By Andrew Sturgill, Romeo’s Pizza
Many things lead me to donate pizza to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio. The most influential was Joyce Mitchell, my late mother-in-law and her fight with cancer. I remember her saying to me one day that she wasn’t feeling very well from all the chemotherapy, “man, a slice of pizza sure makes you feel normal.” That statement stuck with me, because it’s so true. Everyone loves pizza, I joke all the time the greeting kids give the pizza guy is second only to Santa Claus. Joyce’s statement turned a light on for me. It made me think about how truly blessed I am. I have four beautiful, happy, spoiled, ornery daughters. Most of the days in life for my wife, Stephanie, and I is a circus.
From the impact of what Joyce said, I wanted to start doing a monthly pizza party for kids that were at Nationwide Children’s Hospital with long-term illnesses that were there receiving treatment. I wanted to help the kids “feel normal”, even if only for a brief moment. I also believe that I am truly indebted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital because I was a patient there for 20 years. As with most things I set out to do I aim for the stars and fall short, but the moon has a great view too.
As Joyce and I did research, we realized that doing the pizza party at the hospital was not going to be an option because of many red tape details. However, that is what led our search to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. It made sense; as a parent, I believe there is nothing worse than having one of your babies sick or in pain without the ability to remedy it. I reached out to Columbus Ronald McDonald House and the Volunteer Manager, Meika, and set up the first pizza delivery. Meika is so awesome, always happy and thankful. It makes me feel great when we donate. I asked her if I could bring my two oldest daughters with me on the first trip there to help teach them how good it feels to give.
That first trip was so amazing, it was the only time I hung around while the kitchen staff plus Meika prepared the dinner, because Meika wanted to give the girls and me a tour of the House. As my daughters and I were leaving after our tour, I was able to see into the dining area. The good vibes coming out of there from the few families that had gathered and the kitchen team was amazing. There were many smiles and even some laughter. It gave me a feeling of happiness that is hard to explain; I was hooked.
That brings me to a story I want to share. My District Manager (DM) and I were having a meeting about six or eight months ago reviewing sales, delivery performance, labor cost, and food cost numbers. On that day I was able to coach my DM on something that is more important than pizza or profitability. The DM asked me why we do Ronald McDonald House orders. He explained that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is about 20 minutes away from our closest store’s delivery area and he wasn’t sure we would get any residual business impact from it. He pointed out that we don’t post it on our Facebook or other social media accounts. I believe my answer shocked him in a good way. I simply said, “it is because of how giving those pizzas make me feel.” He looked at me silently for a minute, confused. I explained to him I get more JOY out of giving those 20 or 30 pizzas to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio than I could ever explain with words. I challenged him to deliver an order. A month or so later at a different meeting he told me he had. He smiled at me and said that we should do that as often as the Columbus Ronald McDonald House needs us.
I wanted to share that because I think it speaks to the environment created by the staff, volunteers, donors, and parents at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. In one visit, the House hooked my DM the same way the House hooked me. In short, it makes you feel good being there. It’s a place you want to be a part of, even if it’s just a small part. It’s so funny because now Meika usually just texts me last minute when she needs a quick fill in dinner. I wonder if she knows I look forward to her texts. They make me smile.
I will continue to do all I can for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio for as long as I am permitted. It reminds me of Joyce, whom my family misses dearly. I would have never had the connection with RMHC without her. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio gives so much more to me than they know. No monetary amount or trade of goods ever comes close to the JOY I have when I get a text from Meika, and JOY is a really good thing.
By Andrea Biada, Major Gift Officer
For the past several years I headed our company’s annual holiday drive and I chose the Ronald McDonald House as the charity who would receive our contributions. With the Wish List in hand, I spoke to my coworkers and encouraged them to purchase items from the list for this great cause. The first time I came to the House was to drop off the assortment of items we collected during the holiday drive. As soon as the front doors opened, I felt warmth and compassion from the front desk volunteers and staff members. I was immediately impressed and drawn to the House and its mission.
Shortly thereafter, I noticed the Major Gift Officer position available on the Central Ohio AFP’s website. As I was reading the position posting I was instantly evoked with the same feelings of gratitude and warmth that I felt upon entering the Ronald McDonald House that cold, winter day not long ago. Needless to say, I joined the RMHC team in August of 2015 as Major Gift Officer and I couldn’t be more pleased in my new role.
As Major Gift Officer I meet with foundations and submit grant applications to secure funding for the House. I also give tours to familiarize groups, companies, and individuals with RMHC and its mission. I present naming opportunities, both annual and permanent room signs, as well as pavers for purchase to the groups. Our newest initiative, the Adopt-a-Family program, allows individuals and companies to adopt one or more of our guest families each year to ensure families have a place to call “home”.
The generosity that I see on a daily basis from our Central Ohio community and beyond is truly amazing. I’ve encountered folks who are already engaged in the House, groups new to RMHC, donors, and volunteers, and all come to the House with the same purpose – to help provide our families with the love and support they need to get through this difficult time. I’m grateful to witness such compassion, generosity, and devotion to one House and its mission. I look forward to accomplishing many things in 2016, but most important is working closely with the community to support the Ronald McDonald House and its mission.
By Barbara Matta
The Coaches’ Charity Challenge is something that has been near and dear to our hearts for the past four 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, play in the princess room, 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 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 three years, RMHC has been fortunate to win with the support of the community, and we are in it to win it for 2016!
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 now the largest Ronald McDonald 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 Lindsey Beggin, Volunteer
I will be honest and tell you that my reasons for volunteering at this House in the first place were purely selfish. I was completely broken when I showed up for my first volunteer shift, so much, in fact, that I almost left in tears before I hit the door. A month earlier my brother broke his neck in the ocean, was life-flighted to the hospital, hooked up to a ventilator and deemed a quadriplegic. That following month was trying on my family and I as we all balanced visiting Austin in Chicago and working back home. For the next six months, Ronald McDonald Houses were our homes away from home when we visited, and my mother’s while she wasn’t staying with my brother in the hospital. RMHC gave my family so much more than just a place to eat and sleep during the scariest times of our lives, they gave us hope and such a loving community of support.
No matter how much they change, this house, these walls, and these people will always be my home away from home. I will never be able to articulate even a fraction of the impact this House has had on my life. Here in Columbus I’ve met some of the strongest, most beautiful people and I’ve seen unexpected corners of the community come together for the greater good. I’ll never be able to repay my debt to this House. I may have been broken that afternoon I first walked through those doors, but piece by piece this House helped me put myself back together again.
Last year, Shannon Thomas’ cousin had premature twin boys, Cale and Cole, born in Marietta, Ohio. The twins were healthy in size for being born premature. However, they had multiple complications and were rushed to Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Cale and Cole stayed in the NICU for close to two months.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio became a huge blessing for Shannon’s cousin during an extremely difficult and stressful time. It allowed them to stay close to their babies, rest in a comfortable bed and enjoy delicious, homemade food.
Shannon was so moved when she heard about the option to run for Team RMHC, Ronald McDonald House’s charity running team, stating:
“The decision to join Team RMHC was a no brainer. I completed my first marathon in May for my own personal goals, but this one is for the twins!”
Team RMHC is filled with runners motivated by similar stories. They have each been touched by the love and care that flows from the Ronald McDonald House. Emily Smith and her family stayed at the House while her brother, Will recovered from a tragic car accident. Emily even completed training for her first marathon on a RMHC treadmill in the Columbus Crew SC exercise room! Parker Sinclair has volunteered at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House with the Red Shoe Society and joined Team RMHC with his wife, Elizabeth. Ken Grape’s grandson was born prematurely. The House saved his grandson’s parents a two-hour drive while he spent 7 weeks in the NICU. The stories of Team RMHC runners are what drives each runner, what motivates them to stomp out another mile, what encourages them to finish the fight! Thirty runners completed the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon or Half Marathon to celebrate and cherish the stories that connected them to RMHC of Central Ohio.
13.1 or 26.2 miles completed.
195 nights of rest provided for RMHC families.
Ready to make a difference in your own life and in the lives of RMHC families? Join Team RMHC for our spring season!
Elena and her husband, Milan, were living in Russia, where they met, when they had their first daughter, Josephine. At 4 months old, the Villareals noticed something was wrong with Josephine, so they went to the pediatrician. The doctor told Elena and Milan their daughter had Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1 (SMA). In 2011, the Villareals decided to move to the United States, where there was more research being done for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. There is no cure for SMA and the average life expectancy is 1-2 years old. Josephine passed away at 15 months in May 2012.
By Mackenzie Schuler
I love the fall. I think one of the biggest reasons I love it is because I love watching the The Ohio State University Buckeyes (I’m sorry to my family in Iowa—I still love Iowa and my roots, just not when Ohio State plays them!) College football has a lot of amazing stories that take place both on and off the field. The stories I love are the ones where these football teams take these incredibly bright and resilient children who are battling childhood illnesses and adopt them as an honorary member of their team. AJ McCarron of Alabama befriended Starla Chapman. Nebraska Cornhuskers had Jack Hoffman score an amazing touchdown. The Ohio State University Buckeyes consider Jacob Jarvis a member of the team. These are just a few examples, but these stories pull at your heart strings and unite the community to support these amazing kids!
These inspirational sports stories remind me of some of the incredible stories I have had the honor and privilege to meet here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Every family I have met and every family that stays at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has an incredible story to share. That’s why we are looking for past or current families who have stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House to share your story.
Beginning October 13th, we will begin a campaign on CD102.5 in partnership with McDonald’s and Ohio Center for Broadcasting called Stories of Change, where Columbus Ronald McDonald House stories are shared—family stories, volunteer stories, donor stories, etc. We would love to have you have a conversation between your family about your experience the Ronald McDonald House (we have questions to help you get the conversation going, no worries!) by recording an audio file. You can record the audio file on your phone—click here for directions. If you are coming to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House before October 1st and would like to record your story, please contact Mackenzie Schuler. By recording your story, you are helping share the importance of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House—your story helps create hope and inspire others to share their stories of change because of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
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.