By Darla Stover, Program Director
The Columbus Ronald McDonald House is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even while our families are sleeping and re-energizing for the next day, 2 Family Services Managers are up all night tallying numbers for the day and preparing the House for the next day. The overnight staff takes pride in making sure that the kitchens, common areas and hallways are clean and the coffee is made so the families can wake up and worry only about one thing: taking care of their child. The Family Services staff at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio is a group of 25 managers, some full-time employees but most are part-time. Some of the Family Service Managers have other full-time jobs, some are attending school and yet others have children of their own they are raising.
Family Service Managers (FSMs) check families in and out. When checking families in, FSMs make sure the families know the rules of the House, where all the amenities are located as well as offer emotional support to families who are going through perhaps the most difficult time in their lives. To welcome them to the Ronald McDonald House, each family is given a Thirty-One Gifts tote bag filled with a blanket, stuffed animal and many other goodies. While families are staying at the House, the Family Service Managers make sure they have everything they need and try to take away all of the worries associated with being away from home. FSMs give out toiletries, laundry detergent, alert the families when meals are ready, as well as discuss sensitive situations with hospital social workers. All of these tasks are done to make the families as comfortable and cared for as much as possible so their main focus can be taking care of their child. Aside from caring for our families, the Family Service Managers, are constantly processing room requests received from the area hospitals. In order to process a request, they must run a background check, confirm the child’s appointment as well as determine availability on the request day. FSMs inspect each room before placing a family to ensure cleanliness and a welcoming environment for the family soon to be staying there. Each family upon checkout is given Girl Scout cookies for their trip home. Although a donation is not required, each family is asked to contribute for their stay or to help families in the future to stay close to their hospitalized child.
Our Family Service Managers keep the House safe while the families are sleeping, eating, relaxing, playing and re-energizing. They lend a hand, smile, give a hug, and just listen. They are always in tune with the needs of each family. The Family Service Managers are a most caring and compassionate group of people that dedicate themselves to the care, safety and happiness of each family walking through the doors of the Ronald McDonald House. They have the incredible ability to set their own problems aside during their shifts and focus on the families’ needs and wants. Many times it is the first person that the family meets when walking into the House that leaves the biggest impression on them and their experience while they stay here. For this very reason, the Family Service Managers take great care of the families who may be very fragile, stressed and tired. This group of managers possesses the unique ability to be business-minded, safety conscious and compassionate all at the same time. The families of hospitalized children who stay at the Ronald McDonald House could not be accommodated without the help, love and care of our Family Service Managers. We are forever grateful for them.
By Michelle Love, RMHC of Central Ohio Family
I tell people, you never think it is going to happen to you. I remember when my children were young, sitting around talking with friends, hearing about a precious child and their family who was going through a medical issue, and I would think to myself, “I just couldn’t do that.” Then one day, out of nowhere, our third child, Christin, got sick. That sickness has turned into a lifelong journey.
A few days before our daughter turned 5 years old, I got a phone call from a friend who had just visited, saying how sorry she was because her children had just come down with the flu and she was afraid they had given it to us. I told her not to worry and when our children did get sick, I thought, “No big deal, it’s just the flu.” I was wrong because Christin’s “flu,” her sickness, was not like that of her brothers.
A trip to our doctor revealed that Christin was dealing with something much bigger. I will never forget our pediatrician looking at me saying, “Michelle, you have a very sick little girl.” After being sent to our local children’s hospital, our daughter was diagnosed with bilateral duplicated renal systems, and during an exploratory surgery, we learned the condition was much more complicated than we had originally thought. Of Christin’s duplicated kidneys, one was not functioning and one was misconnected. All of which was causing her severe kidney infections. Our daughter underwent another surgery to correct the kidney problems and after a long hospital stay, we returned home full of hope that all of Christin’s medical issues had been fixed. However, it didn’t take long before our family realized something else was wrong. Multiple issues were revealed through more testing, but one in particular stood out – we learned Christin also had a tethered cord. This meant her spinal cord had limited movement and as a child with tethered cord grows, they can develop a variety of neurological or other symptoms.
We live in North Carolina surrounded by wonderful doctors and hospitals and for four years they tried different treatments, surgeries, and medicines to try and help Christin. Her symptoms got better but it was still not the quality of life we had hoped for her. Then one day, one of our doctors came to me and told me that she was sorry, there was nothing more she could do for Christin. She wanted to refer her to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
This was such a new thing for me. We had never had to travel for Christin’s care and it was scary to think that we were going to have to go to a new state and a new hospital to meet new doctors and try new treatments. On a cold and snowy day in February, Christin and I got on a plane and flew to Ohio. I remember landing, getting in a cab, and looking at my daughter, not realizing our lives were about to change forever when we pulled up to the Ronald McDonald House. When we walked through the doors we were greeted with the most caring smiles, we were surrounded by people who were going through the same things as we were, and these strangers that we were meeting for the first time were going to become our family.
When you are walking through a medical journey away from home, the Ronald McDonald House is there to walk beside you. They think of the practical things, like food, laundry, and a place to sleep. They also think of the FUN! When you look around the Ronald McDonald House, all you will see are smiles, children and their families running around giggling, playing, and having a good time. The Ronald McDonald House is a place where families can go to get away from their medical issues for a moment and focus on being a family.
I am so thankful for all those who support this incredible House. We are humbled and blessed to know that people we will never meet are supporting us as we walk through these difficult medical times, by supporting our home away from home, the Ronald McDonald House.
When people ask me “What does the Ronald McDonald House mean to you?” I always begin to tear up because it is so hard to put into words what they mean to us. I wish people could read my heart. I believe our little girl said it best. One day, when Christin was asked the same question, she looked at me and with biggest smile, said, “The Ronald McDonald House—it’s home!”
This Mother’s Day, please remember the mothers staying at the Ronald McDonald House as they care for their seriously ill child. You can make a difference in their lives by supporting this wonderful organization. Please make a donation today. Thank you for supporting our home away from home and the brave children and families who live here.
All our love,
Jonathan, Michelle, Brooke, Stephen, Christin, and David Love
By Carly Damman, Community Partnerships Associate
Food has a funny way of bringing people together. There’s something about the smell of food cooking in the kitchen, the hard work that goes into preparing for a large meal, the perfectly satisfied “full” feeling you get after the meal and most of all, the people you share the meal with.
Similarly, the sport of running creates a unique bond between former strangers. There’s something about the rush you get after a long run, the perfectly rhythmic pounding of the pavement as two people run together and the peace that surrounds a runner amidst the busy, chaos of everyday life. The bond of a group of runners can’t quite be explained until you experience it for yourself.
Not only was I able to witness this bond last week at the Team RMHC pre-race pasta dinner as a group of runners became fast friends through pasta and running, but I am fortunate enough to witness an even more special bond between families staying here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
There can be up to 130 families staying at the House at one time. Most of them, total and complete strangers dealing with a broad spectrum of medical situations, coming from various parts of the US and world and speaking several different languages. Despite the vast differences between the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, they share a common bond. They are all coping with the stress of having a seriously ill child in the hospital and they are finding hope and healing within the walls of our home away from home. Bonds quickly form between families as they connect with one another and find comfort through each other’s pain. Pain that becomes peace because of the Ronald McDonald House.
One of my most favorite moments in life is seeing connections form between people not because they come from similar backgrounds, wear the same clothes or come from the same place but because they share a unique bond that can hardly be put into words.
Team RMHC bonds over their mutual love for pasta and running but they also bond over their mutual love for our RMHC families. As they continue training and fundraising for our families, they are continuing to show me the power of a bond. A connection. A lasting unity that will empower others to share that same bond.
RMHC families bond over their mutual love for their children and grandchildren. The bond of love is one not easily broken. Virtually nothing can stand in the way of the love formed between a parent and child, certainly not even the devastating diagnosis of a serious illness.
Here at the Ronald McDonald House we’re in the business of keeping bonds strong. Bringing people together. Making connections. Sharing stories. Finding hope, love and healing when it doesn’t seem possible.
By Amy Gooden
In January 2007 my son Joshua was born five weeks premature and suffered severe digestive complications. A few days after he was born he was transferred from Genesis Hospital in Zanesville, Ohio to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Columbus Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It was a very bewildering and overwhelming time. My husband’s company closed and he was unemployed. I had been off work and on bed rest.
The first night we were at Nationwide Children’s Hospital the wonderful staff allowed us to stay in a special room directly across from the NICU. The next day we searched the area for a local hotel close to the hospital. Although we did not have the financial resources, we were prepared to charge each night of our stay on a credit card. We did not know how long our stay would be and the cost each night was well over $100 a night. Just before checking in at a local hotel we received a call from our case worker at Nationwide Children’s. She said a room was available at the Ronald McDonald House and we could stay there at no cost. It was such a blessing! What a relief to know we did not have to worry about how we were going to pay for our stay. Plus, the hospital was just across the street. We did not have to worry about transportation to and from the hospital.
There was something about the House that was so very comforting. Each night when we returned from the hospital, a local company or volunteer organization had prepared dinner for all of the guests. It was cold and dark outside. I can’t explain how comforting it was to receive a warm meal and sit quietly among the other residents knowing my son was just across the street.
Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio provided us with a private room with our own bathroom, a completely stocked and modern kitchen, laundry facility, and a media room. All they asked of us was to clean up after ourselves. Each guest was assigned an area of the House to keep clean. Our area was the library. The library was already a very clean place, but we checked it every day to make sure it was swept and dust free!
It is through those gestures that makes RMHC such a remarkable place. At that time, my husband and I were not able to provide any funds for our stay at the House, but I remember as we were preparing to check out, I thought, someday I will give back to RMHC of Central Ohio for their generosity.
I first had the opportunity to give back to RMHC when I became the advisor for the Rotaract Club at Muskingum University. One of our ongoing projects for is to collect aluminum pop tabs. Since January 2014, the Rotaract Club has engaged the entire campus community to collect pop tabs. On April 28th our club will take a tour of the House and present our pop tabs. We haven’t been able to weigh our tabs yet but I can tell you that I have a giant tub of pop tabs that we will have to roll out of my office!
In July, I will be a contestant in the Dancing with the Divas contest. It is a dance competition and fundraiser similar to the television show Dancing with the Stars. The contest is in its sixth year and is hosted by the Dancing Divas, which is a group of women who promote the love of dance for all ages. Each contestant picks a charity to raise funds; thus, this becomes my second opportunity to give back as my charity will be Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio! My Diva partner and I will be performing a tap routine to Singing in the Rain. I haven’t tap danced since I was 11 years old, so we have started practicing! I have no doubt that we will have a fabulous routine for the show! I am very excited and so happy to be able to finally give back to RMHC.
Today my son is a happy, healthy and enthusiastic 9 year old! Thank you to the wonderful staff at RMHC for helping us through such a stressful time in our lives. The Ronald McDonald House is truly an amazing place, a place of comfort and hope.
By St. Patrick 8th Grade Students
Have you ever thought pop tabs could bring a family together? At St. Patrick School, students in grades K-8 have been working together to collect pop tabs for the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Generous people all over the community have been participating in this event to help families of seriously ill children. At St. Patrick School, family comes first. By helping Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, we are fulfilling that motto.
St. Patrick students and staff put a unique twist on the collection by adding an incentive. The class with the highest pop tab weight per capita would be rewarded with a pizza party and a field trip to the Ronald McDonald House. This project, however, is for the benefit of others. Two eighth grade students had this to say about the impact of the project on their lives: “This has really opened my eyes to the struggles people face in our own community,” said Grant Carpenter. “The more I give, the better I feel,” stated Abby Swierz. “These feelings will grow to become an automatic response to help others, which is what our school is all about. This is a simple project anyone can do, and we encourage others to do the same.”
Thank you to St. Patrick School for their dedication for collecting pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio!
By Anne Romas, Team RMHC member
If someone would have told me I would be running 5Ks let alone half marathons, I would have said they were crazy. Fast forward three years and I have completed six half marathons. However, the most impressionable race I have done was the Nationwide Children’s Columbus Marathon. Being a mother myself and seeing these kids cheering all the runners on made me want to do more with my running.
In 2016, the opportunity came to be able to run on the Ronald McDonald House Charities running team, Team RMHC and I couldn’t say no. I am now able to turn all the miles that I run for my training into money to help the families that stay at the Ronald McDonald House. Even with all the running I have been doing, I didn’t feel that was enough. So, I worked with the owner of a local restaurant, the Chocolate Café, to raise more money. The owner has been so gracious to offer to donate ten percent of the entire day’s sales back to the families staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
I am so happy to be part of Team RMHC!
COLUMBUS, OHIO, March 23, 2016 – Ricart Ford is selected to receive the 2016 Salute to Dealers award by Ford Motor Company. Chosen as one of only three award recipients in the United States, Ricart Ford consistently demonstrates Ford’s unwavering commitment to the community by supporting numerous Columbus area charities. Ricart Ford will be recognized with this prestigious honor at a special ceremony on March 31, 2016 in Las Vegas, coinciding with the National Automobile Dealers Association annual convention.
Founded in 1953, family-owned and operated Ricart Ford has established a legacy within the Columbus community. Current president and CEO, Rhett Ricart follows in his father’s, Paul Ricart, footsteps in supporting hundreds of members of the Columbus community. In addition to his dealership and its community initiatives, the Ricart Mega Mall in suburban Columbus supports more than 500 employees and many Columbus charities.
“My legacy in this business is not going to be how many Ford vehicles I sell. My legacy in the business is going to be how many lives I have been able to change,” said Rhett Ricart.
The Ricart’s love of music inspired them to support the annual Musicians against Childhood Cancer Bluegrass Festival where 100 percent of the proceeds go to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis. Ricart Ford is also a major contributor to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio in downtown Columbus.
“Rhett is a genuinely caring and community oriented guy. He is behind the scenes and is everything that you would want someone who is a business leader in the community to be. He cares about this community and he uses the influence that he has to make a difference,” said Ryan Wilkins, Senior Director of Communications at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
By valuing its customers and employees, Ricart Ford grew to be the number one retail Ford dealership in the U.S. for more than 15 years.
“Dad always said you take care of your customers or someone else will, but the most important people you have are your employees because they take care of those customers each day,” said Ricart.
Ford’s Salute to Dealers awards recognize dealers who go above and beyond when it comes to giving back to the communities in which they live and work. They are being recognized for exhibiting unparalleled giving, dedication and leadership to their communities. As part of the award, Ford Motor Company Fund is donating $10,000 to a charity the dealer supports.
Ford commissions a painted portrait of each honoree featuring a montage of philanthropic and volunteer activities that led to the award. Duplicates of the portraits will join a Salute to Dealers display in the lobby of Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Michigan, manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 197,000 employees and 67 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit www.corporate.ford.com
Contact: Nik Ciccone
By Regina Schwaderer
When I saw the post regarding the GoFundMe campaign for Henry the House Dog, it struck my heart deeply and I knew I needed to do everything possible to help make this happen for the House and its visitors.
I have been a guest at the House while my son was in ICU following brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. While my stay was very short (2 days), the realization that many are there for so long at times is there. In my 2 short days the magic of its existence was felt.
After my son’s surgery, once we received the full course of what was to take place to get him healthy; we had to make the difficult decision to rehome the dogs we had at the time. We were going to be gone almost all of the next 7 months as all of his chemotherapy required him to be inpatient for stays of 3 weeks at a time. This was very hard on me as they are just as important to me as my kids. When we were home, not having happy tails greeting me at the door made home not seem like home. Our highlight at that time was an occasional 4-legged visitor in the lobby of the hospital when we were inpatient. My son always lit up when he saw the dog even though I knew he wasn’t feeling the greatest, and I felt some of my heaviness lift too.
Ronald McDonald House already does so much too feel like home away from home for so many, but there is one thing missing: a dog. To myself and many families, a house isn’t a home without a dog (in my case 2 or 3). Henry will fill this spot and bring so much joy to so many.
My experience of staying at the House, drives me to do for the House. I joined the Cardinal Health Committee dedicated to the Ronald McDonald House to become more active in doing things for them. I am looking forward to do whatever I can to bring the committee together and bring Henry home! Here’s to hoping to meet Henry soon!
By Ginger Tinkler, Volunteer
When I retired from 34 years of teaching, I was excited when a small group of women from our church asked me to join them in preparing a lunch for the families at Ronald McDonald House. I had always wanted to do volunteer work but never had the extra time to do so. I especially wanted to give back to the staff and hospital that had given so much to our family when my youngest grandson was diagnosed with infantile scoliosis when he was only a few months old. Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Cincinnati Children’s provided all his care for the first three and a half years of his life. He still makes yearly trips to Cincinnati Children’s for check ups but he is well and no longer shows any signs of the disease. Little did I know that toward the end of last year, my granddaughter would be diagnosed with a rare disorder and require the services of the staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Our small group has grown in size and we are now able to provide two lunches a month. It doesn’t seem like I do much. I feel blessed that I can bring a brief respite to their lives. However, these families who are often facing far more difficult circumstances than my grandchildren, show me hope, their faith, and stubborn determination through their love for their children. Words cannot explain the blessings I receive when I volunteer at Ronald McDonald House. I am so grateful to be able to give back a little for all that my grandchildren have been given.
By Angela Alder, Strategic Partnerships Associate
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Gandhi
While pursuing my Bachelor’s degree and working full-time, I spent, what little free time I had, planning events for a local wedding planner. I spent countless hours doing the less than glamorous, behind-the-scenes work involved in executing any big event. I worked tirelessly on timelines, contracts, budgets and calming anxious brides all for the rewarding moment of seeing it all come together on a couple’s big day! It wasn’t long before I realized I had found a new passion in event planning!
After graduation in the spring of 2012, I walked away with a diploma, some larger than life student-loan debt, quite a bit of free time, and a yearning for something more. I wanted to give back. I was so enthusiastic about events, but wanted any (all) of my volunteer efforts to be put towards meaningful work. If I was going to be giving of myself, I wanted it to be in the service of others. A friend of mine was on staff at the Ronald McDonald House and invited me in for a tour. As we walked through the halls, she spoke of the young professionals group dedicated to supporting the volunteer and fundraising needs of the House. These young men and women (of the Red Shoe Society) took part in hands-on opportunities such as cooking meals for the families, donating items, peer-to-peer fundraising, awareness of the mission and planning & organizing, you guessed it, special events! I joined immediately and began attending the monthly meetups. I was soon introduced to Jamie, the Special Events Director and other Red Shoe Members who invited me to be on the planning committee of one of Red Shoe Society’s biggest events, A Toast to Tinseltown.
For the next four years, I volunteered on the Red Shoe Society. Through networking and volunteering, I built relationships with those that shared the mission of the House and followed suit by building friendships with many of the members on staff as well. I continued to work full-time in a corporate office where I facilitated multiple in-kind giving opportunities, collected pop tabs for the Pop Tab Program and invited coworkers to come see first-hand, the House that Love Built. I wanted to share the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities with anyone that was willing to listen.
A few months ago, I got a call from Jamie with the opportunity of a lifetime. She asked me to be a part of the RMHC team as a full-time staff member. I couldn’t hold back the tears! As the Strategic Partnerships Associate, I now lead the young professionals of the Red Shoe Society and host multiple special events for the organization throughout the year! Here at the House, I am surrounded by staff members that I have, for so many years, grown to know and love. Here, I am able to work alongside volunteers who give selflessly of their time and hearts to make the lives of others a little bit easier. It is here, at the Ronald McDonald House that I was finally able to find myself, only after losing myself in the service of others.