well on its way to becoming like a small farm field, as one volunteer called it.
Now, we’re proud to announce that we have the following vegetables planted: sweet corn, Indian corn, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, and 150 tomato plants. Pole, bush, & wax beans; summer, zucchini, butternut, & spaghetti squash; garlic; & collard greens are all ready to be harvested. Some kale has been harvested along with all of the butter lettuce. Cantaloupes & raspberry bushes are also in the growing along with sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, dahlias, and Eucalyptus.
There have been grassy cross paths established in the garden to walk around the different plots, which intersect with a round center area where more than 20 varieties of herbs surround a banana tree. Wire tunnels have also been built where vines producing gourds are climbing up the sides. Bill says, “the size of this garden is similar to the size of a large production garden.” But as all of the plants in the garden are reaching for the sun, cattle paneling is used to really make use of the ground space by training the plants to grow upward, making use of all the space. Volunteer Director Kate Becker says, “I envision the garden helping us feed 300 people a day.” The cost of food for families staying in such a large House as ours, finding affordable food can be quite challenging. “We’re feeding so many people, we needed enough food to actually feed our families,” Kate said. That’s exactly what’s happening now. Our Chef Blair Arms has already used beets and and lettuce in recipes for our families. Thanks to the few volunteer groups that have made it happen.