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!
The city of Columbus offers a number of different possibilities for professional experiences to thousands of college students each year. When it came time for me to choose, I knew without a doubt Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio (RMHC) was the place for me. While I have no specific ties to the House, I volunteered my time here throughout this past spring and grew to think very highly of the staff. Specifically, their dedication to the mission of making a home-away-from-home for families in need was particularly inspiring.
My name is Jillian Kalis and I am a senior at The Ohio State University pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Community Leadership with a minor in Youth Development. Interning at RMHC has given me the opportunity to find out what it means to “love your job”. Every day I am privileged to walk through these doors and begin my morning as an intern for all the volunteers that help make RMHC function. From leading project groups that clean the House to cooking and baking for families, I do not believe I could have found a better experience anywhere else in Columbus.
My family has always stressed the importance of service. From volunteering our time to serve holiday meals to spending the day cleaning outside, volunteering has always been something we think highly of. I am now happy to say that I will be able to pursue a career in something that I consider a family value.
At RMHC, I am truly shown what it means to have a career in Leadership and Volunteer Management. With the help from Kate Ziegler, Meika Willis, Jackie Savel and all of the other RMHC staff, I know that upon the completion of my internship I will be prepared to be a successful worker in the Leadership and Volunteer fields.
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.
By Megan Koester
Summer is a time when people are looking for fun things to do outside the House. As a mom of two kids, we are always looking for a new activity as a family. While my little guys are still a bit too young to take on the town, I have found myself in the midst of a lot of mommy conversations centered around options for the summer. People plan for camps, trips to the zoo and days at the pool but still look for more things to do to make memories during their time together. Recently, I have had several moms ask about opportunities to get involved at The Ronald McDonald House over the summer. The House provides a great opportunity to do activities as a family for the right reasons. Here are ten ways you can get involved at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and add a little bit of service to the season.
By Jamie Foltz
It was late one April night when I was sitting at my mom’s bedside at The James. She had just been admitted because the clinical trial she was supposed to start needed to be put on hold until they could open the blockage in her main bile duct. Her bilirubin count was through the roof and she needed surgery before she would be able to start fighting the cancer that had been attacking her pancreas for years without her knowing. When the lead physician in charge of her case came in, we didn’t know what to think. We hadn’t met her yet. She had a kind face but was direct and to the point. Her message was this: “If the surgery works, we can start the trial. If it doesn’t, there is nothing left for us to do.” Having never heard the words “there is nothing left for us to do” we were in a state of shock. What could she possibly mean? Why on Earth wouldn’t it work? She hadn’t even had a chance to fight! In that moment, I looked at my mom and she looked at me. We didn’t speak, we just cried together. She wiped away my tears and told me everything would be fine (in true mom fashion). She wasn’t in pain, at least physically, but she was unsure of what was her future. Just like most moms, her focus was on me and not the uncertainty of her own life.
Everyday, right here in Columbus there are kids, very sick kids, sitting in their own hospital beds while they hold their own mom’s hands telling them “don’t worry mommy, everything will be alright.” The roles are reversed but the theme is common. The patient has the strength while the loved one holding their hand is in so much pain at the thought of what they must be experiencing, at the thought of what’s next. We see these families at The Ronald McDonald House every day. Families whose hearts are breaking inside. They try to stay strong, especially in front of their children, but they are in complete disbelief of the thought that their child might not actually live to see their teenage years, or to graduate from high school, to have a family of their own. Some of them stay with us for days, and some are with us for years. It’s those moments they spend at The Ronald McDonald House they find the most clarity, the most comfort and the most relief throughout their journey. Their focus is on getting their kids well, but they are human and they need a respite too. That’s why it’s so critical to give our RMH families a place that is their own, a home they can rely on while they too face their most difficult days. Those moments I spent at The James gave me an appreciation for our families at the RMH that I hadn’t had before. While there was no place I would have rather been than right by my mom’s side, I too needed an escape from the worst reality I had ever faced.
After my mom passed away, my family decided we wanted her strength to live on for years to come. That’s why we asked her family and friends to join us in maintaining her lasting legacy. One that would pass on her eternal strength to other moms who needed it. We asked donations to come to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio in her memory. With those donations, we were able to permanently name a guest room after my mom, Cheryl Foltz, whose enduring strength and courage inspired us all. For anyone considering a financial gift to The Ronald McDonald House, let me tell you first hand the truly magical feeling my family and I receive every time we see the sign that reads “In loving memory of Cheryl Foltz.” While we named a guest room at The House, there are so many ways to honor or memorialize a loved one. Rooms can be named permanently or annually. There are also pavers on our rooftop terrace that can be engraved with a special message for someone you love. As a Father’s Day gift, I purchased a paver in honor of both of my parents, and it was a gift that truly melted my dad’s heart. Many friends of the House have chosen to show their support through a similar gift with all kinds of inspiring messages for our families. It was important to my family to give my mom the chance to continually impart her strength to other mom’s in need. With that gift, we know that her spirit will not only live on in those she loved, but also in those she never even met.