By Amanda Zari
When our four year old, Ashton, was diagnosed with hydronephrosis (a condition that typically occurs when one kidney becomes swollen due to the failure of normal drainage of urine from the kidney to the bladder), bilateral reflux, and chronic kidney disease, I was devastated. I was worried about a variety of things: how would we afford to travel to Columbus? How would we afford to stay for the many days of testing? How would we afford to get a hotel room for the recovery times of his surgery?
Over the past year, we have stayed at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio over 15 nights. I can honestly say the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has served as a home-away-from-home during some of the most difficult times in my life. When Ashton had his surgery, I was 35 weeks pregnant with his sister. I have no idea how I would have survived those very difficult days without somewhere to rest. Nationwide Children’s Hospital is as accommodating as possible, but I cannot even begin to tell you what I would have done during the weeks surrounding his first surgery. At 35 weeks pregnant, there was no way I would have fit on the cot that the hospital provided. I was able to have a warm meal and a good night’s sleep, so I could be rested to help provide Ashton with care. I was also grateful because we were able to spend the two nights between his discharge and follow up at the House. We live over four hours away, and I cannot fathom having to travel with him directly after his surgery.
We love the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for so many reasons. Every time we come to Columbus, Ashton has to have blood work or procedures that would even make an adult cringe. However, because he loves the Ronald McDonald House so much, going to Columbus is never a chore. When I asked Ashton why he loves it, he responded with “because it’s better than home!” He swears they always have his favorite foods. Ashton also has celiac disease, so he lives off of fresh fruit and chocolate milk, both of which are always available at the Ronald McDonald House. He carries the blanket the volunteers gave him before one of his appointments everywhere and swears it makes things hurt less.
The night before Ashton’s most recent surgery, I remember clearly being so apprehensive about everything that was to come. We cuddled up in the movie room and watched Curious George, and for that moment, all was alright. The Ronald McDonald House is more than a place to sleep; it’s a place to live. It has provided so many happy memories and so much joy to our family. This past year has been a year I would prefer not to relive. The House has been a light in dark and chaotic times. They work seamlessly with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to provide the best care available for both the patients and their families. I have no idea what we would have done if we had been expected to find a hotel in our price range. Gas alone for one of our trips is more than $150. The Columbus Ronald McDonald House has literally taken a huge weight off our shoulders.
For Ashton’s birthday, our family decided to start a new tradition: raising money for the charity of choice, and Ashton chose Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. He started with a goal of $500 (no small feat for a four-year old), and ended up raising $1600 for the Columbus Ronald McDonald House! We are once again raising money for Ashton’s fifth birthday! We are so appreciative of everything the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has provided for us.
By Ralph “Rusty” Garber
I have been trying to find a simple way to respond to the many people who ask me how I like volunteering at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. I have finally figured out what this feeling is that I have each night as I leave the house after helping our families for a few hours. I leave feeling grounded. Now, I simply tell anyone who asks, that it grounds me.
I have been a businessman for 35 years with a great company, the New York Life Insurance Company. I have held many different positions and lived in four different cities on the East Coast and in Ohio. The last eight years, however, I have traveled each week from my home to offices in Indianapolis and Columbus. I live about 100 miles from either city in a small village near the Indiana/Ohio border. Although it would seem glamorous to have an expense account, eat out each evening and stay at nice hotels, I can tell you it can soon become lonely and quite empty. Feeling there had to be a way for me to use my evenings more productively and that I was wasting away my talents by sitting in a hotel room and watching TV, I started looking for volunteering opportunities online. To my dismay, most required a commitment for a specific day and time and my travel schedule just couldn’t accommodate that. Finally, RMHC of Central Ohio popped up on my Google search and the organization allows me to have the ability to have a flexible schedule. Now I schedule time at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House when my business travels take me to Columbus.
I will let you surf through the various articles on the RMHC website to learn about the Ronald McDonald House in depth, but let me tell you about my little piece of it, what I do, and how it affects others and me. I am a Housewarmer/Host for the House. As such, I do pretty much whatever is needed that evening from doing laundry or making beds (don’t tell my wife), to cleaning the kitchen or filling the pop machine. By far, however, I love the times when I have the opportunity to interact with the families, either as a tour guide or just chatting with them in the dining room or public areas. Every situation is different and how I can make things just a little easier for them varies. Whenever I do a family tour, the most important thing I tell them is that the RMH staff and volunteers’ only job is to relieve them of the additional worry about food, housing, and to provide them the opportunity to be close to their child during their time of need. I always see a little relief in their tired and worried eyes when I tell them this piece of information.
Perhaps the best way to tell you about how my time at RMH affects me is to describe an amazing encounter I had with a young girl, probably eight or nine years old, at the end of my shift one evening.
As background information, I need to tell you my wife and I had an unusual accident in December with me tumbling off a ladder resulting in the ladder breaking my wife’s leg and the fall damaging my knee. The injury required me to rely on a cane and my wife having surgery and using a walker for a while. As time went on, I started to catch myself moaning and groaning about the pain and inconvenience of my injury to anyone who would listen. Frankly, I was tired of being hurt.
As I rounded the corner, I came face to face with this remarkable young lady who was moving about the hall quite nimbly using a walker. She looked up at me with more engaging eye contact than most of my business associates. Trying to make conversation, I commented to her that my wife was using a walker but that she didn’t get around nearly as well as the young girl did. With her eyes twinkling she said, “I am not going to need mine much longer.” I said that was great and asked why she wouldn’t need it any more. She went on to tell me that the following day she was having surgery to prepare her leg for a brand new prosthetic leg. She was excited and confident. Her mother and grandmother, who were standing nearby, looked at me, to see my reaction. I bent down a bit and quietly said to her that she will be walking and running again real soon. She smiled again and we went on our way.
As I got in my car to go back to the hotel, I sat back in the seat for a quiet moment before starting the engine and realized that, once again, I had received far more than I gave that night. Suddenly, my knee didn’t seem to be much of an issue anymore. I still have my cane but haven’t used it since that night. I let my grandkids play with it instead.
Yes, grounded…grounded feels good. I would strongly encourage anyone who took the time to read the ramblings that I scribbled out here, to call Kate or Meika at the House and explore the many ways you can get involved. Being grounded is an amazing blessing!
By Vicki Chappelear
On the eve of our grand opening weekend, I have to pause at the gravity that is taking place. “Grand Opening” even the name suggests a big event. What has taken place over the past two years at our current Ronald McDonald House, let alone from where we started more than 30 years ago with just 15 rooms, is staggering.
I was in the backyard the other day and I caught a glimpse of the House; I was taken back at the expanse. Then it hit me—this was all donated. Donated, given to us by people who care about what we do and why we do it. When I give tours to new families or community members, I always tell them everything they see has been donated, right down to the toilet paper! It is hard to wrap your mind around.
There are so many people who give of their time and resources to make it all possible. We have the most wonderful volunteers anywhere, whether they are preparing rooms for new families to arrive or a meal group coming in to prepare a warm meal. We can always count on them to be there to make Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio warm and comfortable for our guests.
I have the privilege of working with some of the most talented and caring people—people who care, not only, for the mission and purpose of the House, but also, lovingly care for families and cultivate and invest in relationships with those generous people who allow us to continue to serve families.
Thank you to all who have ever given, or will give in the future, to the Ronald McDonald House to help build more stories of hope.
On a personal note, my job is to work with the families, families who are going through a tough time. I cannot tell you how much being close to their children means to them. They often thank me with tears in their eyes or with generous hugs. They tell me they don’t know what they would have done without us. I could never fully communicate how truly grateful they are to have a place to stay and their most basic needs met. Thank you for being a part of touching their lives. You have no idea how far reaching and impactful you are in the lives of these families!
By Sarah Carey
On June 11, 2011, our grandson, Haden, was born with complex heart disease. He has had two previous surgeries in Cincinnati with his third surgery scheduled on July 28, 2014 at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus which led to our stay at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. During our month long stay at the Ronald McDonald House, we were able to be close to the hospital with someone by Haden’s side at all times. After long days at hospital, one of our favorite rooms was the library. We could just relax, read, or just mediate. To be able to stay at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House gave us comfort not only with the warm room, beautiful atmosphere, friendly hospitality from both the volunteers and staff, but with the peace of mind we were only minutes away from the hospital in case of an emergency. We were able to rotate shifts at the hospital and the Ronald McDonald House, so we were not burning ourselves out. Without the Ronald McDonald House, we would not have been able to have some stability in our schedules during a difficult time. The Ronald McDonald House allowed us to be able to be together as a family supporting each other without financially burdening ourselves. Our stay at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House helped lessen the emotional strain we were going through by providing their services to us. It gave us a home feeling during this time. We would like to thank you for everything that you did for us. Words cannot express our gratitude.
By Angie Hartley
As the summer begins to wind down and children head back to school my family went on our annual beach vacation. My husband and I took a short trip to Sanibel Island, Florida to play in the sand, swim in the ocean and enjoy some quality time with our two-year old son. We were able to be together and enjoy the little moments with our son that we can easily take for granted. It was a chance to get away from the stress of daily life and reconnect with one another and enjoy the little moments that make a family special. While on vacation I was reminded of our families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, and how their summers weren’t spent on the beach or in the pools. It was spent sitting bedside in the hospital with their child.
While families have a child in the hospital they often stay with us at the Ronald McDonald House. Here they find a sense of hope and support among other families in similar situations. It is during these difficult times that we strive to provide them with a sense of normalcy and comfort so they can be in their best condition to support their child. As we were designing the new expansion and playground, we had a unique opportunity to provide families with a special place where they can relax and get away from the stress of their daily lives.
We have built a beautiful new rooftop garden on our new expansion where families can sit by the fireplace and watch the sunset in some of the most comfortable chairs around. Filled with beautiful plants and flowers, this is the most serene garden space for families to sit and relax. What is even more exciting is we are working on special artwork to be displayed in this space so families are encompassed with the beauty of nature.
In addition to the rooftop garden we have redesigned our playground to accommodate all of the families and children staying at the Ronald McDonald House. The new playground will be an amazing place for children to run, climb, explore, and use their imagination. Complete with crawl-through logs, a jungle gym, and a little playhouse village with cars these are just a few of the ways children can spend time with their parents and new friends made at the House. However, the new gem of our playground is the splash pad. Children will now have a place to beat the heat in the summer while staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Parents can relax in the gardens and watch their children be just that – children.
While we can’t provide our families with a beach vacation in Florida, what we can provide is a special place that caters to their needs, a place where families are able to get away from the stress and be a family. Just like it is important for families to take time to reconnect, it is even more important for families who are experiencing the hardships of a hospitalized child to have quality time to and find strength among one-another.
By DJ and Michelle Viands
On September 4, 2012, our view on life changed. Our trust and faith in God changed. After five weeks of bed rest and six long days of labor (trying to stop it), our son, Bryson Tripp Viands, was born at just 25 weeks gestation. Bryson was almost four months early, weighing only 1 lb. 11 oz. His right eye was still fused shut, but he was here and ready to show us what a miracle truly is. He was ready to show us that he was a fighter and that he was ready to ride the NICU rollercoaster. God had great plans for our baby and we put our trust in Him.
We lived two hours away and the social worker at the hospital told us not to worry, that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House would give us a place to stay so we could be close to our son at a time he needed us the most. Praise God! We didn’t have to be overwhelmed with worry on how we were going to pay for a hotel and meals. Our focus could stay on our top priority, our son. We already knew we were blessed by the birth of Bryson, but the Ronald McDonald House was another blessing given to us.
Bryson was in the NICU for a little over three months as his little body and lungs grew stronger. Because of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, we were able to be there by his side every step of the way in his NICU journey.
The Ronald McDonald House not only gave us a place to stay, but they gave us comfort, love and sometimes even a shoulder to cry on. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio not only fed our tummies with their wonderful meals, but they fed our souls and hearts with unconditional love and giving. It was a place that had so many other families that were worried and scared. Not all of the families had premature babies, but we all had sick children and it helped to hear their stories and comfort one another.
On December 8, 2012, we brought Bryson home from the NICU and said our thank yous and goodbyes to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House staff and volunteers. Since we have been back home, Bryson has undergone a couple of surgeries and treatments, and like before, the Ronald McDonald House welcomed us with open arms. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is truly a wonderful place and a home away from home. We are so grateful for all they have done for us.
By Madeline Hadley
When I applied to be an intern at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, I didn’t have any idea what I was getting myself into. To be honest, my choice to volunteer at the House’s office was really just a last-minute decision of how to spend the summer after my freshman year of college.
At the start of this summer, I had looked for jobs and internships but found nothing that really interested me. I remembered my older sister volunteering for the House a few years ago and knew that my aunt has worked closely with RMHC for several years, so I finally decided to utilize this connection and asked my aunt for someone to contact about volunteering. With my Business Administration and Marketing interests in mind, she advised me to reach out to Marketing Director, Ryan Wilkins and Marketing Coordinator, Mackenzie Schuler.
In less than a week, I started my internship. Little did I know that my position would entail much more than just marketing work. Throughout the month I’ve been here, I have done everything from bagging brownies for the Golf Outing to helping set up hundreds of center pieces for the Thirty-One Gifts Conference, in addition to assisting Ryan and Mackenzie in revamping the House’s marketing publications.
Along the way, I have worked with some incredible people who make the Ronald McDonald House such a special and inviting place for both guests and volunteers. I always feel welcomed and love working in such a Home-y (no pun intended!) environment. I can enjoy and take pride in whatever I do, knowing that I’m contributing to such an amazing organization. I cannot thank Ryan and Mackenzie enough for allowing me this wonderful opportunity as it turned out to be both a learning and fulfilling experience.
I never thought sitting at a desk could feel rewarding, but walking into the House every day and seeing the families that I’m working for reminds me that each task I do—no matter how big or small—is, in some way, having a huge impact on these families’ lives.
By Carly Damman
After visiting various corporate advertising and public relations agencies in large cities such as New York and Chicago, I found myself in the office of a marketing employee at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio inquiring about a post-grad summer internship. Weeks later, I found myself completely in love with this organization and fighting to make BobcaThon a reality on Ohio University’s campus, where I attended college at the time.
Now, months later, with graduation behind me, I find myself surrounded by incredible staff members, courageous families in need of healing, selfless volunteers and a House filled with love as a full-time employee for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
How did I get here?
It all started with one phrase, “We want to start a dance marathon at Ohio University”. That one phrase led me to the position I’m in today. Through my own ambition and the heart of the RMHC families, I returned to Ohio University and started BobcaThon, a yearlong fundraiser and dance marathon that raises support for RMHC of Central Ohio. BobcaThon is now an official student organization on campus with a full leadership team, its own website, two staff advisors and an opening date set for August 25th, the first day of classes.
BobcaThon was brought to life not just through a girl’s dream but through a group of passionate, philanthropic Ohio University students that now serve as the leadership team. Most of all, BobcaThon exists because of the families that experience healing and hope by staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
I can’t even begin to describe how it feels to spend four years on a college campus filled with students who have incredibly giving and loving hearts, to now, working at a home-away-from-home where every single person that walks in the door, family, staff or volunteer, has a heart that yearns to love and give. BobcaThon allows me to continue pursuing the passionate students on college campuses while also making a difference in the lives of families who stay at RMHC of Central Ohio.
My dream of starting a dance marathon has been accomplished. However, my sights are set on making an even bigger impact by starting dance marathons at other schools and universities in Central Ohio. Families at RMHC of Central Ohio can find healing and hope through the passionate hearts of college students. My passionate heart led me to my dream job at the age of 22 where I get to see healing happen every day!
By Mackenzie Schuler
Vacation season is in full swing, and I know so many of us look forward to getting away to get some sunshine, fresh air, maybe the beach (if you are like my sister and me–you live for the beach) and unwind. We love the time we have to relax with our friends and families. Many of us look forward to getting away from it all, even if it is only for a few days.
For families who have children in the hospital, they do not get time to unwind. They are constantly bombarded by doctor’s instructions, meetings with their child’s medical staff, answering friends and family who want to know the progress of their child’s health, as well as worrying about their child’s health and wellbeing. Parents and other families do not have time to rest and relax—their focus is on helping their child heal.
For many families, this is where the Ronald McDonald House comes in to play. Although we know this journey is no vacation and may be one of the most challenging times in the family’s life, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio strives to provide an oasis in the midst of the chaos surrounding them. Our staff and volunteers are the most attentive and kind people who truly care about each and every family staying at the House. From home-cooked meals, to an exercise room, to an in-home theatre, to a library and a game room, Ronald McDonald House Charities provides a sense of normalcy while their world is turned upside down.
To each and every individual and organization who plays a role in helping provide a home-away-from-home for families of seriously-ill children, we cannot every repay you or express our gratitude for your support of the House. Whether you make a meal or bake, collect pop tabs or wish list items, drop change in a donation box at McDonald’s, provide monetary support, or volunteer regularly at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, every role matters and is vital in our mission of supporting families of hospitalized children. You are the reason Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio thrives. You are the heart and soul of this organization, and we thank you for your support!
By Angela Stacy
My journey to the Ronald McDonald House began in September 2012. At that time, my son Luke was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. After numerous hospitalizations and all available medication paths had been exhausted to put him into remission, Luke had no other choice but to have Total Colectomy and Ileostomy surgery to remove his entire colon. He was admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital on July 6, 2013 to begin the surgery process. On July 8, 2013, Luke underwent a six hour surgery and he began his life with an ostomy bag.
During Luke’s hospital stay, I met a family whose child was sharing Unit 5A with our family. One morning in the Unit’s Family Kitchen, our conversation began by sharing our children’s illnesses. From there it turned to faith and family. During our conversation I learned their family was from Virginia. My thoughts immediately turned to how fortunate I was to be fifteen minutes from home. I needed my family, church and home close to me. My family gave me the ability to escape when things seemed unbearable. My church family visited and spent time in prayer with us and provided meals during the recovery process. And, just knowing home was close continued to give me some normalcy in my life. This family didn’t have that same fortune.
I remember asking if they were spending their nights and every minute of the day in the hospital room with their daughter. Where was their ability to escape? Their response was “The Ronald McDonald House.” At that moment, I learned the importance of “The House”. They praised the staff and volunteers who were making their lives as normal as possible with a place to stay, warm meals and love. I remember the words, “We don’t know what we would do without them.”
Through our conversation, Luke’s hospitalization and prayer, I became determined to give back to those families who don’t have the same fortune of having home close to the hospital. My goal is to make their stay as much like home as possible. In September, 2013, I began my training to become a House Warmer at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Through volunteering at “The House”, it is my passion to touch and bless the lives of the guests. Little did I know the multitude of blessings I would receive in return.
Thank you Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio for all you do!