By Mackenzie Schuler
Vacation season is in full swing, and I know so many of us look forward to getting away to get some sunshine, fresh air, maybe the beach (if you are like my sister and me–you live for the beach) and unwind. We love the time we have to relax with our friends and families. Many of us look forward to getting away from it all, even if it is only for a few days.
For families who have children in the hospital, they do not get time to unwind. They are constantly bombarded by doctor’s instructions, meetings with their child’s medical staff, answering friends and family who want to know the progress of their child’s health, as well as worrying about their child’s health and wellbeing. Parents and other families do not have time to rest and relax—their focus is on helping their child heal.
For many families, this is where the Ronald McDonald House comes in to play. Although we know this journey is no vacation and may be one of the most challenging times in the family’s life, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio strives to provide an oasis in the midst of the chaos surrounding them. Our staff and volunteers are the most attentive and kind people who truly care about each and every family staying at the House. From home-cooked meals, to an exercise room, to an in-home theatre, to a library and a game room, Ronald McDonald House Charities provides a sense of normalcy while their world is turned upside down.
To each and every individual and organization who plays a role in helping provide a home-away-from-home for families of seriously-ill children, we cannot every repay you or express our gratitude for your support of the House. Whether you make a meal or bake, collect pop tabs or wish list items, drop change in a donation box at McDonald’s, provide monetary support, or volunteer regularly at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, every role matters and is vital in our mission of supporting families of hospitalized children. You are the reason Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio thrives. You are the heart and soul of this organization, and we thank you for your support!
By Angela Stacy
My journey to the Ronald McDonald House began in September 2012. At that time, my son Luke was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. After numerous hospitalizations and all available medication paths had been exhausted to put him into remission, Luke had no other choice but to have Total Colectomy and Ileostomy surgery to remove his entire colon. He was admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital on July 6, 2013 to begin the surgery process. On July 8, 2013, Luke underwent a six hour surgery and he began his life with an ostomy bag.
During Luke’s hospital stay, I met a family whose child was sharing Unit 5A with our family. One morning in the Unit’s Family Kitchen, our conversation began by sharing our children’s illnesses. From there it turned to faith and family. During our conversation I learned their family was from Virginia. My thoughts immediately turned to how fortunate I was to be fifteen minutes from home. I needed my family, church and home close to me. My family gave me the ability to escape when things seemed unbearable. My church family visited and spent time in prayer with us and provided meals during the recovery process. And, just knowing home was close continued to give me some normalcy in my life. This family didn’t have that same fortune.
I remember asking if they were spending their nights and every minute of the day in the hospital room with their daughter. Where was their ability to escape? Their response was “The Ronald McDonald House.” At that moment, I learned the importance of “The House”. They praised the staff and volunteers who were making their lives as normal as possible with a place to stay, warm meals and love. I remember the words, “We don’t know what we would do without them.”
Through our conversation, Luke’s hospitalization and prayer, I became determined to give back to those families who don’t have the same fortune of having home close to the hospital. My goal is to make their stay as much like home as possible. In September, 2013, I began my training to become a House Warmer at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Through volunteering at “The House”, it is my passion to touch and bless the lives of the guests. Little did I know the multitude of blessings I would receive in return.
Thank you Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio for all you do!
The city of Columbus offers a number of different possibilities for professional experiences to thousands of college students each year. When it came time for me to choose, I knew without a doubt Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio (RMHC) was the place for me. While I have no specific ties to the House, I volunteered my time here throughout this past spring and grew to think very highly of the staff. Specifically, their dedication to the mission of making a home-away-from-home for families in need was particularly inspiring.
My name is Jillian Kalis and I am a senior at The Ohio State University pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Community Leadership with a minor in Youth Development. Interning at RMHC has given me the opportunity to find out what it means to “love your job”. Every day I am privileged to walk through these doors and begin my morning as an intern for all the volunteers that help make RMHC function. From leading project groups that clean the House to cooking and baking for families, I do not believe I could have found a better experience anywhere else in Columbus.
My family has always stressed the importance of service. From volunteering our time to serve holiday meals to spending the day cleaning outside, volunteering has always been something we think highly of. I am now happy to say that I will be able to pursue a career in something that I consider a family value.
At RMHC, I am truly shown what it means to have a career in Leadership and Volunteer Management. With the help from Kate Ziegler, Meika Willis, Jackie Savel and all of the other RMHC staff, I know that upon the completion of my internship I will be prepared to be a successful worker in the Leadership and Volunteer fields.
By Alli Snyder
Five years ago I started collecting pop tabs from my local school district. In the past five years, I’ve been able to donate over 1.5 million pop tabs to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. Ever since I started collecting pop tabs, I knew I could not stop. I fell in love with the fact I could help families in such difficult situations. People ask me when am I going to stop and I normally tell them stop, I have barely started!
RMHC of Central Ohio has helped me get through a lot of things with their outlook on kindness and generosity to others. When I started collecting pop tabs, my family found out that my vision was worse than we thought and I would probably never be able to get a driver’s license; soon after that, I was put on an IEP. During that experience, I learned life is not fair and we have to help others, because if we do not give back to others, why should they give to us?
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic daily migraines; I stayed home from school for over a month I was in so much pain! At that point, I had a mini epiphany: you cannot just sit around for a magical cure–you have to work for it. I thought of people who have more difficult life circumstances, and I thought about how amazing they are, and how I have to collect pop tabs as a way to show my appreciation to their families, because it’s one thing to be brave because you are going through, but it’s another for when someone close to you is going through it.
To be honest, I feel a responsibility to RMHC. They have been there for all the times I have needed them. I feel as if I should help give back to them in any way I can, and my favorite way to give back is through the Pop Tab Program. I feel like the pop tabs represent me in a way, it is small but still very powerful, like me. My favorite thing about the pop tabs is getting to take them to the Ronald McDonald House because we always take it on the week of my birthday. I feel like I am making the week like Christmas in June, which I have to say feels pretty awesome! This year I will be spending my 14th birthday not only getting, but also giving and I do not think many 14 year olds can say that.
Whenever the new school year comes, I know I will be asked if and when the pop tab collecting will start, and that just makes me feel unbelievably happy. Collecting pop tabs is something my family and I do and I know that it is a little thing that feels so big to me and no one can take it away.
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.