By Kate Ziegler
“We might not ever meet face to face, but I care about you and your well-being”.
The volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House at the kindest, most supportive and warm-hearted people I have ever met. Each day when I walk into work and smell homemade cookies, or see a group of kids making lasagna for lunch, or see a maintenance volunteer cleaning an air filter, it lifts my spirits in ways I can’t really put into words.
Not all of the acts of kindness that our volunteers perform on a regular basis are ever noticed. Our maintenance volunteers most especially typically fly under the radar. I can’t say that any of our families noticed that the air vents in the kitchen were cleaned this morning, that their bathroom fan doesn’t squeak, or that the fluorescent lights are never out. The maintenance volunteers at RMH work quietly behind the scenes to ensure our families are safe and well cared for so that they can spend more time at the hospital with their children and less time worrying about the small stuff.
It’s this type of giving that gets me out of bed in the morning. Each day I am surrounded by people who come into the Ronald McDonald House and say “I’m here to help make your day easier because I know you’re having a tough time. We might not ever meet face to face, but I care about you and your well-being.”
Take a moment to think about all the little things you do at home – changing air filters, cleaning baseboards, changing light bulbs…all of those things need to be done here too, except the people who live here can’t do them. If you stop by the Ronald McDonald House and notice that everything looks like it’s in its place, it’s because a volunteer made that happen!
If you are interested in becoming a Maintenance or Housewarming volunteer, visit rmhc-centralohio.org/volunteer.php
By Laura Hadley
As a Ronald McDonald House intern, I have been working to spread awareness for the “share your stripes” campaign. For the past week, I have been collecting pictures with people wearing red and white striped socks who are #forRMHC.
I began making calls to friends informing them that they could help raise money for the Ronald McDonald House by donating their extra change at local McDonald’s registers. I also asked if I could take photos of them in their socks to help spread awareness through social media. So here I was, with my 12 pairs of red and white striped socks setting off on a journey around Columbus to snap a couple pictures. Easy enough, right?
Wrong. I quickly learned it was going to be hard to get a hold of well-known people in Columbus, get them a pair of striped socks, and get their picture taken in a short time frame. I decided to shift my focus to college students. I was able to photograph students at both The Ohio State University and Denison University. Overall, I was happy with the pictures I was able to get.
While gathering photos, I learned a few things:
I found overwhelming support from my friends, which made my life a lot easier. Yet, while they all agreed to help me by putting on festive socks and letting me snap a picture, I never asked any of them to donate their money. I wasn’t even sure my out-of-state friends knew what the Ronald McDonald House was and what the organization offers to their guests. However, I kept collecting pictures and trying my best to explain what the pictures were for.
Sunday afternoon, a group of friends and I went to McDonald’s. Some of them had helped me with the photos and some hadn’t. Not wanting to make a sales pitch, I did not remind them of the donation boxes. What happened next was truly an amazing feeling – as I watched my friends order and pay, I couldn’t help but notice them dropping their change into the RMHC donation boxes. Finally, it was my turn to order and make my donation. It was at this moment, I realized my work at the Ronald McDonald House had actually impacted people.
This project has taught me that a small favor, can lead to a small donation, which is making a big difference #forRMHC. How are you going to help?
By Amber Fosler
When my friends and I partnered with Columbus Running Company to form Love 2 Reach (L2R), our goal was to use physical fitness as a way to reach out to our community. We would train to walk and run full and half marathons while raising money and volunteering time to a local charity. I was pregnant when we selected Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio as our benefactor. I knew it was a great organization but I could have never guessed what a huge impact Ronald McDonald House would have on my life.
I trained with L2R through much of my pregnancy. A month after my son, Elias, was born, I jumped back into training; this time with a run stroller and a sidekick. A week after Elias’s first training, he was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, biliary atresia. Two weeks later, he had major abdominal surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital but we were cautioned that most babies with biliary atresia need a liver transplant before they reach kindergarten. To say this was a stressful time is an understatement.
As he recovered from surgery, we tried to just settle into our life as a family of three. I struggled to find the balance of being back to work, being a new mom and training for a “comeback” half marathon. My husband has been amazing and knows that without running and race walking, I couldn’t possibly have any sense of balance. Getting in mileage is the one thing that is truly a stress reliever and he made sure I had time to get out there. Being out on the trails is the place I dealt with the emotions of my son’s diagnosis. It is where I went to feel like myself when the rest of my world felt like chaos.
Elias’s health took a very quick turn for the worse at the beginning of the year. I found myself crying as I called the airline to cancel my flight to Orlando for what was supposed to be my 10th half marathon. I was crying because my post-baby comeback race wasn’t to be. I was crying because my 6 month old baby was in Intensive Care.
January and February had more days in the hospital than at home. We faced life threatening complications, two calls to 911, two ambulance rides and two helicopter rides to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The only running and walking that happened was within the walls of a hospital.
Elias’s amazing pediatrician and the equally amazing team at Nationwide Children’s GI clinic saved my son’s life with his early diagnosis. They carefully monitored his care until his liver started to fail. Nationwide Children’s doesn’t currently perform liver transplants, which is how we found ourselves at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
My son was added to the national liver transplant list in January. By mid-February, Elias was in acute liver failure. He was running out of time waiting for a deceased donor. While my husband and I tried to get through each hour, each day with our very sick baby, a gift was in the works. My husband’s cousin, Zac, was evaluated to be a living liver donor. He was a match. On February 26th of this year, our hero, Zac, donated a portion of his liver to Elias. Zac selflessly gave Elias the gift of life and gave our family hope.
Since January, we have spent a total of 58 days at Ronald McDonald House of Pittsburgh. My involvement with Ronald McDonald House came full circle. The House came to my family’s rescue during a very dark time. They gave us a place to rest our head. A place to let out the emotions we tried to hide from Elias while he was in the hospital. It gave us a clean, safe place to bring Elias post-transplant before his team felt he was stable enough to return to Columbus. I have no idea where we would have gone without Ronald McDonald House. I went from knowing it was a great organization to experiencing it firsthand.
Elias is now 15 months old and is nearly 8 months post-transplant and he’s thriving. He’s gaining weight, meeting his developmental milestones and keeping us on our toes but now for good reasons. Life threatening complications have been replaced by an ornery boy unrolling toilet paper and playing in the cat’s water bowl.
Since we returned to Columbus in April, I’ve been able to hit the trails again. While I wasn’t able to commit to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Half Marathon due to a follow-up surgery Elias had scheduled at the beginning of October, I trained as if I was going to race. However, the stars aligned in the 11th hour. Three days before the half marathon, after 11 days in Pittsburgh for his surgery, we arrived back home. Someone gave me a race bib and on Sunday morning, I lined up at the start for my tenth half marathon and my first post-baby half marathon. It was like a big party at the end of a very long and heartbreaking journey. Passing by Nationwide Children’s Hospital during the race was very emotional since we spent so much time within those walls. Running through the Angel Mile was even more emotional because not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude that we are one of the lucky families and our little man survived.
Once again, running and race walking has given me an outlet to process everything my family has been through this year. It’s given me an outlet to relieve stress but is a reminder to be thankful that Elias is still my training sidekick and L2R’s unofficial mascot.
By Megan Koester
Those little copper pennies, silver nickels, and quarters collect – in our pockets, our cars and the change containers on our dressers. All of those coins add up and can make a significant impact in the lives of others.
40 years ago, it was change collected at McDonald’s that provided the support to build the first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. For 40 years people have been giving their change to bring families closer together when they need it most. Today there are 337 Ronald McDonald Houses in 35 different countries – that is a lot of change. Last year, the Donation Box Program raised more than $28 million in the United States! The impact of each and every penny is beyond measure. The ability to bring a family together when a child is in the hospital is life changing for the child and their family. We know that healing happens when families are together, and the ability to stay without a monetary commitment allows families to rest and rejuvenate while being just steps away from their child.
Every day when people walk into the Ronald McDonald House they are changed by their experience. Families were changed the minute their child was admitted to the hospital and now they are finding the resources they need to be strong for their child. Their priorities, daily routines and emotions have all changed to cope with their new surroundings. Volunteers walk through the doors of the House each day because they have been changed by the strength and compassion they have garnered from families. Community supporters walk through the doors of the house and change the levels of opportunities for families by adding spaces and experiences that enhance a family’s stay. Each and every day staff creates an atmosphere that accepts and welcomes change – they provide the family support networks and operational structure to care for families in their greatest time of need.
Today, you can continue to be an advocate for change by participating in RMHC Day of Change. Simply drop your spare change in the donation box at McDonald’s restaurant. Those coins will join millions of others that have grown this charity and fulfilled a need for families to be with their hospitalized children. Please join us in celebrating 40 years of support from McDonald’s and the community and help us continue to strengthen the Ronald McDonald House for years to come.
For almost a year old, this little girl looks healthy. She is full of giggles and smiles—however, there is more than meets the eye. Story’s story is a wonderful reminder of hope. Lauren, Story’s mother, was 20 weeks pregnant when she went in for a regular checkup, where the doctor became concerned about Story’s heart. Lauren and her husband, Adam, were sent to a high-risk fetal doctor, where they learned heavy news—their baby girl had a major heart defect.
The Hill family is from Kentucky, and their doctor knew their home hospital would not be able to handle the magnitude of Story’s heart defect, so Lauren and Adam were referred to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The couple did not know where they would stay during Story’s surgeries and treatments, so they were referred to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, and knew this place would serve as their home-away-from-home during a scary and unknown time in their lives.
On October 23, 2013, Lauren made the trip to Columbus. Because of the magnitude of Story’s heart defect, Lauren would be giving birth at Riverside Methodist Hospital, which is known for their fantastic labor and delivery services. On October 28, 2013, Story was born and four hours after her birth, she was transferred to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. On November 1st at a mere five days old, Story had her first of three heart procedures and her heart was the size of a strawberry. She was in the hospital for 3 ½ weeks. At five months old, Story had her second surgery, which was more intensive and invasive. The little girl had a blood transfusion and her heart was stopped while she was put on bypass.
Earlier this year, Story was not taking her feedings, but Lauren and Adam were convinced it was because she was teething. Her mother took Story to a scheduled appointment, where the doctor gave devastating news: Story was having heart failure. She was immediately airlifted from Kentucky to Nationwide Children’s Hospital and admitted to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. On July 3, 2014, Adam and Lauren made the decision to put Story on the transplant list.
Every morning, Lauren would wake up and say to herself, “Today could be the day that my daughter gets a new heart!” Even though there were dark days, Lauren and Adam never gave up hope. On August 17th, Lauren didn’t wake up thinking about Story receiving a new heart. Adam was in Kentucky keeping insurance going when Story’s doctor gave some unexpected news: he was stopping Story’s feeds and Lauren needed to call Adam, because they had a heart for Story! “We experienced so many emotions that day—we grieved for the family that had lost their child, fear for the major surgery our daughter would endure, and elated there was a match for our sweet girl.”
The surgery went well, and Story has had some bumps in the road, but she has been staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House during her weekly appointments. “The Columbus Ronald McDonald House is our home-away-from-home. The volunteers and staff are our second family. We love having our suite here at the House because we can cook and spend time together as a complete family and keep our life feeling normal in abnormal circumstances. We love what a homey atmosphere this place is—the smells and sounds are familiar to our own home. With the stress of being three hours away from our home, we do not know what we would have done without RMHC of Central Ohio. This place is a gift, just like Story’s heart is a gift to us.”
Update: Today is a wonderful day to celebrate with the Hill family. After being in Columbus for more than four months, Story is heading home today! We are so glad we could provide a home-away-from-home for this young family during a season of their lives.
By Carly Damman
It’s just a mere four letters put its meaning is far from simple. A life without hope might mean sleepless nights worrying about your sick child, long days at the hospital praying for the best, evenings spent scrambling to get food on the table and mornings waking up with a knot in your stomach because it’s going to be another gut-wrenching day with your child.
A belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. Persevering through the storm. Remaining optimistic through pain and agony. Faith in things unseen. A better tomorrow. A cure.
An injured runner not giving up on race day. A teenage girl and a dream that he’ll ask her to the dance. A failing report card followed by long nights studying in the library. A little boy and his aging dog. A feeling of wanderlust with empty pockets. A sick child but the will to continue the fight.
These are examples of hope; never giving up; always looking forward.
This is a word that’s tossed around Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio on a daily basis. However, during my short three months here, I’ve had a hard time really grasping the meaning of the word. Hope can mean so many different things for so many different people. For the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, hope is something that comes easier. With a comfortable bed, a warm meal, a hot shower and a bounty of spaces for relaxation and fun, families are hopeful. Hopeful that surgery will go well. Hopeful that a cure will be found soon. Hopeful that cancer treatments will finally work. Hopeful that doctors discover a breakthrough that brings their precious child back to health.
Working at the Ronald McDonald House has revolutionized my view of hope. I see it every day. A family that has been here for months and months greet me with a warm heart and a smile. Their child faces a life-threatening illness but still…there’s hope. It’s an honor to work at a home full of hope. Full of stress, worry, tears, challenges but above it all, full of hope that tomorrow will bring peace, comfort, joy and recovery.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is a special place that carries hope through the hallways, the rooms, the kitchen, the staff offices, the volunteers’ hearts and the families that we serve. For me, hope now has a deeper meaning. It’s no longer an abstract, philosophical word. It’s tangible.
HOPE is our Ronald McDonald House families.
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.