We have had several different people write for our blog, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, we wanted to share the gift of love from a former family who stayed at our Ronald McDonald House. Here is their story.
By the Garcia Family
My daughter, Esmeralda (Esmie), was transported via air ambulance from Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona to Nationwide Children’s Hospital on November 2nd, 2012.
Esmie was diagnosed with Interstitial Lung Disease, a rare autoimmune disease that attacked her lung organ. Esmie’s disease began at 11 years old, and she continued having difficulties breathing, muscle weakness and pain. With the care of the doctors she was receiving and her oxygen support, she was able to make it through until October 6, 2012. Her lungs had gotten worse—they had scarred and stopped functioning.
Doctors in Phoenix did not have much to say, but they told us Esmie was going to need a lung transplant. She was then put on the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Machine (ECMO), a procedure that uses a machine to take over the work of the lungs. Four days after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital team came to Phoenix, they airflighted Esmie to Columbus. On November 24, 2012, Esmie received her lung transplant, and this was a huge gift to us. On January 8, 2013, Esmie was discharged from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
I want to say thank you to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. While I was there, I met a lot of caring staff members and volunteers. The Columbus Ronald McDonald House made me feel at home. In those stressful moments with my daughter, I really had a home to sleep, eat, and shower just to be ready to go to the hospital, which was less than a minute away, and be with my Esmie. Just knowing I had been able to be well-rested to speak with Esmie’s doctors made all of the difference in the world.
From the bottom of our hearts, we truly appreciate everything the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has to offer. It has been a long journey, but we truly treasure all of the time we have been able to spend together because of the Ronald McDonald House!
By Darla Stover
On my road to becoming a quinquagenarian, I felt a strong need to make my life more meaningful. After struggles with a very important person in my life, I knew I needed to help other families, so I went back to my Alpha Delta Pi days and began to volunteer once again for the Ronald McDonald House. Very early on, I knew I wanted to make Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio my work home.
The Ronald McDonald House holds such an incredible energy that you feel as you walk through the front door. The families staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House are the strongest and most resilient people I know. They are thrown into a foreign medical world to which they must quickly adapt. They learn in a matter of days the names and treatments of conditions and illnesses and know what their child needs to thrive. The families move through their journey with such grace and gratitude for the simplest gestures at Ronald McDonald House.
Faith in humanity is restored when meeting our dedicated volunteers, when looking at the schools, businesses and community groups who gather wish list items, host fundraisers, make meals and clean the House. The staff members are a rare breed of people who are so dedicated to the cause and work together as a cohesive group for the betterment of the whole. They are a talented group who give their time so willingly during and after work hours.
I have never worked harder in my life, and yet I feel so fulfilled. At the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, no problem is too big to solve and no effort is too small to help these families who may be far from their homes and their support systems. As a member of the Ronald McDonald House Charities team, we check our own worries at the door and focus on those with greater needs with laser focus. The lines between corporate executives, public figures, working citizens and the families are completely
erased. Each person involved in with Ronald McDonald House Charities uses their strengths and connections to make the House bigger and better able to help the families who are engrossed in healing their children.
If you haven’t visited the Ronald McDonald House, our staff personally invites you to take a tour. Your life will be forever changed.
By Barb Matta
The Coaches’ Charity Challenge is something that has been near and dear to our hearts for the past three years. With this wonderful contest, Thad, alongside The Ohio State University Basketball team, the entire OSU Athletic Department, and the central Ohio community has come together to support one single cause: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
The outpouring of love and support RMHC of Central Ohio receives through this contest is incredible. The Coaches’ Charity Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for the community to see the heart of what truly matters to our family—helping keep families together while their children are being treated at central Ohio hospitals.
Thad and I have two daughters of our own, and we cannot fathom what we would do if one of the girls became extremely ill, or how we would try to maintain some sense of normalcy. Fortunately, this is where RMHC of Central Ohio steps in for families. The House provides an oasis in the midst of chaos. At the House, families have a chance to eat a home-cooked meal, do their laundry, and watch movies in the in-home theatre—these are only some of the options. The House provides a sense of stability for families while their lives are turned completely upside down. The volunteers and staff are care about each family that comes through the doors. This home captures and embodies the true spirit of love in every sense of the word.
For our family, the Coaches’ Charity Challenge is not just another contest, but a way to keep families together when they need it most. If we are able to win again, this contest will earn RMHC of Central Ohio $100,000, which translates to 5,000 nights of rest for families of seriously-ill children. For the past two years, RMHC has been fortunate to win with the support of the community, and we are in it to win it for a three-peat!
The Coaches’ Charity Challenge evokes a sense of competition that is felt both on and off the court. Thad knows he is fortunate enough to have the backing and support of so many community members voting every day for him on behalf of RMHC of Central Ohio.
The ball is in your court—we hope you will vote with us for the rest of the contest to help support Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, who really needs our support as they are adding an exciting 42 room expansion, which will make the Columbus location the largest House in the world. You can vote every day at VoteCoachMatta.com. Your daily vote helps provide a respite for the families at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, so they can focus on what truly matters—helping their children heal.
By Sean Murray, Membership Committee Chair of the Red Shoe Society, Group of Young Professionals
Years ago, when I was a youngster, McDonald’s ran a commercial featuring Ronald McDonald and other characters with a catchy song I still remember to this day. The song begins with Ronald singing When you believe in magic, and I hope you do, you’ll always have a friend wearing big red shoes. I actually forgot about that song until 2011 when I visited the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for the very first time to volunteer with my team at work.
I was new to the Columbus area and looking for ways to volunteer and new friends to make. My group toured the House and did our volunteer work. I was touched by how much the staff and volunteers do for the families of seriously ill children. At the very end of my trip to the House, I was informed of a group of young professionals whose sole purpose was coming together to assist at the Ronald McDonald House. I asked for information and sent an email, which ended up being one of the best decisions I have made in my life!
Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to the most talented, dedicated and fun-loving group of people I have ever met, the Red Shoe Society. Everyone was welcoming and wanted to get to know me. I volunteered for one of the bigger fundraisers, Dig it For the House, and had an absolute blast. If there’s such a thing as “fun in the sun” in Columbus, Ohio, this event is definitely it! I met the tournament organizer, Bill, and through his energetic and positive leadership, the event had its most successful turnout (and topped that this year). I met Tony, the president of the Red Shoe Society at the time, whose team made it a goal to raise the most funds for the event so they could enjoy the day in the “VIP” lounge. I met Jamie, whose tireless work and seemingly endless hours coordinating with the group during meetings and events really helps keep everything running smoothly.
Since then, I have helped plan membership events, volunteered with the Red Shoe Society to make breakfast for families at the Ronald McDonald House, as well as other fundraising events for the House. I have gotten together to hang out with group members as friends. I can think of no better way to spend my free time than with this group and helping the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Everyone has so much fun and projects are undertaken with a love and passion for giving back that is difficult to describe.
These people, and the many others I have met over the past few years at Red Shoe Society events, are people I am honored to call my friends. Through hard work, determination, hours of planning, members of the Red Shoe Society truly do make magic happen for Ronald McDonald House and I am proud to call myself a member. If I wasn’t a believer in magic before I became involved with the Red Shoe Society, I am a believer now!
by Dee Anders
We all fell in love with the special patient stars in the 2013 Nationwide Children’s Hospital holiday commercial. All of those children wanted to be home for the holidays with their families. If you can’t be home for the holidays, the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is the next best place to be. The holidays are a magical time at the Ronald McDonald House, the outpouring of love and compassion is amazing. The House reminds you just how caring and good people are in this community.
Now, we look forward to an exciting 2014, a year of growth and change here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. We look forward to welcoming new volunteers, new staff members, new rooms, new homes, new families, and new friends. However, one thing that will not change is starting the year off with the Vote Matta Campaign! You can vote every day for the next 10 weeks. Coach Matta and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio are up for the challenge to defend their two-year reigning title, and we are hoping for a three-peat! So please take some time today to vote for Coach Matta and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House at VoteCoachMatta.com. Every vote matters, and helps keep families of seriously-ill children only footsteps away.
by Kate Ziegler
I manage the Volunteer Program at the Ronald McDonald House, and feel so fortunate to work the volunteers who make the house a Home for over 3,000 families each year. My relationship with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio began two and a half years ago when having extra free time prompted me to start volunteering. I was taking a tour of the House as part of the volunteer orientation process and couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that over 300 regular volunteers run the 80 bedroom house with the support of only 12 full-time staff members. I realized during that first tour of the House that I was witnessing something magical.
The Ronald McDonald House embodies the philanthropic spirit of our community members. The families who stay at the House are far away from their own communities while they dealing with the stresses of having an ill child. The moment these families walk through our doors, they are surrounded by volunteers who want to make their day a little easier. A previous guest of the Ronald McDonald House put her experience with us into words:
“I am a mom of a special child. I am always caring for my daughter’s needs and I run a household. STRESS! For the first time in almost eight years, I don’t feel that stress. Here at the Ronald McDonald House, you take it all away. It’s quite a place. I can think, rest, and breathe. You have done so much for us I can never say ‘thank you’ enough. I feel so at home and cared for. I know I am not alone. It feels very nice to be cared for. Your kindness and love will stay with us (me) always. You have touched our lives in ways you will never know. Please keep caring, loving, providing and support each family the same way you have done for my family. I will be forever grateful to each and every one here at the Ronald McDonald House.”
Each and every day, my spirit is renewed by the people who volunteer at the Columbus Ohio Ronald McDonald House. By coming together and donating their time, our volunteers form a community around these families that are so far from home. I am so excited to see the kindness, love and support our volunteers will continue to give to our families as our Ronald McDonald House grows.
Working at the Ronald McDonald House has strengthened my love of my own community and I am so grateful to be surrounded by these wonderful people!
by Ryan Wilkins
Having a child in the hospital is beyond stressful. I unfortunately know from personal experience. When Dylan, our first son, was born in February of 2005, he had a fever. After measuring and weighing him, nurses took his temperature, and all of a sudden, the air was sucked out of the room. Their faces changed, and the doctor was called over for a hurried conference. Then they turned around to my wife and I and told us the news no new parent is ready to hear – “we need to take your child to the neonatal intensive care unit.” The joyous birth of our first child turned into the most frightening experience of our lives in the span of about two minutes.
While we were in the delivery room trying to process what just happened, the only thing on our minds was doing everything we could to fight for our baby’s life. For the next week amazingly sweet and gentle nurses cared for Dylan, helping cure a severe infection. Had it not been for modern medicine, he likely would not have survived. But thanks to the expertise and hard work of the medical professionals, he is a healthy and happy third grader today.
While Dylan was in the NICU inside that clear plastic box with tubes all over his body, there wasn’t anything that could tear his mother and I away from his side. Like many parents thrown into these circumstances, we couldn’t imagine not being there for him. Even though there was nothing we could do for him medically, we knew somehow that being there for him would make a difference. So, for that week, we slept anywhere we could find a place to sleep in the hospital. It wasn’t the optimal situation, but we made it work. What I wish is that there would have been a Ronald McDonald House across the street from that hospital.
At the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, we help families who are going through circumstances just like mine. The goal is simple – provide a home-away-from-home near the hospital for families whose children are being treated. Such a simple thing can make a profound difference in the life of the whole family. We slept on uncomfortable couches back in 2005. However, had there been a Ronald McDonald House right across the street, we would have been able to get a few hours of sleep, take a shower, grab some food to eat, and connect with other families going through similar situations.
That is what drives me every day as I perform my duties at as Director of Community Relations and Marketing for RMHC of Central Ohio. Everything we do is to help moms and dads, just like me, to be close to their children who need them desperately.
When I work to encourage people to donate their vehicles to provide a whole week at the Ronald McDonald House for a family, I think of what it would have meant to Sarah and I to be able to stay at a Ronald McDonald House and have that provided by a generous donor. When we are working to tell the story of the families at the House, I can’t help but put myself right in their shoes. The Ronald McDonald House is such a wonderful gift that we can give to families who are going through the most stressful circumstances.
As we grow to be the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world, I am so proud to be a part of something that is more than the biggest – it will be a support to up to 122 families every night so they don’t have to worry about where they can sleep or what to eat. They can rest assured that a warm bed and comforting community of caring people will be there for them at the House, right across the street, every night. That is invaluable.
by Meredith Harrison
This week, while we take time to reflect on things we are thankful for, I am most thankful for the opportunity to be a part of something much greater than me, the Ronald McDonald House.
My journey started in 2003 when I was in my freshman year at Otterbein College, the year I joined a sorority. This sorority, like so many others, had the opportunity to meet new friends, socialize and to volunteer. Our charity of choice was the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, where we could interact with the volunteers, families and staff. One of my favorite things to do was to host a meal—tacos, of course! At the time, I never would have dreamed that RMHC would impact my life like it has so many others before me. I was hooked!
It started small, spending time with the Housewarmers, answering phones, cleaning rooms and doing crafts with guests. It grew into something much bigger, literally. As the House grew, so did my love for the organization and its mission to help families of seriously ill children.
Have you ever heard the saying, “if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life?” Here I am, 10 years later, doing what I love, working for the Ronald McDonald House as the Donor Relations Manager, and what is even more meaningful is working to help families in need.
Today at the Ronald McDonald House, I spend time doing something unlike anything I’ve done, helping people I would have never met otherwise, and impacting the lives of so many people, including mine. I never know what to expect when I arrive at work. It could be something simple like thanking a generous donor, helping a little girl’s dreams come true by designing a princess room, or even moving 160 beds so that the families have a comfortable bed to sleep on at night. That’s what I love the most—I can always count on something new and exciting knowing it will impact others in a bigger way that I could have ever imagined.
Today, I am thankful for so many things and RMHC is one of them.
My name is Jeff Holzaepfel, and I am a senior at the University of Dayton. This past summer, I was given my first internship at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio as the Marketing Intern. Coming into the internship, I had a vision I would assist with social media marketing and give my ideas on some advertising; however, this was not the case. My internship with RMHC had me making videos, writing for the monthly newsletter, helping to set-up and take down for special events, and navigating through the city to ensure people in central Ohio knew about the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
This was not the typical internship where I was in the office all day. The projects I was tasked with took me out of my comfort zone, which made the whole summer even more enjoyable! The project that most forced me out of my comfort zone was making two videos—there was a volunteer video and a video starring families that were guests at the House. The major challenge of the project was initiating the entire interview process. I was nervous at the beginning because I did not know how to approach volunteers or families, but I had to be proactive and finish the videos. The entire experience turned out to be fantastic. Not only did this project enhance my creative skills, I also have learned better communication skills, which are going to come in use when I am searching for a job a semester from now.
Obviously, the whole summer couldn’t be all work and no play. The staff and other interns made it exciting to come to work. The work environment was unlike anything I thought it would. I felt as if RMHC was one big family. Everyone was more than willing to help one another out on a project, which was one of the biggest lessons I learned that cannot be taught in a classroom. School makes the real world seem as if it is an all work, no play mentality, but from my experience, you can’t get the final product without the fun and loving environment at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.