We’re so proud of our volunteers and have been recognizing many over this National Volunteer Appreciation Month. As the month comes to a close, we want to show appreciation for a volunteer who became a staff member. Lulani Gaulberto celebrated her first year last week as the Executive Assistant for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio and today, National Administrative Professionals Day, we celebrate her! In addition to the duties you might expect of someone in her position, Lulani also organizes our chapter’s Round-Up for RMHC recognition program, putting together gift bags for crews working at are McDonald’s as recognition for asking customers to round-up their payment to support our chapter. When Lulani transitioned from regularly scheduled go-getter volunteer to one of the most integral staff members of this growing charity, she took a moment to answer a few questions about herself for a blog post. Here’s a re-publishing of that Q&A:
Q: How did you first come into the RMHC of Central OH community?
A: I started volunteering in 2017 when I was in a work transition. I chose Mondays so that I could start my week on a good note!
Q: What has been your position lately and what kinds of projects have you been working on?
A: In the past year, I’ve been a Volunteer Coordinator helping prepare & serve meals, receive donations; helped in Development by putting together Auction packages and assist with the Bake Sale; I’ve had some shifts staffing the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at the OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Big Lot’s Behavioral Health Pavilion; and I’ve worked two shifts as a Family Service Manager.
Q: Has there been a moment, since you’ve been with the House, that particularly touched you? Perhaps a moment involving one of our families or being at an event where you really felt you were part of something special?
A: I’ve had numerous moments but the most recent was when I was checking in a family from Kentucky. They had just arrived and she was very concerned about her granddaughter. She had not gotten any rest or sleep or a meal. I got her checked in and was giving her the details about the room, meals, their stay and then I told her that if she needed anything else, all she had to do was ask. I told her I would pack up dinner for her daughter and herself and gave her one of our Thirty-One Gifts welcome bags and she burst into tears. I nearly burst out crying myself but pulled it back in. I saw them a few days later when I came in to volunteer and she and her daughter looked rested and found out that the patient was doing well. How much better can it get?
Q: What are you looking forward to in your new position?
I look forward to contributing to all the House activities – raising money, fostering/planning/organizing/recognizing the amazing job that the McDonald’s restaurants are doing in their Round-Up campaign, supporting Dee Anders (our CEO) so she can do her thing, and being part of this growing chapter!
My name is Emma Hasenstab, and I am a sophomore at Columbus State Community College studying strategic communication. I am planning on transferring to The Ohio State University in the Fall of 2022. I grew up in Gahanna, Ohio and went to Gahanna Lincoln High School where I was involved in DECA (which prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and college), acapella choir, Young Life (a Christian youth organization) and I played lacrosse. I now live on Ohio State’s campus in a Young Life house with 9 other girls along with leading Young Life at Dublin Coffman High School. Growing up I had various health issues that really made me grow a heart for kids and families who are going through some of the struggles my family and I went through. This led to the hope that one day I would work in a medical non-profit.
My dad, Karl Hasenstab, played a large role in building the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, so I actually started volunteering here in middle school and high school. During my senior year of high school, I chose to do a project on the Ronald McDonald House through the DECA program. I was able to set up a plan that would increase the donations coming into the Ronald McDonald House by improving the charities online brand presence. This allowed me to learn a lot about RMHC and it sparked an interest to work at RMHC. I reached out to Ryan Wilkins at Ronald McDonald House Charites of Central Ohio and decided to take on an internship here.
My first impression of RMHC in Central Ohio was how kind and welcoming all the employees are. They all were willing to stop what they were doing to introduce themselves and tell me a little bit about what they do here. I also noticed how hard they all work to make the experience of the guests and families staying here as great as possible. I haven’t been here for long, but I have already learned a lot about how things operate at RMHC. I am excited to further my knowledge on the different opportunities I have here and to watch how this community makes a difference in others’ lives every day. This is going to be a great experience and I am ready to dive into what this internship has in store.
Families, volunteers, staff, board members and partners that make up the community that is Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio gathered last Thursday to break ground for the expansion of the Ronald McDonald House, taking up almost the entire city block on which it sits, south of Livingston Avenue. It was a special day that shined despite the threat of rain, which never came. Instead, their were smiling faces, a particularly famous clown, dignitaries and even the NACHO Street Band, made up mostly of Nationwide Children’s Hospital employees) with a song arranged just for our House that made the day more than bright. During the addresses to those gathered, it was revealed by Tom Feeney, chair of the Combined Campaign Committee, that the projected cost of the addition was going to cost five million dollars more that the original estimate of $37 million. He says, like so many other cost increases, this is due to rising prices related to the pandemic. Fortunately, our board president Bruce Burkholder and CEO Dee Anders have been able to find government grants and funding to make up most of the difference. But RMHC of Central Ohio still needs your help to cross the finish line. Click here to see our campaign this year that has A Million Reasons why we need to grow and, with your help, will be able to complete the project and provide 2,000 more nights of rest a year for families.
Click the image below to watch a video of the special day. Thanks, again, to everyone who came to celebrate with us!
Here’s NBC4’s coverage of this special event:
These past 7 days have been a whirlwind of celebration at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. On March 17, our RMHC chapter celebrated 4 decades of service to families seeking care from Columbus hospitals for their children. At the same time the community was observing that milestone, preparations were also being made for the groundbreaking ceremony, just days later, for the expansion of our current house. Today, board members, families, volunteers, and local dignitaries gathered to break ground heralding the start of construction on two wings being added to the current building at 711 E. Livingston Avenue. One wing will house new offices, a new main kitchen/dining area, and auditorium space while the other wing will accommodate more than 80 rooms for families to stay near their children. Those rooms will provide 2,ooo additional nights of rest each year for families, bringing the total nights of rest provided by the House to more than 6,500. With a total of 202 rooms, this will bring the title of “Largest Ronald McDonald House in the world” back to Columbus.
NBC4’s Matthew Herchik, reported on today’s groundbreaking festivities, speaking to one family that’s currently staying at the House and our CEO, Dee Anders. Click the image below to see his story of today’s momentous occasion.
To mark the occasion of both the 40th anniversary and the start of the new expansion, animation video creators Pixel Park, made a wonderful short movie with video visits from some families that have stayed at the House in the past and released the video on March 17. Click the image below to watch the heartwarming video.
To learn why we have A Million Reasons to grow again and see how you can help us house even more families by supporting the expansion, click here.
As the 40th anniversary of the Ronald McDonald House is nearing, we wanted to hear some family’s thoughts on the new expansion and what they look forward to in it. Tara Germann has been staying at the house on and off for 5 years with her daughter Sofia. The first impression Tara had on the expansion was the extra 80 rooms it is going to provide. She said that she looks forward to the extra space “so more families get the opportunity to stay at the house and fewer families to be put on the waitlist.” She was put on it once before and she says it’s a tense feeling, saying “It causes more anxiety as you wonder whether or not you know where you will be staying.” She points out many don’t even have the funds to pay for a hotel for one night while waiting to come off the list. “Having this safe space is monumental when your child is at the hospital,” she adds. “Due to being able to come to the house for an hour during the day and take a quick break from the hospital, regroup and go back throughout the day is nice. It also helps us not have wear and tear on the car driving an hour plus away each day back and forth.” I asked her about the expanded kitchens and dining spaces and she said she looks forward to being able to continue to come here and eat throughout the day when she takes a quick break from the hospital environment, “which is a great relief knowing you have a fresh meal daily!” Lastly, I asked what her favorite part of the new expansion will be and she said the 80 rooms, “and more things for her daughter to do as she uses the community rooms a lot for playing games and being able to get her out of the room structure and get her into something else that is not at the hospital, and help distract her.”
Brittany Newman has been staying at the house since June of last year with her daughter Kenzley. Kenzley is currently on another wait list. She’s waiting on a new heart from a matching donor. Her first impression of the new expansion is excitement for families to avoid being on a wait list for a room. She says that she has not been “waitlisted” before, which has allowed her to be with her daughter more than she would be able to if she was put on one. A daily drive from work to Columbus and staying with her daughter until she goes asleep around 11 would make it nearly impossible to see her daughter multiple days in a row. She thinks that the additional rooms will help all families, even ones who she knows personally who have been put on a waitlist before. The idea that they would no longer have that problem is beyond words for Brittany. I asked her about the expanded kitchens and dining spaces and she said she looks forward to being able to use the new personal kitchens with her kids on the weekend to make dinner. The specialty rooms are important to her family as it helps them have an outlet for a normal day so that they are not just sitting in a normal hospital room. She said that their favorite part of the expansion will be “having more green space and open areas as it helps it feel more like home.”
Paxtyn was born with a rare genetic condition called Apert Syndrome which affects about 59 babies a year. It causes early fusion is the sutures in the skull, webbed fingers and toes which have no joints, cloth soft palate, condensed nasal passages and eye sockets which causes the eyes to bulge and breathing difficulties such as sleep apnea.
We did not have a diagnosis before birth, we spent about a month in the NICU with her on oxygen and many tests being done. We have had many, many hospital stays and surgeries at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Specifically, Paxtyn has had 3 major head surgeries, 3 surgeries on each hand, a surgery on each foot, a cleft palate repair, ear tubes inserted, adenoids removed, treatment for thinning of the tissue in the sinus area and a skin graft.
We still have a lot of surgeries coming in the future. Despite everything Paxtyn has been through and all the delays, she’s still our spunky, wild, full-of-attitude two-year-old. She is adored by her siblings Prestyn, Paisley and Peyton. Paxtyn loves baby dolls and CocoMelon and playing outside like any other kid. She’s definitely defeated all the odds. Paxtyn is so loved by her entire family.
“The best view comes after the hardest climb”
Our pregnancy journey has been one filled with ups and downs, but also so much love, support from others, miracles, and lots of grace! We are so grateful to countless people who have walked with us through our journey, and now the Ronald McDonald House is high up on that list! Below is our backstory, how Ronald McDonald has become home this past month, and what our baby girl Grace has been through to become 1 month old this March 2nd, 2022!
Joel and I found each other later in life (late 30s). Before we met, we had both accepted the fact we might never have a spouse and kids, even though we desired them. We met in 2019 and got married 9 months later, where I moved to Willard, 2 hours north of Columbus. We started trying to have kids a year later. Early 2021 we found out we were highly unlikely to be able to get pregnant. We were sad about that, but also knew there were other options and ultimately, trusted God with whatever He had in store. We began working with a fertility clinic, and thankfully were able to get pregnant! We were shocked and excited at our 5 1/2 week check-up to find out we were pregnant with identical twins too! I had always kind of wanted twins 🙂 We decided to name them Grace and Hope if they were girls. We came back to the fertility clinic at 7 weeks to find out one of them didn’t have a heartbeat. We were heartbroken and mourned that loss, but also thankful that one of them was still alive. We decided to name the living baby Grace, as we “Hoped” for twins, but by God’s “Grace”, we still had one living baby. At our 9 week check-up with OSU Maternal Fetal Medicine, we found out we had a very rare thing called TRAP Sequence (I’ve heard it happens in about 1 in 30,000 pregnancies!). TRAP is where one twin is viable, one isn’t, but the alive one is actually pumping blood into the other twin as well. This causes the “acardiac” (without a heart) twin to still grow, even though it doesn’t have a heart, organs, or upper body, and can’t live. We started driving to OSU and Cincinnati alternating weeks for check-ups. We were warned that TRAP puts a lot of strain on the heart of our living twin (Grace), so if there were signs of heart failure, or if the acardiac twin got too big (60% or more the size of the living twin), then they would go in for surgery to cut off the blood flow.
We knew things were high risk, and I had been on modified bedrest since early in our pregnancy. The acardiac twin stayed under 50% the size of Grace for most of the time, then I missed one check-up due to coming down with covid-19, and the acardiac twin grew in leaps and bounds! It went from 36% the size to 89% the size in less than 10 days. We needed to have surgery immediately. My husband Joel got covid from me, so he couldn’t be there when I went in for surgery, but thankfully it was a success. The Doctors were able to stop the blood flow, but had warned us that it put me at risk of preterm delivery. I started having contractions following the surgery, but they were able to stop them. Over the next 2 months, we kept monitoring things, and then had to rush to the hospital end of January wondering if something was wrong. They found that my water had indeed broken (a common complication of that surgery), and I needed to stay in the hospital till we gave birth.
We hoped our little Grace would stay in there till 34 weeks, as that’s a huge milestone to give a better chance for being healthy, but she decided she wanted to come earlier! Thankfully I had been in the hospital for 5 days already, and was able to get the lung steroid shots and brain medicine to help hers develop more. We found out during that time that once I was discharged from the hospital, we wouldn’t be able to be with Grace 24/7, and that realization made me really sad. Joel and I weren’t sure what we’d do. I went into labor on Tuesday February 1st, and she joined us Wednesday evening, February 2nd! They were guessing she’d be under 2 pounds, which my brain couldn’t even fathom! She came out at 1lb 14oz! They brought her over to me for a few seconds with blankets on, then whisked her away to the NICU. Over the next 2 days as I recovered, a social worker let us know about the Ronald McDonald House as an option, since we live 2 hours away. We had heard of it before, but hadn’t known much about it. We decided that would be the best option to be able to be with Grace as much as we possibly could.
Over this past month we have been blown away with the Ronald McDonald House, and all that it offers, and how many people and organizations help make it possible! Everyone who works here or who has volunteered here has been so welcoming and friendly. My mind is blown by all of the donations given to help Ronald McDonald House run. We had no idea what an incredible gift this place is, helping countless families like us, who are going through challenging health circumstances! We received several gifts when we arrived, which just filled us with love. We can’t wait to welcome Grace home in a few months with these gifts, and share the story of how the Ronald McDonald House became our home when she was first born.
This new home has gone above and beyond to make sure we have all of our needs met! I didn’t have a breast pump yet, and they have rooms specifically for that. They have fridges and freezers, so I can store my milk there, as well as personal food we get. They also provide community food, including snacks and full blown meals. Being able to grab breakfast quickly before running to the hospital, and being able to come home after a long day at the NICU to a home cooked meal by volunteers is amazing. We didn’t have much time to pack before we came to Columbus, so being able to do laundry here has allowed us to go a month with our limited clothes! They also have many wonderful community areas! Being able to take a little time to relax and play pinball, hockey, or pacman during loads of laundry has been a great way to bond and relax with my husband. There’s a shuttle that makes it easy to get to either Children’s or OSU, so if my husband has to run back home for work for a day, I can go see my baby without a car!
There is so much more Ronald McDonald has to offer that I couldn’t come close to describing it all. We are so incredibly grateful for the generosity of so many to make this place possible. I know countless other families have also been so blessed by this place. We are excited to celebrate both the 40th birthday of the Ronald McDonald House, and Grace’s 1st month of birth in March! This home will always have a special place in our hearts, as it has helped us through a challenging, but also very sweet time with our new baby girl!
An open letter to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio:
I have had a dual career and when I retired from nursing, I was back into real estate full time. I was a NICU RN for 26 years. I now own my own Real Estate brokerage here in Mason County, West Virginia. I actually drove from here to Columbus my last six years before retiring and worked at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital NICU at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Ronald McDonald Charities has always held a special place for me because of my NICU background as an RN. I worked in Phoenix for 20 years and upon moving back here to be near family, but did my last 6 years in Columbus.
My brokerage was a center here in Mason County for donations over the holidays in honor of one of your guests Hannah and Jay Parrack and their son Sutton that had a lengthy stay at NCH. We spearheaded the effort and took donations from individuals, businesses, plus a few 4-H clubs and an elementary school. We advertised on social media and walked in the Christmas parade and handed out a 1000 flyers plus advertised about the donation drive at other holiday events.
Not just Sutton, but so many children in this area end up at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. It is rural here for the most part, so our sick babies and children almost always have to leave the area. Yes, we have Ronald McDonald Charities here in Huntington, but I know it’s even a greater burden when our families have to be in Columbus as it’s over 2 hours away. So many children in this area have benefited from your Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
We aimed to deliver everything to you in January, but the weather has not been cooperative to us! My secretary worked tirelessly and organized everything we delivered today. You should have seen our office the last few weeks of the year when donations were coming in!!!
Angie Cline Zimmerman, Broker/Owner, The Angie Zimmerman Realty Group
Thank you so much to Angie Cline Zimmerman, Broker/Owner, The Angie Zimmerman Realty Group and group, Point Pleasant Primary School and all the people who donated to Angie to support the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. I was truly amazed to walk in today and see how many items have been collected. I cannot wait for it to get delivered! We stayed at the [Ronald McDonald House in Columbus] for 90 straight days. To say RMHC is a blessing is an understatement. I’m so proud to be part of a community that is willing to support this cause! Thank you so much Angie for putting this all together to honor Sutton and any other local kids who have used the Ronald McDonald House! What a blessing this will be for all the families in need!!
Sutton wanted to help start carrying it all to the truck.
My name is Bryana Wallace, I am 18 years old, and I am currently a sophomore in the nursing program at Ohio University. All throughout high school, I participated in competitive and school cheerleading as well as cross country. In January 2019, I was throwing my flyer around at competitive cheer practice, when she came down and elbowed me in the neck causing swelling. We thought nothing of it. I sat out that week until the swelling went down. After the swelling went down there was a lump right above my collarbone. For months we thought it was nothing, I had an ultrasound, and everything seemed fine. I was told it was just an internal bruise and it would go away on its own. Many months went by, and the lump was not getting smaller, some days it even looked bigger. A biopsy was then taken and on August 15th, 2019, I was told I had stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The week of August 19th, 2019, I had many scans and appointments with the doctor only to hear I would be starting Chemo treatments August 23rd. I attended the first day of my junior year and on the second day of school I started chemotherapy. After treatments began, I could not go to school. I missed half of my junior year but thanks to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Ohio State University and Alexander High School, I was able to get a robot that I could connect to from home so that I could be in classes.
The nurses and doctors at NCH were amazing. They made me feel as at home as possible. I might have been receiving chemo and going through the hardest parts in my life, but I will never forget the amount of comfort I felt at NCH. The nurses made a big impact on me personally. I knew I always wanted to be a nurse, but I wasn’t quite sure just what kind of nursing I wanted to do. It wasn’t until a nurse came in who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s at the age of 16. She told me her story and to see where she was now, inspired me. It made me realize that I wanted to help other children and be able to share my story as a Pediatric Oncology Nurse.
The Ronald McDonald House will forever have a special place in the hearts of me and my family. On the eighth day of my chemo schedule, like clock-work, I would get a fever about 4 hours after treatment. I lived about 2 hours away from NCH so whenever I got a fever, I was sent to my local ER, then was taken to NCH by an ambulance. After that first ride in an ambulance, we knew something needed to change. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to stay at the Ronald McDonald House with my family. After staying that first night, my family and I made it a point to stay there after day eight of each cycle, knowing what was coming. The workers – including volunteers – at the Ronald McDonald House were the sweetest people with the biggest hearts. They made sure everyone had what was needed, snacks were provided all day, and they arranged for people to come in to make food for the families staying there, including mine. I was not able to stay an entire night at the House, except for the last cycle of treatments. That’s because after getting a fever, I would be admitted, of course. However, whenever I had to go to the ER, the workers at Ronald McDonald would allow us to keep our bags in the room until we had time to go back over and process our check out.
The Ronald McDonald house helped relieve a burden for my family by providing all of the comforts of home and knowing we were right across the street from the hospital when I would get sick. It can never be expressed enough how valuable a resource the Ronald McDonald House is and the services they provide to people that desperately need them. I can never thank the Ronald McDonald house enough for not only me but all of the other families that have stayed, are staying there now, or ever will stay there in the future as the House gets bigger.
In 2020, I spoke at the Bobcathon dance marathon and shared my story. After hearing that they raised money for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, I knew this would be a great opportunity to give back. I am currently the Director of Fundraising for the student group. The biggest event I planned was a 5k. We ended up raising over $1,500 for the Ronald McDonald House! I have learned so much being a part of Bobcathon. Being able to raise money for such a great place has been amazing. RMHC helped not only my family but thousands of families as they go through some of the hardest journeys in their lives.
To all of the supporters and potential sponsors of this year’s Bobcathon, I cannot begin to thank everyone enough. Without the support of many people around not only the Athens community but all over, we would not have been able to make this all possible to help the House. Knowing that so many people have already donated to the Ronald McDonald House hits really close to home, especially in my family. No family should have to fight their battles alone!