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 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.