By Vicki Chappelear, Family Service Manager
Pierced ears. Almost every little girl dreams of getting her ears pierced, I know I did! It’s hard to believe that such a common rite of passage for most girls would be considered dangerous to your health. But for one little girl I know, this has been the case.
This precious little girl, with a contagious laugh, has been fighting cancer. And I mean fighting with everything she’s got. She and her family have been guests at the House for a long period of time. We have walked this battle with her through the good days and the bad days—through puffy cheeks and the loss of hair, and the joy of seeing her get to go home. These are the kids we will always remember!
She has a remarkable family. We’ve gotten to know different members of her family as they would come to visit during her long hospital stay and subsequent release to our isolation suite here at the House. She has an incredible mom who has been with her every step of the way. Her mother has been transparent and has not been afraid to share her feelings with us openly and honestly. It’s as if we have become family, too. That’s what happens when you walk through such a life-altering experience with someone. You have a bond that’s indescribable and it’s priceless.
It so warms my heart to see these kids come back to visit us with good reports! This spunky little girl, who is now sporting her returning dark, curly hair, was so excited to receive a list from the doctor of things she’s allowed to do now: go to see a movie, go to the library and yes, even get her ears pierced!
By Regina Schwaderer
When I saw the post regarding the GoFundMe campaign for Henry the House Dog, it struck my heart deeply and I knew I needed to do everything possible to help make this happen for the House and its visitors.
I have been a guest at the House while my son was in ICU following brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. While my stay was very short (2 days), the realization that many are there for so long at times is there. In my 2 short days the magic of its existence was felt.
After my son’s surgery, once we received the full course of what was to take place to get him healthy; we had to make the difficult decision to rehome the dogs we had at the time. We were going to be gone almost all of the next 7 months as all of his chemotherapy required him to be inpatient for stays of 3 weeks at a time. This was very hard on me as they are just as important to me as my kids. When we were home, not having happy tails greeting me at the door made home not seem like home. Our highlight at that time was an occasional 4-legged visitor in the lobby of the hospital when we were inpatient. My son always lit up when he saw the dog even though I knew he wasn’t feeling the greatest, and I felt some of my heaviness lift too.
Ronald McDonald House already does so much too feel like home away from home for so many, but there is one thing missing: a dog. To myself and many families, a house isn’t a home without a dog (in my case 2 or 3). Henry will fill this spot and bring so much joy to so many.
My experience of staying at the House, drives me to do for the House. I joined the Cardinal Health Committee dedicated to the Ronald McDonald House to become more active in doing things for them. I am looking forward to do whatever I can to bring the committee together and bring Henry home! Here’s to hoping to meet Henry soon!
By Andrew Sturgill, Romeo’s Pizza
Many things lead me to donate pizza to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio. The most influential was Joyce Mitchell, my late mother-in-law and her fight with cancer. I remember her saying to me one day that she wasn’t feeling very well from all the chemotherapy, “man, a slice of pizza sure makes you feel normal.” That statement stuck with me, because it’s so true. Everyone loves pizza, I joke all the time the greeting kids give the pizza guy is second only to Santa Claus. Joyce’s statement turned a light on for me. It made me think about how truly blessed I am. I have four beautiful, happy, spoiled, ornery daughters. Most of the days in life for my wife, Stephanie, and I is a circus.
From the impact of what Joyce said, I wanted to start doing a monthly pizza party for kids that were at Nationwide Children’s Hospital with long-term illnesses that were there receiving treatment. I wanted to help the kids “feel normal”, even if only for a brief moment. I also believe that I am truly indebted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital because I was a patient there for 20 years. As with most things I set out to do I aim for the stars and fall short, but the moon has a great view too.
As Joyce and I did research, we realized that doing the pizza party at the hospital was not going to be an option because of many red tape details. However, that is what led our search to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. It made sense; as a parent, I believe there is nothing worse than having one of your babies sick or in pain without the ability to remedy it. I reached out to Columbus Ronald McDonald House and the Volunteer Manager, Meika, and set up the first pizza delivery. Meika is so awesome, always happy and thankful. It makes me feel great when we donate. I asked her if I could bring my two oldest daughters with me on the first trip there to help teach them how good it feels to give.
That first trip was so amazing, it was the only time I hung around while the kitchen staff plus Meika prepared the dinner, because Meika wanted to give the girls and me a tour of the House. As my daughters and I were leaving after our tour, I was able to see into the dining area. The good vibes coming out of there from the few families that had gathered and the kitchen team was amazing. There were many smiles and even some laughter. It gave me a feeling of happiness that is hard to explain; I was hooked.
That brings me to a story I want to share. My District Manager (DM) and I were having a meeting about six or eight months ago reviewing sales, delivery performance, labor cost, and food cost numbers. On that day I was able to coach my DM on something that is more important than pizza or profitability. The DM asked me why we do Ronald McDonald House orders. He explained that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is about 20 minutes away from our closest store’s delivery area and he wasn’t sure we would get any residual business impact from it. He pointed out that we don’t post it on our Facebook or other social media accounts. I believe my answer shocked him in a good way. I simply said, “it is because of how giving those pizzas make me feel.” He looked at me silently for a minute, confused. I explained to him I get more JOY out of giving those 20 or 30 pizzas to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio than I could ever explain with words. I challenged him to deliver an order. A month or so later at a different meeting he told me he had. He smiled at me and said that we should do that as often as the Columbus Ronald McDonald House needs us.
I wanted to share that because I think it speaks to the environment created by the staff, volunteers, donors, and parents at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. In one visit, the House hooked my DM the same way the House hooked me. In short, it makes you feel good being there. It’s a place you want to be a part of, even if it’s just a small part. It’s so funny because now Meika usually just texts me last minute when she needs a quick fill in dinner. I wonder if she knows I look forward to her texts. They make me smile.
I will continue to do all I can for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio for as long as I am permitted. It reminds me of Joyce, whom my family misses dearly. I would have never had the connection with RMHC without her. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio gives so much more to me than they know. No monetary amount or trade of goods ever comes close to the JOY I have when I get a text from Meika, and JOY is a really good thing.
By Stephanie Milan
I’m fairly new to my role here as Volunteer Manager at RMHC of Central Ohio, so when I went to unlock the Princess Room yesterday for my new friend, Sydney, I fumbled around a little, figuring out which magical key on my ring was the correct one.
This isn’t the first set of keys I’ve been given by the friendly folks of the Ronald McDonald House Charities; it’s actually my third.
The first set I received as a guest at the RMH in Cleveland while my newborn baby boy, Milo, was seen by a specialist after having been born 16 weeks early, weighing just over one pound. Those keys opened the door to a soft bed and a warm meal after very long and scary days in an unfamiliar place.
The second set of keys was given to me just months ago, when I began volunteering here just after Milo, at age three, had fought his battle with cancer as hard as he could, but had to let go. With a whole lot of sadness in my soul and way too much idle time, I found my way here. I will forever be grateful for those keys, as they opened my heart to a new way to heal through helping others.
But the keys I hold now, they unlock something much more than the doors to this house. They open a whole new world of possibilities. A world where guests become friends, volunteers are a family and the welcoming warmth of this enchanted house makes all people that enter feel like they are home.
By Vicki Chappelear
A bright-eyed four-year-old, little girl walked into my office and gave me a big smile. She looked me straight in the eye, placed her hands on her little head and exclaimed, “I don’t have any hair!” She said it as if I didn’t know, but I did know. Her story is much like that of many of the kids I see daily.
I have the privilege of working with the families of kids who are pretty sick. I have seen all types of illness come into my office—cancer, spina bifida, heart issues or an illness yet to be diagnosed—you name it, chances are good I’ve have met a family dealing with it.
There is something that stands out to me about these kids—their resilient attitude. They do not sit around and feel sorry for themselves. I’ve actually witnessed five and six year olds comforting each other and having conversations about medical procedures I do not understand. Many of these little ones don’t know any different; this is their normal. Few of them know life apart from feeding tubes, wheelchairs or a complex cocktail of daily medicine.
The parents do an amazing job of trying to maintain their childhood innocence; their strength is incredible to me. What is a parent to do when their hopes of what is considered a normal childhood is dashed? When bikes are traded for wheelchairs and playgrounds for exams rooms and ORs? They do their best to keep things as “normal” as possible, all the while feeling the pressures of making wise medical decisions and the never-ending barrage of medical bills that they will never be able to pay. And yet, these moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas put on a brave face for their little ones.
I believe these amazing kids have a gift to see life for what it is, to embrace the life they have, to make the most of every moment. God has given them the strength to handle unimaginable trials with grace and a smile. They are not upset with their situation; they do not compare what they are going through with those who are not going through a life-altering experience.
I no longer see children in wheelchairs or children from whom childhood has been stolen, but rather, I see their smiles. The twinkle in their eyes and their love of life as they know it. It’s not about what happens to you or what you are going through, it’s about the eye through which you see those circumstances. These little ones are far wiser than their years.
So when I hear the squeal of laughter coming from a child in a wheelchair or even see the precious smooth, round head of a bright-eyed little girl, I smile because I am reminded there is joy in being alive. This is the path God has chosen for them and they embrace it.