By Aren Carmen
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into the first time I stepped through the doors of Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. I had heard the stories, the praise, the positivity that surrounds the house and their mission. I was nervous, painfully so. What could I do to help with something so big, so grand, so important? The first tour did nothing to quell my anxiety as we walked past room after room and I tried my best to soak up every statistic that was thrown at me. From play areas to family rooms, kitchens to offices, I was in awe. The scale of the house baffled me, the passion of the staff inspired me, but the families were what made everything fall into place. From day one I knew that this was not going to be any old internship.
Every time I walk through the doors now, it’s not anxiety I feel, it’s motivation. There’s an aura in the house, the offices, the staff themselves that drives everyone further. Pushes them a little harder to do anything and everything they can to support the families that need the help we provide. This summer I learned what a labor of love truly was. The staff and volunteers that keep the House up and running taught me that in their daily actions. They don’t seek praise, they don’t want anything but to see a family through the hardest times of their lives and finally out that door to get back to their homes happily. The families taught me what it meant to be gracious and strong in the face of tribulation. Despite the situations that led them to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, they stayed optimistic, friendly, and supportive of each other. I saw the power that a sense of community has in combating despair and fear. I watched families check in, weathered and drained. I watched them check out, bright with life and beyond thankful. I heard stories that tore my heart in two and met kids that I never wanted to stop talking to. I spoke to people that challenged my thinking and others that redefined words like love, courage, and strength.
One of the first things that happened to me when I got the news that I would be working at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio was a conversation with a friend who told me about the impact RMHC made on his family when his brother was born. He said that they didn’t know what they would’ve done had it not been for RMHC. It took being a part of the reality of the mission to realize the gravity of his words. When someone talks about the impact that the House makes, it doesn’t stop at the bed they sleep in, or the food they eat. It’s in everything that you experience here. The families, the staff, the support, the feeling of community, the love that you sense in everything that is done here, it all culminates in a truly humbling and powerful experience that words could never capture. The memory that I will hold most tightly to was watching a family I saw check in early into my time here walk out, both children by their side holding massive over-sized stuffed kangaroos, as they thanked the volunteers at the front desk, thanked any staff that was close enough to be thanked, and took one last look at the House that they had needed so dearly. There is so much that can be said for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, but none of those words embody what Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio truly is. I’m beyond thankful I had the chance to be even a small part of the mission, to experience what this House means to the families it serves, and to have met the people that spend their days focused on helping others through trials that most could not even imagine. The Ronald McDonald House has given me a truly meaningful experience, one that I will never forget.
By Emily Smith
Almost three years ago, my family went through a horrific automobile accident that left my youngest brother, Will, in critical condition with a traumatic brain injury. He eventually was sent to Nationwide Children’s Hospital here in Columbus and was cared for by the most wonderful staff. Will spent over four months on the rehabilitation floor working hard on his recovery and my family was fortunate enough to be there 24/7. We live about an hour’s drive from the hospital, and without the comfort and services that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House provided, we would not have been able to be near Will as often or as comfortable as we were. I truly believe Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio had a direct impact in Will’s recovery because without it, our family would have been more stressed and not have been able to be as active in his rehab.
The Ronald McDonald House provided a home away from home where we could relax after a long and often emotional day at the hospital. The House was a short walk across the street from the hospital and they provided three meals a day, a comfortable bed to flop down on and get a good night’s rest, a warm shower, laundry, a workout room, a library of books, and the best part: a community in which you healed and comforted one another while meeting strangers and sharing your stories over dinner.
I come from a family of runners, always training with our minds focused on the next race ahead. Running serves as my outlet, my way of relieving the stress of the day and serves as my time to reflect on what has happened during the day. During our stay at the House, I became very familiar with the workout room and the treadmill and although I prefer running outside, I would look forward to the afternoons I was able to unwind to the monotonous “clop, clop” of my feet hitting the belt. Believe it or not, I trained for a half-marathon in that room.
A year after the accident and our long residence at the House, I decided to run the 2012 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon as a member of Team Ronald McDonald House Charities, also known as Team RMHC. It was my way of giving back to the two organizations that gave so much to my family, and a small way to say ‘thank you’ to the countless individuals who took care of us during our time in need. The run was incredible. Previous patients deemed ‘Patient Champions’ line the course and cheer you on, meanwhile you cannot help but think it should be the other way around. I knew my brother was out on the course and anxiously looked for him the whole race. By mile 25 I was exhausted and upset that he was not at the two spots my dad told me to look for them. However, toward the end of mile 25 I spotted Will—he was standing (with assistance from my dad) and was cheering me on. Needless to say, I was crying while I crossed the finish line.
I will be running the Columbus Marathon again this year as a part of Team Ronald McDonald House Charities and I encourage you to do the same. As a team member, we fundraise for the House—a place that provides a home-away-from-home for countless families going through what might be the worst time of their lives. The House is a beacon of hope and warmth and the reward you will feel giving to this place will be invaluable.
*If interested in learning more about Team RMHC, please reach out to Darla Stover at Darla.Stover@rmhc-centralohio.org*