by Ryan Wilkins
Having a child in the hospital is beyond stressful. I unfortunately know from personal experience. When Dylan, our first son, was born in February of 2005, he had a fever. After measuring and weighing him, nurses took his temperature, and all of a sudden, the air was sucked out of the room. Their faces changed, and the doctor was called over for a hurried conference. Then they turned around to my wife and I and told us the news no new parent is ready to hear – “we need to take your child to the neonatal intensive care unit.” The joyous birth of our first child turned into the most frightening experience of our lives in the span of about two minutes.
While we were in the delivery room trying to process what just happened, the only thing on our minds was doing everything we could to fight for our baby’s life. For the next week amazingly sweet and gentle nurses cared for Dylan, helping cure a severe infection. Had it not been for modern medicine, he likely would not have survived. But thanks to the expertise and hard work of the medical professionals, he is a healthy and happy third grader today.
While Dylan was in the NICU inside that clear plastic box with tubes all over his body, there wasn’t anything that could tear his mother and I away from his side. Like many parents thrown into these circumstances, we couldn’t imagine not being there for him. Even though there was nothing we could do for him medically, we knew somehow that being there for him would make a difference. So, for that week, we slept anywhere we could find a place to sleep in the hospital. It wasn’t the optimal situation, but we made it work. What I wish is that there would have been a Ronald McDonald House across the street from that hospital.
At the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, we help families who are going through circumstances just like mine. The goal is simple – provide a home-away-from-home near the hospital for families whose children are being treated. Such a simple thing can make a profound difference in the life of the whole family. We slept on uncomfortable couches back in 2005. However, had there been a Ronald McDonald House right across the street, we would have been able to get a few hours of sleep, take a shower, grab some food to eat, and connect with other families going through similar situations.
That is what drives me every day as I perform my duties at as Director of Community Relations and Marketing for RMHC of Central Ohio. Everything we do is to help moms and dads, just like me, to be close to their children who need them desperately.
When I work to encourage people to donate their vehicles to provide a whole week at the Ronald McDonald House for a family, I think of what it would have meant to Sarah and I to be able to stay at a Ronald McDonald House and have that provided by a generous donor. When we are working to tell the story of the families at the House, I can’t help but put myself right in their shoes. The Ronald McDonald House is such a wonderful gift that we can give to families who are going through the most stressful circumstances.
As we grow to be the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world, I am so proud to be a part of something that is more than the biggest – it will be a support to up to 122 families every night so they don’t have to worry about where they can sleep or what to eat. They can rest assured that a warm bed and comforting community of caring people will be there for them at the House, right across the street, every night. That is invaluable.
by Meredith Harrison
This week, while we take time to reflect on things we are thankful for, I am most thankful for the opportunity to be a part of something much greater than me, the Ronald McDonald House.
My journey started in 2003 when I was in my freshman year at Otterbein College, the year I joined a sorority. This sorority, like so many others, had the opportunity to meet new friends, socialize and to volunteer. Our charity of choice was the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, where we could interact with the volunteers, families and staff. One of my favorite things to do was to host a meal—tacos, of course! At the time, I never would have dreamed that RMHC would impact my life like it has so many others before me. I was hooked!
It started small, spending time with the Housewarmers, answering phones, cleaning rooms and doing crafts with guests. It grew into something much bigger, literally. As the House grew, so did my love for the organization and its mission to help families of seriously ill children.
Have you ever heard the saying, “if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life?” Here I am, 10 years later, doing what I love, working for the Ronald McDonald House as the Donor Relations Manager, and what is even more meaningful is working to help families in need.
Today at the Ronald McDonald House, I spend time doing something unlike anything I’ve done, helping people I would have never met otherwise, and impacting the lives of so many people, including mine. I never know what to expect when I arrive at work. It could be something simple like thanking a generous donor, helping a little girl’s dreams come true by designing a princess room, or even moving 160 beds so that the families have a comfortable bed to sleep on at night. That’s what I love the most—I can always count on something new and exciting knowing it will impact others in a bigger way that I could have ever imagined.
Today, I am thankful for so many things and RMHC is one of them.
My name is Jeff Holzaepfel, and I am a senior at the University of Dayton. This past summer, I was given my first internship at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio as the Marketing Intern. Coming into the internship, I had a vision I would assist with social media marketing and give my ideas on some advertising; however, this was not the case. My internship with RMHC had me making videos, writing for the monthly newsletter, helping to set-up and take down for special events, and navigating through the city to ensure people in central Ohio knew about the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
This was not the typical internship where I was in the office all day. The projects I was tasked with took me out of my comfort zone, which made the whole summer even more enjoyable! The project that most forced me out of my comfort zone was making two videos—there was a volunteer video and a video starring families that were guests at the House. The major challenge of the project was initiating the entire interview process. I was nervous at the beginning because I did not know how to approach volunteers or families, but I had to be proactive and finish the videos. The entire experience turned out to be fantastic. Not only did this project enhance my creative skills, I also have learned better communication skills, which are going to come in use when I am searching for a job a semester from now.
Obviously, the whole summer couldn’t be all work and no play. The staff and other interns made it exciting to come to work. The work environment was unlike anything I thought it would. I felt as if RMHC was one big family. Everyone was more than willing to help one another out on a project, which was one of the biggest lessons I learned that cannot be taught in a classroom. School makes the real world seem as if it is an all work, no play mentality, but from my experience, you can’t get the final product without the fun and loving environment at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
by Jamie Foltz
Hello! My name is Jamie Foltz, and I am the Director of Special Events for Ronald McDonald House Charities and I’d like to tell you a story. It’s one you may have heard before. This story is about a girl named Dorothy, who lives an ordinary life. Just like you and I, Dorothy wouldn’t say she is anything special–she’s just Dorothy. She lives in a rural world where she works hard to help her family and take care of her little dog. However, out of the blue, Dorothy’s life gets completely turned upside down. She’s going about her daily routine, taking care of her precious pup when she runs into some nasty weather. Before she knows it, the skies turn gray, the wind begins to switch, and the turbulent tornado she finds herself in lands her in a frightening, unfamiliar world.
As Dorothy arrives in this new land, she is greeted by the friendliest faces she has ever seen. While Dorothy is scared to be lost and away from home, she is comforted by this new land, her home-away-from-home. As Dorothy finds her way in this new place, she is helped by the friends she meets who are in similar situations. They teach her about staying smart and focused on the goal. They show her how the love of strangers can take away worlds of worry. They give her courage in her journey to stay strong for that perfect little pup she loves so much. She comes to rely on those strangers who turned into friends.
The Dorothy in my story probably isn’t the Dorothy you’re thinking of. My Dorothy doesn’t live in a land somewhere over the rainbow, but rather in a harsh reality where children are sick and families find themselves struggling to get by in a place that is anything but familiar. You see, my Dorothy is a young mom whose child was in a tragic accident. Out of the blue, her baby was thrown into a world where the obstacles seemed insurmountable. Dorothy never felt comfortable until she arrived in that magical place called The Ronald McDonald House, a place where she found friendship in complete strangers who were also struggling in similar situations. She saw generosity in its strongest form. Her worries were lessened and her fears eased so that all she had to focus on was getting that precious baby of hers well. As she rocked that sweet little girl to sleep each night, she would repeat three times “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”
So why do I tell you this story about Dorothy? Just last week, The Red Shoe Society hosted our final big event of the year called A Toast to Tinseltown; There’s No Place Like Home. The Ivory Room was transformed into that brilliant and vibrant world Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Over 250 special guests joined us for a truly magical evening where compassion and generosity came together to celebrate the lives of everyday people who face extraordinary obstacles. Special people who bring friendship like Glenda the Good Witch were honored for their time, talent and treasure. People like Dorothy were celebrated for the hardships they overcome and courage they bring to their kids who fight the good fight each and every day. This very special event was brought to life by the almost unbelievable similarities between the Ronald McDonald House and The Land of Oz. When we think about how we make it through the ups and downs of life, we can look to the land of make believe to help us learn some of the best lessons life has to offer. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz said, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”
by Megan Koester
November is here – I’m not sure how that happened, but the clocks have been turned back, the weather has gotten brisk and the holidays are upon us. Growing up, this time of year was about traditions. We would always partake in hot chocolate, zoo lights, cutting the Christmas tree and volunteering.
As I grew older, the holidays started to feel more like to do lists and less like fun traditions – gifts to buy, food to prep, and places to be. That all changed three years ago when I began working at the Ronald McDonald House.
The stagers came to our House and put up decorations in each room on every floor to make this place feel like home. Community groups came to bake cookies and provide warm meals for the families. Church groups, families, corporations and friends took time together to collect and drop off items from our wish list. Families came together and gifted nights of rest for families instead of gifts for each other. It was amazing! The House was abuzz with people who have made time in their lives to help families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
Our families are dealing with the stress and reality of having their child in the hospital for the holidays. All of the sudden, their family traditions are put on hold and their lives are turned upside down. However, when those families come to the Ronald McDonald House for a night of rest, they are greeted by the sights and smells of home. It is truly amazing to watch our community come together to make this House a home for the holidays. They give so much of themselves to comfort the families at the Ronald McDonald House. It reminds me of the importance of traditions – the feeling of being together as a family and the spirit of the holidays.
This year will bring more traditions. We will continue our traditions with friends of the Ronald McDonald House as we make the holidays special for each of our families. It will also be the year that I begin a new set of traditions with my own family. This April, my husband and I welcomed Brady and Blake, our twin boys, into the world. We are already discussing the family traditions we want to create and the memories we want to share during the holidays. These past three years have reminded me to value our time together and to create traditions that will allow us to make the holiday spirit special in the lives of others. I am enjoying getting back to my roots and feeling the excitement November brings and the ways we make this season memorable.
by Mackenzie Schuler
It’s taken us a little bit of time to get here, but RMHC of Central Ohio has finally started a blog! The Ronald McDonald House serves as a home-away-from-home for families of seriously ill children. We serve families from all over—from Ohio, all over the United States, and even overseas. The majority of our families have children who are patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, but we serve families from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Mount Carmel, the OhioHealth system, and any other area hospitals. On average, families stay 8 nights at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, but families can be with us anywhere from 1 night to 2 ½ years. It is really important for us to make sure our families have all the amenities of home—from home-cooked meals to laundry to fun multi-purpose rooms, our House provides community, functionality, and relaxation for all our families.
My name is Mackenzie Schuler, and I am the Marketing & Communications Coordinator for RMHC of Central Ohio. There is something so unique about RMHC of Central Ohio—it is difficult to describe if you have never visited. From the first day I interviewed here, to each and every day when I walk through these doors, I feel very humbled and blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful and giving people.
My story with how I got involved with RMHC of Central Ohio begins six years ago, when I was in my senior year of high school, two days after Thanksgiving. I am originally from Iowa, and my family is full of hunters. My grandpa Dave was out hunting in a tree stand on a cold Saturday evening, when the tree stand broke, and my grandpa fell 15 feet. He shattered all of the vertebrae in his spine, and his break was so severe, the doctors were worried he would not survive.
That Christmas was the most difficult holiday I have experienced so far in my life. We spent Christmas in the ICU with my grandma and the rest of my family. It was not only painful to see my grandpa hooked up to every machine imaginable, but it was heartbreaking to see my mom, aunt, and grandma in such a position—they were spending every night either at the hospital or at a hotel, miles away from the hospital. They were not eating, sleeping well, and not able to have any sense of normalcy during that difficult period of all of our lives. I wished more than anything my family could be together.
Even though my family did not utilize the Ronald McDonald House, I am so grateful for everything the organization provides to keep families together when they need it most. The families staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House are the most resilient people I have ever encountered in my life, and their strength reminds me daily that my bad days are incomparable to what they are experiencing.
My grandpa’s accident was the defining moment that helped set me up perfectly for my position with RMHC of Central Ohio—it opened my eyes and made me realize my passion in life is helping others in every capacity I can. His accident prepared me to be more empathetic in life. My grandpa Dave passed away the day I interviewed for my position at RMHC, and I have no doubt in my mind that was no coincidence. I hope I make him and the rest of my family proud every day, and in my mind, I believe I am.
I hope you find this blog to be encouraging, informative, and heartwarming. We hope you will all follow us on our journey to show how generous and kind our community truly is. Thanks for taking the time to read our first entry, and check back often to see what’s going on!