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.
Eight-year-old Bianca of Monroe County, West Virginia loves to dance. Her mother, Cortney White, says Bianca is especially fond of ballet, jazz and hip-hop. When Bianca was diagnosed with Leukemia last October, Cortney says the news came as a sudden and complete shock. “I never realized the importance and significance of the small things that I took for granted until they were stripped from our life in one afternoon.” Even now, you might not realize the active gymnast and artist is in a battle against cancer. Cortney says of her daughter, “She has fought this horrible disease with beauty and grace. I feel so fortunate and blessed to spend every day with the happiest and the most positive person I know. She is always smiling and laughing. She brightens my days.”
Bianca and her family started on this medical journey when Bianca got her diagnosis at CAMC Women & Children’s Hospital in Charleston, West Virginia. Cortney says, “Immediately, I knew that I had to find her the best possible treatment and facility. I started researching and Nationwide Children’s Hospital was ranked #4 in the nation for children’s cancer hospitals.” Cortney says they felt fortunate to have such a world-renowned hospital in a neighboring state. She arranged for Bianca to be transferred the very next day after she was diagnosed.
Cortney says when they arrived in Columbus, she immediately felt better. “I knew this was where we needed to be.” It was from a hospital social worker that Cortney found out about the Ronald McDonald House. She says she wasn’t familiar with RMHC, but when she learned about the House across the street from the hospital, she was relieved. “Hearing that Bianca and I would have a place to call home during treatment gave me hope,” she exclaimed. “I had no idea such facilities existed. It still seems unreal to me that the generosity of volunteers and donors have made it possible for my family to stay close next door to the hospital, while receiving treatment.”
Though Bianca’s grandmother, her father, and brother have all stayed at the House at different times with Bianca since they arrived last fall, the coronavirus forced the House to make limitations on the number of guests who could stay beginning in March. Cortney admits it’s been hard leaving Bianca’s six-year-old brother Brandon back on the family’s farm for weeks on end. She knows it’s also been a challenge for Bianca to be away from her home, family, and friends for great lengths of time. But, she adds, “The Ronald McDonald House has given us the opportunity to establish a home away from home. We Facetime, text, and Bianca loves SnapChat to communicate with her family and close friends daily.” Cortney appreciates the measures the House has taken to keep everyone safe during these unprecedented times. “Everyone is wearing a mask and performing social distancing to keep everyone safe during this pandemic. The Ronald McDonald House is following the same protocol as Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which makes me feel like I’m bringing my daughter into a safe environment.”
Cortney believes staying at the House has had an impact on Bianca’s treatment too. “Staying here, at the Ronald McDonald House, has helped my daughter receive the best of care. She goes to the hospital Monday thru Friday for infusion chemotherapy.” “Without the House,” Cortney says, “…our journey, I’m sure, would have been a lot different. I am forever grateful and thankful that we are here, and my daughter is receiving the best care possible. It is truly been a blessing.”
Though she and her daughter are here on a health journey that’s been tough, Cortney points out that her family is grateful for having enjoyed some special, pleasant memories while staying at the House. “During Christmas, Bianca enjoyed seeing the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who!” Cortney continues, “We love seeing the different decorations on display during the holidays… The atmosphere is one of joy and kindness here… it’s a beautiful thing to witness.”
What’s next? Cortney answers, “Our dream is for Bianca to be completely healed.” Cortney explains, “She looks forward to her last day of chemo when she can ring the bell and celebrate her victory. We look forward to the day that she can go back to living the life she once did. I want to see her in school with her classmates, take her to dance class and gymnastics. I want her to sleep in her bed at night, exchange Valentines with her friends, participate in the Christmas play at church, and enjoy her animals on the farm.”
While most of the world has hunkered down at home, due to the pandemic, and folks leave just to get essentials or some exercise, our skeleton crew is still here, working to keep families as comfortable as possible while they must be staying here. We’re also working without the thousands of volunteers that keep our House up and running. We asked a few of our operations staff members to tell us what work like has been like since Covid-19 came along and what makes them smile behind the medical masks we all have to wear these days.
Kate Becker is our volunteer director. Though the majority of our volunteers have been asked to stay home at this time, there are a few volunteers still coming to the house somewhat regularly. For instance, work continues on the new volunteer-driven garden behind the House, mostly thanks to a few craftmen volunteers led by Bill Mount. The absence of our regular volunteers are sourly missed during this, national Volunteer Appreciation Week and Volunteer Appreciation Month. But Kate says the volunteer calendar really started to change over a month ago. “Meal and project groups began cancelling as corporate partners told their employees to stay home,” she said. “Almost overnight my team and I had to pivot to complete work more than 20,000 volunteers did previously.”
Instead of overseeing volunteer groups preparing breakfast, lunch & dinner for a hundred people, Kate’s staff became the sous-chefs working with our head chef Blair Arms, who usually works directly with meal groups. “My staff balances helping to ensure we are still serving 3 meals a day, seven days a week, with restocking guest rooms, storing food donations and leftovers, doing laundry, and reaching out to the community to have meals catered for the families who are still living with us,” she says. “We’ve adjusted our schedules so that we’re covering as many hours in the day as possible, along with working on the weekends. We’re now at a point where we’re starting to focus on helping the facilities team here with small renovations. Our House occupancy has gone down and the empty guest rooms have provided an opportunity for renovations that would have previously been hard to coordinate with a full-House. We’re wearing many hats these days!”
Kate points out, though, that this has been a very inspirational time. “Through it all we’re been incredibly grateful and the Volunteer Department team has been so flexible and willing to jump-in where they are needed most. It’s been a wonderful thing to see donations for food and cleaning supplies coming in from the community. We’re proud to serve the families at RMHC of Central Ohio and willing to do whatever work is needed to ensure these families can be close to their sick children.”
Our program director at RMHC of Central Ohio is Darla Stover. Family service managers make up the staff members in her department. It’s a job she knows well because she was once an FSM herself. She also spent some time working in our development department. Darla has been working second shift and helping out at the front desk, now that we have fewer FSMs working. She says, “While working second shift, I am helping the development department secure sponsorships as well as helping the volunteer department by doing laundry and stocking the housekeeping rooms.” Darla’s trademark smile may be hidden by the mask she must wear now, but it’s still there. “What makes me smile are dinners delivered to our families and staff from local restaurants,” she says. The dinners, donated by Everstream, are a real treat on second shift these days. “We are getting spoiled!” Darla says. She says that’s not the only thing that keeps her going these days. “Chocolate helps to de-stress as well daily workouts that the hospital wellness center has provided.”
The program manager who works with Darla is Vicki Chappelear. Vicki supervises the family service managers. She used to be a family service manager as well, so she knows the work that she’s back doing again since the number of our family service managers at the House is smaller during the pandemic. In place of the volunteers that usually keep the front desk running, Vicki is there to help families on a daily basis. She says, “Things have been so quiet in the House with very few families and no volunteers. I have primarily been working at the front desk which has allowed me to interact more with the families something I really enjoy. Since we are mirroring the restrictions at the hospital, we have had many conversations with families about the changes. We are all helping each other navigate the new policies.”
As for having to constantly wear a mask these days, Vicki says that can be a challenge itself. “It has taken a while to get use to wearing a mask—I would not have made a good surgeon.” Like Darla, Vicki also finds herself doing work normally done by House volunteers. She says, “While not having volunteers, I have restocked rooms and done laundry. I enjoy doing laundry because the room is warm and smells good. I have enjoyed seeing all members of the staff come together to help keep the House running. I am truly blessed to be a part of this team!”
Vicki says, despite the coronavirus outbreak, her focus is unwavering. “Even though things are very different right now, the mission remains the same. We are still caring for families who have sick kids and walking that journey with them. We continue to celebrate with them when they get to go home or empathize when things are tough. There’s no place I’d rather be during this time than helping families during a difficult time.”
Mike Berry continues to be a familiar face at the front desk, albeit, a face with a mask on. He’s one of the family service managers working through these challenging times at the House. “We are simply here for the families,” he says. “Over these past few weeks during our social distancing, we have dealt with heartache and celebrations. Not one of these families care about what’s happening in the world at this time. We are here providing comfort any possible way we can. That is why I continue to wake up everyday and come to work.”
Working with Mike often times is FSM Megan Renner. She says it’s a lot more quiet with fewer families in the House because siblings can’t stay at the House currently. What else makes it quieter in the House, we asked. “Less volunteers… we miss you all and hope to see you back at the house soon!” What keeps a smile on her face under her mask? “Still seeing our families that are checked in reaching milestones daily, seeing them happy, less stressed due to our services,” she says.
Overnight manager Amanda Toth agrees with Megan that it is quieter in the House since the pandemic struck the U.S. “It’s a lot quieter in the house and not nearly as many families are here and little ones running around which makes me sad, but I know it’s safer for them to be home.” What makes Amanda smile bhend her mask? “Having families members come up to me and thank me for still working through these hard times and how much they appreciate us keeping our door open. A lot of them will tell me if it wasn’t for us they truly don’t know what they would do. Just that statement motivates me to continue to do what I’m doing no matter what is happening in the world.”
Thanks to all of our staff members taking on double duties and work usually done by volunteers. Our families would be going through a tough time even without a global pandemic, and our operations staff continues to work toward making their stay as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.
Bill Mount was introduced to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House when the first House was built on 18th Street in 1982. He was working for Converse Electric when the company was awarded the contract to do the electrical work for that first building. As the project manager, Bill was among the first to help get the House started in Central Ohio. In 2008, it was time to move into the current building, Bill was the project manager again, being there for the demolition of the old building and saving as many materials as possible for the new building. Continuing as project manager, Bill was involved in with the construction of the current House, and its expansion in 2014. “That’s how I got acquainted with the Ronald McDonald House. I really didn’t know much about it before that,” he said during a recent interview after mowing the lawn at the House. “I had seen the positive impact and the good things that happen and how it helps the families to stay close.”
After retiring in 2018, Bill said he wanted to stay involved with the House, so he continued to volunteer in various ways, including working with one particular gentleman from Continental Building Company on the golf committee for RMHC. Bill explained, “I had offered to help with the building and Todd Alexander, with Continental, said it might be a good idea.” Bill started by doing electrical work and craftsman work in the House, and now he also takes care of the yard and grounds. Bill points out, “I have been involved and I enjoy it and I think it’s a great, great facility and I’m happy to be part of it.”
Bill ‘s contributions to the House hasn’t just been with the physical building itself. “Through Converse Electric, we’ve provided a half-dozen dinners and that’s pretty rewarding. Everyone is so thankful because they’re getting a nice cooked meal,” he said. Bill reminisced about one of his favorite moments in the House, which didn’t involve fixing something, but did involve his wife. “Molly and I came down and brought dishes and plates and glasses and cups…and paint. And we let the kids paint. It was an activity in the evening. We had the paints and brushes and so forth and they painted all kinds of designs all over the plates. That was pretty fun, to interact with the kids. That night was great.”
Many folks are being asked to stay away from others as much as possible during the pandemic and our Ronald McDonald House has ceased most volunteer opportunities. Bill is one of the few volunteers still coming back to help the House. When asked why he still comes to help take care of the grounds, Bill quipped, “The grass keeps growing.” After a chuckle, he continued, “It’s pretty easy for me to maintain social distancing and stay outside. I don’t go in the House that much.”
Now, Bill has also set his sights on another outdoor activity on the property. Thanks to his extensive knowledge of gardening, he’s taken a lead role in helping our new garden grow. “Well, I was raised on a farm and I have a degree in animal science from Ohio State and I have gardened my whole life. I enjoy planting stuff, watching it grow, harvesting and working in the dirt. I still like it.” He’s really taken the lead on this project, even recruiting his fellow craftsmen and RMHC staff members one early day in April to help go through the garden area to remove rocks so he could bring in his tractor to till it. What’s more, he was able to convince Acorn Farms, a local wholesale plant distributor, to make a generous contribution to the garden. “They’re donating compost. So, I’ve hauled three loads down and I’m going to get three or four more. Once I get that spread out on the garden, we’ll till it in and mix it all up with the soil that’s there and hopefully have a bed ready to plant. I’d like to plant, if not this weekend, next week, some of the early stuff. We’re going to plant like broccoli and cauliflower and peas and radishes and beats and lettuce and things like that that tolerate the cold and cooler weather and then in a month or so, we’ll plant all the other vegetables.”
This garden won’t only provide some nutritious items for Chef Blair Arm’s meals, but Bill hopes it will also be a stress reliever for guests staying at the House. Families will be able to come out and get their hands dirty in the soil, if they would like, by pulling weeds and helping keep the garden in good condition. “Or if they just want to go out and sit. We’ll probably have some benches around and some paths through it,” he added. Plans even include a gourd archway with plants growing up each side.
It’s also hoped that the garden will offer educational opportunities for anyone involved with the garden. Bill points out that he’s learned a lot at the House and misses working with all the other volunteer craftsmen right now, but he looks forward to the time they can all work together again. “They’re a unique bunch. They’ve taught me a lot. I work with them on electrical, but they’re teaching me on other facets… flooring and drywall and so forth… so I’m learning from them and gaining that experience but it’s enjoyable working with them. They’re a good bunch of guys.”
Editor’s Note: To support the Ronald McDonald House Garden fundraiser, click here.
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
We love to share notes of appreciation from our guests and past guests. This one came to us on Facebook giving praise to overnight family service manager Tammy Miller. Tammy has won several Family Service Manager of the Month” awards and is known to be part of the overnight super duo, including FSM Amanda Toth, who decorate the front desk area during holidays.
Just an appreciation post to give a HUGE shout out to Tammy last night (2-22-20). Our little Kipleigh was sick throwing up and just not feeling the best. Earlier, we had been in the office and Kip seen a unicorn. She loved it, but we didn’t get it. Whenever we came down at 11 pm, Tammy helped us get kips temperature and helped us while she was getting sick. Tammy got her a new blankie since she had gotten sick on her blanket from home. Then Tammy said she looked for the unicorn but it wasn’t there. The next morning, we were walking out of our guest room to find a unicorn just outside the door for our sweet girl and it’s safe to say that made Kip happy.
There is nothing better then seeing your child smile, especially over something someone didn’t have to do, but only did it out of the kindness of their heart.
Thank you, Tammy, for always making sure we have what we need and making our girl smile when she didn’t feel good. You are AWESOME!!
A very thankful mommy and daddy
Breanna and Brandon Neff💕
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!