Area Special Needs Students Learn from Our House

By Rick Shepherd, Communications Manager

Here at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, we’re fortunate to have the support of many organizations in the Central Ohio area. One of the comments we often get from folks who participate with groups that come to the House is how much they gain by being here. Meal groups participating in our Team Cuisine program learn new cooking tips. Cleaning groups pick up household tricks for removing tough stains. Some volunteer groups learn tips about making simple household repairs from our team of volunteer craftsmen. Beyond those more obvious gains, there’s also the reminder and appreciation for what you have and just the satisfaction of giving your time. Sharing the love just feels good to the one who is sharing. But the benefits of working at the House can have even more of an impact for special needs students who regularly come to help our House.

For these students, learning even more about life at the House helps them to grow to become their full potential. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio partners with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities in a program called Summer Youth Work Experiences where students get real-world work experience as they help to keep our House in tip-top shape. OOD recently produced a video which follow the work of Max, one of the students that benefits from working at the Ronald McDonald House. You can watch the video here:

Sometimes, the special needs students who come to the House also leave a positive impression on our families and their child patient. Be the One is a program that was started at Walnut Ridge High School by Dawn Heideman, a teacher in the Columbus City School District, after witnessing the impact of tragedy on a student’s life. Dawn decided that she would be the one individual to provide comfort, guidance, and encouragement to students who had experienced traumatic anger, depression, & loss in hopes that those students will be the one person to go on to make a difference in another young person’s life too.  The program expanded two years ago to Linden-McKinley High School and now helps 125 students who have been through traumatic life experiences at a young age.

Several times a year, Dawn brings her students here to the Ronald McDonald House to meet families of seriously ill children and to spread joy by hanging seasonal decorations in our large dining room. Last year, her students met with a patient named Orian from Maryland staying at the House. The students and Orian developed a bond after learning that he had been bullied because of his disabilities. Inspired by the Six Word Memoir project, Be the One students were encouraged to write a book of their own experiences for Orian who has been encouraged by the book every day. Read about the Be the One’s gift of the group’s book to Orian in a blog from Six Word Memoirs by clicking here.