By Abigail Brumme
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”-Helen Keller
Working at the Ronald McDonald House allows me to stay connected with our mission each and every day. I know that the work I am doing with so many wonderful community members will make an impact on our families in so many different ways. I spend a lot of time making phone calls, giving tours, thanking our donors, and finding ways to connect others with what RMHC does. Recently, I had the chance to be on the others side of my typical every day by volunteering on a Saturday morning with my life group from Rock City Church to bake cookies for our families. As a staff member, I always have the chance to meet people who are visibly always enjoying their time volunteering at the House. Whether they are making a meal, baking, working with a project group, helping to clean the guest rooms or whatever it may be for that group, they have the ability to connect with the House on a new level. Coming in as a volunteer for just one morning at the House allowed me to connect with our mission on a new level. I was able to see the joy that families feel when a group of people they have never met comes in and simply makes a treat for them. We were told countless times how good the treats smelled and people were constantly stopping in the kitchen to say hello. Having this experience with my life group reminded me of the gratitude our families have for everyone and everything that comes through the doors of the House. People can get connected with the mission in so many ways. Whether it’s volunteering at events or at the House, collecting pop tabs, doing a wish list drive, getting their companies involved in cause marketing or community fundraisers, adopting rooms to support families, bringing in spare change, or whatever idea comes to mind. Every day I am amazed at the creative ways people choose to get involved with the House, and make a genuine impact on our families. There is a way to get involved in the House for everyone, and I am so thankful that I am able to witness people connecting our mission and our families. Like myself, and so many others, you too can find a way to help the House with a heart.
By Joel Merrill
As the Facilities Director of the largest Ronald McDonald House on the planet, I am blessed and honored to work with many individual and group volunteers. Volunteers are what keep the Columbus Ronald McDonald House running.
Volunteers keep the Ronald McDonald House clean, maintained, and are always a ray of sunshine for the guests that stay here. They are the reason we can provide such a wonderful, clean place for the families of sick children that are being treated at our local hospitals. It is through the selfless efforts of our volunteers that we are able to take a little of the daily stress away from the families, so they can focus more energies on their child. It is easy for us to get caught up in the everyday grind and lose (even temporarily) sight of the real reason we are here. That reason is to provide a welcoming clean place for families to unwind, gather their thoughts, and recharge their emotions.
I recently was humbled by the interaction with a first time volunteer, Amie. She came to help us work on a house that we are remodeling for long-term stays for families to stay in. Amie came after her regular work hours at her job with a commercial real estate management company. She was happy to help with whatever we needed done. She helped me hang drywall for a few hours (until it got too dark to see). Amie was concerned she wasn’t helping enough (as is the case with the volunteers that I am blessed to work with). The majority of people may not realize just how much it means to the House that they come in and help. Even if it is for an hour, it is such a wonderful thing. It helps the morale of the families and gets much needed work done. Laundry cleaned and folded for rooms ready for a new family, families fed, play areas for the families maintained and/or built. For every hour a volunteer spends helping us, they save the limited staff here that hour. That is priceless for us.
I think there was an unexpected blessing for Amie, too. As we were touring the House at the end of her volunteer shift, we met a family from Minneapolis, Minnesota as they were walking with their child, Lydia. Lydia and Amie became fast friends and played and talked for a few minutes on the Safelite Serenity Rooftop Garden. We rode on the elevator with the family to the first floor. Those few minutes had a huge positive impact on Lydia’s family and me (I am sure on Amie, also) and will not soon be forgotten as we all go about our lives. Lydia is such a sweet, sincere, engaging child. She is full of wonder and a great example of the courage and strength all of the children at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House possess. Amie epitomizes the heart and spirit of volunteerism. It is humbling to see how much positive impact just a few minutes of time has on people when they volunteer. Thank you to Amie and all of the volunteers for reopening my eyes to the wonder that we call the House.
Dear Ronald McDonald House Volunteers and Staff,
My husband and I would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Our baby, Clay, was transferred here very unexpectedly after being born prematurely. We have now spent almost a month at Nationwide Children’s Hospital as our son has grown and learned how to eat. We would not have been able to manage this without your help! We live two hours away and have a three year old son at home. While my husband has stayed home with our son, it has been a comfort knowing I had somewhere safe to stay that is so close to the hospital. This has allowed me to watch over our baby and be involved in his care. Everything from the room to the services you provide has went above and beyond. This is truly a wonderful place! Thank you all for being so good to our family!
The Boggs Family
By Katie Cannon, Team RMHC Member
I promised myself that I would run a half marathon before I turned 50. Being that my longest run ever was 4 miles, this truly would be a major accomplishment for me.
I am not a runner. In fact, I hate to run. When I saw that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House had a fundraising team for the half marathon, I joined immediately. Running for RMHC was the incentive I needed to keep on training, especially because I have personally witnessed why the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is a necessity for families at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t give up on myself because I would then be giving up on the families that needed the RMH!
My oldest child, Rachel, was born on December 4th, 1991, with a very serious heart defect. Her first three months of life and many, many future days and weeks were spent in Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
During this stressful time, my ex-husband and I had the luxury of our child being hospitalized in the city in which we actually lived. We could go home every night to our own bed; our families kept our fridge stocked with food, and we never lacked for visitors to sit with us during the scariest times ever of our whole lives!
I couldn’t even imagine dealing with a Rachel’s hospitalization, far from our own home and support system. Yet I met so many parents that were doing exactly that and remaining strong because of the Ronald McDonald House. Until my time with Rachel at Children’s, I just thought the Ronald McDonald House was basically a hotel that parents could stay in for a very small cost. Wow, was I ever wrong!
The Ronald McDonald House does provide the hotel-type rooms at very little or no costs. However, it provides so much more. RMHC families get a true family to go home to every night by just walking across the street, instead of driving hours to their far away homes. There are home cooked meals waiting every night. Most importantly, because of volunteers, there is a built in support system, to help through those very long and scary times.
Thank you to RMHC of Central Ohio! I am so proud to have helped this great cause! I thank you for being the incentive to check “run a half marathon before you are 50” off of the bucket list!
By Dan Wyatt, Cardinal Health Employee
Beginning in January of 2014 my daughter, Riley, began to suffer from continual illnesses. After almost 2 months of constant doctors’ visits, she was finally diagnosed with HSP (Henoch-Schonlein Purpura). HSP is a form of blood vessel inflammation or vasculitis. HSP affects the small vessels called capillaries in the skin and frequently the kidneys. HSP results in a purplish skin rash associated with joint inflammation (arthritis) and sometimes cramping pain in the abdomen. As with most illnesses, its severity ranges from mild to extreme. Unfortunately we were about to find out Riley will soon be diagnosed with its most severe form.
On Riley’s 9th birthday (March of 2014) we were attempting to celebrate her birthday. We hadn’t even cut her cake when she leaned over to me and said “Daddy, something’s wrong.” Within minutes my wife and I were rushing Riley to Nationwide Children’s Hospital with severe internal bleeding. Within the course of one hour, Riley had lost all the blood in her body, twice. Without knowing the exact point of the internal bleed, numerous tests were being run while she was being given emergency blood transfusions. This is when we were told of the severity of the HSP and the critical situation Riley was now in. She was literally fighting for her life. After what seemed like forever, Riley was finally stabilized and moved into Children’s ICU, where she spent a week recovering. After still more tests, the doctors were not able to find the source of the bleed. She was eventually released with a high dose of steroids, to help with the internal bleeding, a course of 30 days of antibiotics to keep her from picking up any immediate infections, and pain medications.
A year later, Riley still suffers from HSP, however its side effects of the rashes, the severe stomach cramping and joint pain has been greatly reduced. Her specialist at Children’s finally gave the green light to discontinue the steroids and pain medications as of March 1st; and we hope that by the end of this year, she will be discharged from his care. At this year’s birthday celebration, Riley was surrounded by family and a dozen of her closest girlfriends! It truly was a celebration of her life!
I have been volunteering at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for the past couple years and I have always been touched by the stories of those with children spending time at the hospital. After I became one of those parents who spent more time at the hospital, rather than at home with their child, volunteering here took on a whole new meaning. I grew even fonder of the services that both Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House provide to those in need.
Dear Ronald McDonald House,
Our son was born on March 4th at Fairfield Medical Center. He was in respiratory distress and was immediately transported to Nationwide Children’s Hospital J4 NICU. I was not able to join him because of my C-Section until March 6th. One of the hardest things I have ever done was watch them take my new baby away and known I would not get to touch, hold, or even see him for at least two more days. After I was discharged, my husband and I drove immediately to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The social worker at the hospital had mentioned the Ronald McDonald House to my husband and by the time I was discharged and ready to travel to Columbus, they had a room available for us. What a blessing it was to be right there the whole time! My husband and I were able to take turns spending time in the NICU with our new baby and at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House with our four and six year olds. It was truly a blessing to be able to have our entire family together during this very trying and exhausting time we spent in the NICU. Being right across the street from the hospital allowed me to be able to nurse my baby almost around the clock and provide some much needed kangaroo care for both of us. Thank you for everything!
The Hayes Family
Ethan Graham was born at full-term and looked so perfect. His parents, Ryan and Ashley Graham, could not wait to take him home to see his siblings. A couple weeks later, Ethan was not able to have any bowel movements, so his parents took him to the doctor. Ethan’s doctors knew they weren’t able to give the answers the Graham family was looking for, so they sent Ethan from Kentucky to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. Vanderbilt could not give any answers as to what was going on with Ethan, so they sent him to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. While at Kosair, Ryan and Ashley found out Ethan had a bleeding disorder, so they sent Ethan and his parents to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The family had a nurse refer them to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, and they arrived right before Christmas of 2013.
Since Ethan has been treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, he has undergone three biopsies and two scopes. He has all of the symptoms for Cystic Fibrosis, but this little boy has not tested positive for this disease, so his diagnosis is still unknown. This has resulted in a lot of travel from the Graham family’s home in Kentucky to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. “We’ve met a lot of families over at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, only to find out the family we have been talking to is also staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. We met Story Hill and her parents (an amazing little girl whose story we told in 2014), and learned just how similar our children’s lives were—from living in Kentucky, to having the scary experience of having our children lifeflighted from Kentucky to Nationwide Children’s Hospital—it has been wonderful to know someone who has common ground that can relate to our family’s story.”
Ashley said she is continually blown away by the amenities at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. “We’ve taken so many pictures of Ethan in the library, so it has been fun to see him grow and change. The movie theatre has also been a lifesaver, because Ethan wants to stay up while his dad may want to sleep, so Ethan and I make our way to watch movies there late at night. I was here before, during, and after the expansion. I was here last Friday when they opened the NHL All-Star Tree House—what an amazing space! We love the Columbus Ronald McDonald House because of the volunteers and the sense of community. From listening to a little girl sing “Let It Go” from Frozen during dinner and applauding her for her performance, to bonding with other families in all of the beautiful common spaces, there is no place like the Ronald McDonald House. We are truly grateful for this place!”
By Mackenzie Schuler
For anyone living in the central Ohio area, you know this weekend is a major weekend for Columbus. If you are not familiar with what is happening, let me bring you up to speed: The 2015 NHL All-Star Game is happening at Nationwide Arena! This is a huge opportunity for Columbus to show the world why we are an incredible city that is the best kept secret.
One of the best kept secrets of The 2015 NHL All-Star Game is the Legacy project. In each city that The NHL All-Star Game is held, the League works with a local charity to complete a meaningful project. For this year’s charity project, several central Ohio charitable organizations submitted a proposal for what they would like commissioned for their charity.
When we submitted our proposal, I honestly had no idea what to expect. It sounded amazing, but I could not even wrap my mind around what we were going to be doing. We were in the midst of our grand opening, which has now made us the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. I was not sure the NHL would even choose the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for this project. However, I was proven wrong, and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House was fortunate enough to have been chosen to have our project commissioned for The 2015 NHL All-Star Game.
Columbus is an incredibly generous city that has the support of so many organizations. The NHL saw the generosity of the Columbus Blue Jackets, an organization that has proven to be a vital partner to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House time and time again. The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation have supported us by adopting rooms within the Columbus Ronald McDonald House (have you seen the Jacket Zone in our basement or The Lady Jackets’ Princess Room?!), bringing their team to the House to play games with our families, throwing an amazing princess party for our little girls, and helping with landscaping and other projects. The Columbus Blue Jackets, the Columbus Blue Jacket Foundation, and The Lady Jackets are truly helping families with seriously-ill children at the House. Without their support, we could not make a difference in the lives of these families every day. We are grateful.
While I am sworn to secrecy to not tell you about the NHL All-Star Legacy Project, I can tell you this: you are going to be blown away. Stay tuned for the unveiling on Friday, January 23rd at 9:30 a.m.
By Bob Tidwell
My name is Bob Tidwell. I am a volunteer at the Columbus Ronald McDonald on Tuesday night, and my role is the House Host. The volunteers on Tuesday night and the Family Service Managers are just great. I’m proud to be a part of that team.
The House Host position was created by RMH as it was expanding earlier last year when more rooms and more community spaces were added. This meant there was a greater need for helping patients and their families get checked in and settled at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Previously, I was a Housewarmer. When this new position was posted, I jumped at the opportunity as I enjoy the personal interaction with families, including the patients. In the process, I moved my hours later and later, as it seemed many families were checking in later after a long drive from their homes. Now I work from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday evenings. I’ve checked in families from North Carolina, Western Pennsylvania, Boston and many other cities, states, and countries.
Some families arrive in Columbus in the morning and go immediately to Nationwide Children’s Hospital or any of the other area hospitals with their child. The family, minus their child (who has now been checked in to the hospital) then comes to RMH after an exhausting day at the hospital to get checked into the House. Their needs seem to be different than those families who come to RMH late with their child still in tow so I try to adapt. However, these families all seem to have one thing in common—they look frightened and their look seems to say what is going to happen to my child? Either way there is visible relief when they understand there’s a place for them to eat and sleep. I tell them they are in the best place in the world—the hospital will take care of their child and RMH will take care of them with love and compassion.
When families check in, I like them to understand their basic needs will be taken care of: where they will sleep and where they will eat. As we walk around, I try to understand their needs, particularly if they plan to be here a night or two or for an extended period of time. Laundry facility, a spa where they can get haircuts, gym, movies, game room, library, etc. For families who check in late and are worn out from the drive, I give them an “efficient tour” and encourage them to read the facility information in their room or explore the House when they have a free moment.
When I was a Housewarmer, I certainly had the ability to say hi to folks over the weeks and make this experience more personal for them. The position of House Host, however, makes it possible to remember names (not always) but at least remember them and why they are there. It seems a great idea to touch as many lives as possible and a great strategic decision by RMH to create this position.
I was so touched when one of our families, who I had checked in and seen many times since then, came up to me and asked if I had eaten. I told them I had not. They then offered me some of food they had prepared for themselves. I think it’s symbolic of the appreciation of the families to RMH.
I love it when families come in late and have a little girl in tow, invariably going into Children’s for special testing or a procedure. I ask if they would like to see The Princess Room. The joy and awe on these little faces (and the parents) is incredible when they see it and go in. Maybe the visit is for open heart surgery or some other complicated procedure and they won’t have a chance to see it again. It’s wonderful for me and hopefully for them as well.
I also volunteer at another area hospital’s emergency room every week, also where I have the opportunity to work with families of patients who are brought in for emergency treatment. The personal dynamics are virtually the same—fear of the unknown. Though at the hospital it’s more of a short term issue while at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, unfortunately, is generally longer term. The support of RMH is an incredible benefit to our families and we should all feel proud for contributing.
By Ryan Wilkins
Every New Year, we feel the need to do something new. Lose weight. Exercise. Take up a hobby. I get it. When the calendar turns, there is a clean slate. But I wonder if we have things a bit backwards. There is a reason we are who we are, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. What if instead of trying to become someone else, you focused on being the best “you” that you could be?
Here’s why I ask. This year, as in every other year that I’ve worked at the Ronald McDonald House (almost exactly 7 years), I have witnessed some of the most incredibly generous and thoughtful gestures of love and compassion over the Holidays. We like to say that if you doubt humanity, just spend a few hours at the front desk of the Ronald McDonald House at Christmas time. You won’t believe how generous and selfless people are.
So this New Year, I hope that you, our friends, have resolved to be the same awesome selves that you were in 2014. Last year was probably our best year since opening in 1982, and that would be impossible without you. But the need is even greater in 2015, which will be our first full year in the newly expanded Ronald McDonald House.
Columbus, you are amazing. I brag about you to anyone who gives me the chance to talk about how sweet, selfless, and tenacious you are. You never see a challenge that you are afraid to face, and always amaze me with the resolve you show to support people who need your help.
So, with everything I’ve got, thank you for being you. In my opinion, you’re great the way you are. Keep being the best you, and we can conquer anything.