“I Stayed at Columbus Ronald McDonald House to Stay Near My Daughter in the NICU” Ninja Warrior from NBC Show Now Competing So Other Families Can Stay at The House Too

By Rick Shepherd

This month, American Ninja Warrior contestant Michelle Warnky Buurma returned to the show with her little champion, Grace, cheering her on. At the same Ohio gym where she trains kids and teenagers to become ninja warriors like her, she now has her own warrior-in-training.

“We knew she’d come early, but we didn’t know she’d come three months early. So just not knowing anything about preemies was crazy. And experiencing her being less than two pounds,” she said in an interview recently with NBC4’s Matt Barnes, who is also a board member with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.

After Grace was born at 1 pound, 14 ounces on Feb. 2, 2022, she stayed in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital NICU for two months, while Michelle stayed across the street at our Ronald McDonald House. Since writing a guest blog post for us back then, Michelle says Grace is doing great and just started walking two weeks ago. 

Michelle told Matt that the fight Grace has shown since birth inspired Michelle to “Fight Like A Preemie” herself, when returning to the American Ninja Warrior course as someone now more than twice the age of other athletes on the show. And “I know that our story is not the same as everyone’s. Some people lost their preemie. Some people, their preemie has even more issues,” she told Matt. “So, I would just encourage everyone to be thankful for what they have, but just really surround themselves with those that can help them through the hard times.”

Michelle is now giving back in different ways to support the House that helped her and her husband stay close to Grace during those weeks she was in the hospital. On Tuesday, Her team will take part in the OSU CFAES Dean’s Charity Steer Show at the Ohio State Fair where 100% of the proceeds from the event will go to RMHC of Central Ohio. It’s her family’s way of “paying it forward” for other families coming to stay at what will once again be the largest Ronald McDonald House on earth, as the construction ends this fall on an expansion that doubles the footprint of the House across from Nationwide Children’s Hospital. As part of her participation in the steer show, she’s also donated several items to the event’s online auction. Click here to see all the items and make bids. Click the image below to see a video produced by OSU introducing Michelle’s team in this fierce cattle competition.

Feature photo: 5th year 4H exhibitor Russell Fox of Seneca County, Ohio poses with the American Ninja Warrior he trained to show steer and her daughter, Michelle & Grace, as Team Grace.