By Megan Koester
Summer is a time when people are looking for fun things to do outside the House. As a mom of two kids, we are always looking for a new activity as a family. While my little guys are still a bit too young to take on the town, I have found myself in the midst of a lot of mommy conversations centered around options for the summer. People plan for camps, trips to the zoo and days at the pool but still look for more things to do to make memories during their time together. Recently, I have had several moms ask about opportunities to get involved at The Ronald McDonald House over the summer. The House provides a great opportunity to do activities as a family for the right reasons. Here are ten ways you can get involved at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and add a little bit of service to the season.
By Jamie Foltz
It was late one April night when I was sitting at my mom’s bedside at The James. She had just been admitted because the clinical trial she was supposed to start needed to be put on hold until they could open the blockage in her main bile duct. Her bilirubin count was through the roof and she needed surgery before she would be able to start fighting the cancer that had been attacking her pancreas for years without her knowing. When the lead physician in charge of her case came in, we didn’t know what to think. We hadn’t met her yet. She had a kind face but was direct and to the point. Her message was this: “If the surgery works, we can start the trial. If it doesn’t, there is nothing left for us to do.” Having never heard the words “there is nothing left for us to do” we were in a state of shock. What could she possibly mean? Why on Earth wouldn’t it work? She hadn’t even had a chance to fight! In that moment, I looked at my mom and she looked at me. We didn’t speak, we just cried together. She wiped away my tears and told me everything would be fine (in true mom fashion). She wasn’t in pain, at least physically, but she was unsure of what was her future. Just like most moms, her focus was on me and not the uncertainty of her own life.
Everyday, right here in Columbus there are kids, very sick kids, sitting in their own hospital beds while they hold their own mom’s hands telling them “don’t worry mommy, everything will be alright.” The roles are reversed but the theme is common. The patient has the strength while the loved one holding their hand is in so much pain at the thought of what they must be experiencing, at the thought of what’s next. We see these families at The Ronald McDonald House every day. Families whose hearts are breaking inside. They try to stay strong, especially in front of their children, but they are in complete disbelief of the thought that their child might not actually live to see their teenage years, or to graduate from high school, to have a family of their own. Some of them stay with us for days, and some are with us for years. It’s those moments they spend at The Ronald McDonald House they find the most clarity, the most comfort and the most relief throughout their journey. Their focus is on getting their kids well, but they are human and they need a respite too. That’s why it’s so critical to give our RMH families a place that is their own, a home they can rely on while they too face their most difficult days. Those moments I spent at The James gave me an appreciation for our families at the RMH that I hadn’t had before. While there was no place I would have rather been than right by my mom’s side, I too needed an escape from the worst reality I had ever faced.
After my mom passed away, my family decided we wanted her strength to live on for years to come. That’s why we asked her family and friends to join us in maintaining her lasting legacy. One that would pass on her eternal strength to other moms who needed it. We asked donations to come to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio in her memory. With those donations, we were able to permanently name a guest room after my mom, Cheryl Foltz, whose enduring strength and courage inspired us all. For anyone considering a financial gift to The Ronald McDonald House, let me tell you first hand the truly magical feeling my family and I receive every time we see the sign that reads “In loving memory of Cheryl Foltz.” While we named a guest room at The House, there are so many ways to honor or memorialize a loved one. Rooms can be named permanently or annually. There are also pavers on our rooftop terrace that can be engraved with a special message for someone you love. As a Father’s Day gift, I purchased a paver in honor of both of my parents, and it was a gift that truly melted my dad’s heart. Many friends of the House have chosen to show their support through a similar gift with all kinds of inspiring messages for our families. It was important to my family to give my mom the chance to continually impart her strength to other mom’s in need. With that gift, we know that her spirit will not only live on in those she loved, but also in those she never even met.
Autumn is not even two years old, but she has faced enough hardships to last her a lifetime. Her mother, Carrie, had a perfect pregnancy—there was nothing detected to assume anything was wrong with Autumn. Autumn’s birth was normal and healthy—things appeared to be perfect.
However, her parents noticed Autumn was at the 30th percentile in weight at six months. When she went in for her nine month check-up, she was below zero on the weight chart. The doctors were concerned, so they kept running tests on Autumn in hopes she would get better. At 11 months old, Autumn was progressively getting worse—she was vomiting and would not eat—a meal for Autumn was five or six bites. Everyone was extremely concerned about Autumn’s health, since there was no diagnosis.
In January of this year, Autumn was admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where she was tested for everything. Her family wanted answers so they could help their little girl get well. The doctors made the decision to insert a Nasogastric (NG) tube through Autumn’s nose, so they could attempt to get nutrients to her. The doctors started Autumn’s feeds, and she would vomit between three and four times per day with the NG tube. Every time Autumn would start to get better, she would have a set back and end up losing more weight than she had gained. In March, Autumn had an endoscopy to see why the NG tube was not working. She was put under anesthetic, and her results came back clean; however, Autumn later vomited up undigested food. Carrie, Autumn’s mother, knew something was not adding up.
Finally at the end of March, Autumn was diagnosed with colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation in the digestive tract. She lost half a pound and weighed the same as she had weighed at six months old. Doctors decided to remove the NG tube and insert a gastrostomy tube (G-tube), which is inserted through the abdomen and delivers nutrition directly to the stomach. However, something still felt like it was wrong, so Brad, Autumn’s dad, told the doctors Autumn had been clumsy with crawling, since she was too weak to walk anymore. On April 15th, Autumn had a CAT scan, and Brad and Carrie received news that would turn their world upside down: their sweet daughter had fluid on her optic nerve and there was a blockage with it. Autumn had a Pilomyxoid astrocytoma, a more aggressive and rare type of brain tumor.
Autumn was admitted into the ICU and had an eight hour brain surgery on April 22nd. After the surgery, she was diagnosed with Diabetes Insipidus, which means the kidneys cannot excrete water, and her sodium levels are at an all-time high. Within a couple of hours of this diagnosis, Autumn had two seizures, and she was put on strict fluid restrictions. Because of this, Autumn became severely dehydrated, then she had fluid buildup, so all of these resulted in a lot of stress on her poor little body. The doctors put Autumn on three different antibiotics, and one was a research drug, which had not been tested in children, so her doctors had to special order the medicine. Autumn had two pick lines placed in her body to help with nutrition and fluid intake, as well as a port in her chest.
Since Autumn will be undergoing chemotherapy for the next 12-18 months, her family will be staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Carrie said, “You know, for the first two weeks we were here, we stayed in the room with Autumn, we did not leave her side. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio has been wonderful for us. We (Brad, Carrie, and Carrie’s mother) take shifts staying in the room with Autumn. Someone is with her at all times. We take turns going over to the Ronald McDonald House. It is wonderful to come over and have a home-cooked meal, as well as a hot shower and comfortable bed. The Ronald McDonald House has helped with cost and proximity while Autumn was critical. We are so thankful to stay at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. It has been a huge blessing.”
By Meredith Harrison
As we get closer to opening our new kitchen, we thought it would be fun to compile Breakfast for Dinner recipes that you and your meal groups can come in and serve to our families! If you are interested in coming to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House to provide a meal for our families, please contact Meika Willis, Operations Coordinator by email at Meika.Willis@rmhc-centralohio.org or by phone at 614-227-6032. Click here to view our meal guidelines.
As a general guideline, please consider providing the following menu items:
Oven Fried Bacon – Serves 125
18 lb. sliced bacon
Arrange slices in rows, across pan with fat edges slightly overlapping lean edges.
Bake 375 deg. without turning 20-25 minutes until bacon is slightly crisp.
DO NOT OVERCOOK.
Drain or skim off excess fat at needed. Drain thoroughly on paper towels.
Allows 3 slices per serving. Reduce bacon by 6 lbs. for 2 slices per person.
For a conventional oven, use 325 degrees.
Church Breakfast Eggs – Serves 125
11 doz. eggs (3 doz.)
1 gal. less 1 cup milk (4 c.)
4 Tbsp. salt (3 1/4 tsp.)
2 lb. melted butter or margarine (1 cup)
Beat eggs, combine well with other ingredients.
Pour greased baking pans half full with mixture.
Bake 40 minutes at 375 degrees, stirring after 20 minutes. Make sure
the pan is not full, as the egg mixture rises when baking.
**Amounts in ( ) are for 24 servings.
**DO NOT use aluminum pans for eggs, it will turn the eggs green!
Classic Homemade Pancakes – Serves 100
13 lbs. of pancake mix will serve 100
or make your own pancakes:
1 1/2 gal. water
4 3/4 c dry non fat powdered milk
9 lb flour
3/4 lb white sugar
2 c shortening OR veg. oil
8 oz baking powder
4 1/2 Tbsp. salt
Cook on a griddle temp at 375 degrees.
Mix together dry ingredients, combining well to distribute evenly.
Add eggs and water and mix at low speed just until blended. Don’t mix excessively.
Blend in salad or or melted shortening, mixing about 1 minute
Using a 1/4 cup measure or ladle, pour onto lightly greased hot griddle.
Cook until top is covered with bubbles and underside is browned, turn, cook on the other side.
Total time 3-4 minutes. 2 pancakes per serving.
**Make it fun by adding a topping bar, for the families to put their own twist on their pancakes.
Fruit Salad – Serves 100
10 cans (20 ounce size) pineapple chunks, drained
10 cans (21 ounce size) peach pie filling
10 cans (11 ounce size) mandarin oranges, drained
10 cups green grapes
10 cups of sliced strawberries
10 cups sliced bananas
Combine all ingredients except bananas. Chill until ready to serve. Just before serving, fold in bananas.
Teddy Bear Toast – Serves 125
By Tony Szymczak, Immediate Past President of Red Shoe Society
Upon starting a new job, my boss mandated that I get involved with a charity. I remember thinking that information should have been disclosed in the interview! The same week, a friend asked me to get involved with the charity they worked for, and that charity happened to be Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. Coincidence? Now, I don’t think so but at the time I thought it was convenient because I didn’t have to research anything. Sometimes you realize that things were just meant to happen. As fate would have it, I began “volunteering” at the House with the Young Professionals Board.
Growing up in a small Ohio town, I never really had much exposure to charities or organizations that helped others in need. Sure, when I was younger, I sold subs and candy bars for little league, but I knew that was going to help me directly. When I say I sold subs, I mean I asked my mom and dad to take the order sheets to work. I would hardly consider that an experience in helping others. In fact, one year I think I ate the candy bars before I sold them so I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count as fundraising. I began my time with the YPB with that as my volunteering experience.
I pretty much sat on my hands for the first couple of months, but felt good because I was fulfilling my duties as an employee and friend by being there. During one meeting, I was tasked with leading an event. I accepted the task and that was the moment that started my real experience at RMHC and it changed my life significantly. Through that event, I learned a few things: I learned volunteering could be a lot of fun, RMHC was full of great people, being a part of a good cause is very fulfilling, and that I liked helping others.
Fast forward 6 years and I am now able to reflect on how Red Shoe Society has changed. The Young Professionals Board is now The Red Shoe Society. The group has grown by 10 times. We help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the House. We were named the top volunteer group in Columbus. Most importantly, we are making a significant difference in the lives of those families who need it.
Fast forward 6 years, and I am now able to reflect on how RMHC of Central Ohio has changed me. Shortly after my first event experience, I changed careers and went to work for a non-profit. It is at this company I met my future wife. Thank you RMHC! The man I currently work for I met through the House. Thank you RMHC! The person who will be performing our wedding ceremony I met at the House. Thank you RMHC! When I really began volunteering at the House, I could see the impact our efforts had on others. What I could never imagine is the effect that volunteering and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio would have on my life. Thank you RMHC! You have changed my life in ways that I would have never imagined.
When Brianna was in 8th grade, she lost 17 pounds in 10 days. She had to pull out of school and the extracurricular events she loved. Her quality of life was fading, and no one could provide the Smith family answers for Brianna’s condition. Finally, Brianna’s doctors in her home state of Alabama had an answer: Brianna suffers from gastroparesis, which is an incurable condition where the stomach muscles stop working. Her doctors recommended the family come to Ohio, where there were specialists who could provide answers and treatment for Brianna. The family came to Nationwide Children’s Hospital and stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House to be able to focus on Brianna’s health–this is just one example of how families travel from all over the world to receive care in Columbus. Below are letters from both Brianna and Brianna’s parents.
We wanted to thank all of the staff and volunteers for making us feel so welcome and at home here! We stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for almost three weeks as our daughter was receiving treatment for her gastroparesis. The first week she had a temporary pacemaker placed, then the next week they placed the permanent pacemaker. Staying as close to Nationwide Children’s Hospital was such a blessing and the Ronald McDonald House felt like we were at a home away from home–it is amazing! What a blessing the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has been! Thank you so much!
Margo and Joel Smith
The Ronald McDonald House was really nice especially since it was right by Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It helped when I had my surgery so I could just walk to appointments, which made it really easy. I love that we were fed meals–everything was so convenient.
By Dee Anders
The best flower coming this May will be opening the new rooms at the Ronald McDonald House in central Ohio. Even though the entire project will not be complete yet, we will have more guest rooms to accommodate all the families who have a child being treated in central Ohio hospitals. We are so grateful to our volunteers, board members, and community supporters who have supported Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio during this expansion. Most of all, we send our love and appreciation to the families who have weathered the expansion and renovation with us. The month of May will be a time to celebrate, do some spring cleaning and welcome families with open arms at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
By Emily Smith
Almost three years ago, my family went through a horrific automobile accident that left my youngest brother, Will, in critical condition with a traumatic brain injury. He eventually was sent to Nationwide Children’s Hospital here in Columbus and was cared for by the most wonderful staff. Will spent over four months on the rehabilitation floor working hard on his recovery and my family was fortunate enough to be there 24/7. We live about an hour’s drive from the hospital, and without the comfort and services that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House provided, we would not have been able to be near Will as often or as comfortable as we were. I truly believe Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio had a direct impact in Will’s recovery because without it, our family would have been more stressed and not have been able to be as active in his rehab.
The Ronald McDonald House provided a home away from home where we could relax after a long and often emotional day at the hospital. The House was a short walk across the street from the hospital and they provided three meals a day, a comfortable bed to flop down on and get a good night’s rest, a warm shower, laundry, a workout room, a library of books, and the best part: a community in which you healed and comforted one another while meeting strangers and sharing your stories over dinner.
I come from a family of runners, always training with our minds focused on the next race ahead. Running serves as my outlet, my way of relieving the stress of the day and serves as my time to reflect on what has happened during the day. During our stay at the House, I became very familiar with the workout room and the treadmill and although I prefer running outside, I would look forward to the afternoons I was able to unwind to the monotonous “clop, clop” of my feet hitting the belt. Believe it or not, I trained for a half-marathon in that room.
A year after the accident and our long residence at the House, I decided to run the 2012 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon as a member of Team Ronald McDonald House Charities, also known as Team RMHC. It was my way of giving back to the two organizations that gave so much to my family, and a small way to say ‘thank you’ to the countless individuals who took care of us during our time in need. The run was incredible. Previous patients deemed ‘Patient Champions’ line the course and cheer you on, meanwhile you cannot help but think it should be the other way around. I knew my brother was out on the course and anxiously looked for him the whole race. By mile 25 I was exhausted and upset that he was not at the two spots my dad told me to look for them. However, toward the end of mile 25 I spotted Will—he was standing (with assistance from my dad) and was cheering me on. Needless to say, I was crying while I crossed the finish line.
I will be running the Columbus Marathon again this year as a part of Team Ronald McDonald House Charities and I encourage you to do the same. As a team member, we fundraise for the House—a place that provides a home-away-from-home for countless families going through what might be the worst time of their lives. The House is a beacon of hope and warmth and the reward you will feel giving to this place will be invaluable.
*If interested in learning more about Team RMHC, please reach out to Darla Stover at Darla.Stover@rmhc-centralohio.org*
By Tk Christenson
In March of 2013, I became a housewarming volunteer at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. I was looking for an opportunity to help others. My children and grandchildren have needed the services of Nationwide Children’s Hospital on occasion. I felt the Ronald McDonald House was a place where I could help support others with children in central Ohio hospitals no matter what I was doing at the house.
My favorite part of volunteering is seeing the smiles on people’s faces when you are listening to them or providing them with something they need. One day, a father was checking out of the Ronald McDonald House, and I had not seen him before. He looked at me and said, “I want to tell you guys that you saved our lives.” Since I had not met him before I said, “It must feel good to go home.” He replied, “Yes, we were only here for three days, but you all were here for us during a critical time. We will always be grateful.” Hearing him say this just overwhelmed me and I was happy I was there to help.
After I became a volunteer, I decided to increase my commitment to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio by adopting two rooms – one in memory of my husband and the other in memory of my mother. My husband was the kind of person who would give the shirt off his back if he felt you needed it and was always protective of others. My mother was a strong woman who was a social worker and a dedicated teacher who she spent her life around children. I felt this was a great way to honor my mother and husband while providing needed rooms for families of hospitalized children.
Occasionally, I will bring my granddaughter in to help at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and love that she can see the House. I am hoping these experiences will provide her an understanding of the importance of helping others.
I love working with the dedicated talented crew of volunteers and staff, many of whom have had distinguished careers. We are a community of volunteers with no task too large or small to tackle together.
By Meika Willis
My experience with the House began when I volunteered with my work group. We split into two groups, half of us cleaned while the other half of our group baked treats for the families. I was on cleaning duty and loved it! We were given a tour of the House and right away, I was certain something special was going on within those walls! Shortly after that initial visit, I became a Housewarming volunteer on a recurring shift.
While I was pregnant with my second son I was offered a great position at Nationwide Children’s Hospital which impacted the amount of time I had to volunteer. Even when I was not volunteering on a regular basis, I knew my heart was still drawn to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, and I wanted to be a part of this extraordinary organization.
Since this past summer, I have been given the privilege of walking through our doors at 711 E. Livingston Avenue to serve our families and volunteers on a daily basis! I am able to connect on different levels with so many people of various walks of life. It is an honor to be able to serve and interact with our families and alongside our fantastic volunteers.
I am still in awe of how I feel when I am in the House and I know just how fortunate I am to have my dream job! For me, I have always felt something in the House that is so tangible I can reach out and wrap my arms around it. I now know it is the compassion and selflessness of our volunteers that envelopes our families and patients while they are coping with life altering events.