By Debbie Conkel, Team RMHC member
I was asked to join Team RMHC in 2015 through my involvement in the Columbus RoadRunners Club. I jumped at the chance because a close friend of mine works at RMHC of Central Ohio and has taken me through the facility several times. It’s a wonderful place and so important for families. Not having any children myself, I nonetheless can totally sympathize with the pain and fear that must come with a child being in the hospital for an extended stay. Being able to stay at a place as cheerful and welcoming as the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has to be a comfort to these families, especially those with other young children.
I’ve been a runner for many years, and have supported a few causes over the years, but I’m committed to Team RMHC because of my personal connections and for the great work that it does. I appreciate all the fun events that take place up until race day for the team and all the great people you get to meet and interact with.
I love running and would probably run the Columbus Half Marathon anyway, but it means so much more to be running for a cause. I love the fact that the race course actually goes right by RMHC, which makes it all the more special. I appreciate the support of friends and family members who have donated to the cause and I can assure them that every dollar goes to helping the families staying at RMHC which means a lot to them.
I’m looking forward to race day, and supporting Team RMHC during my run! Let’s go team, and let’s keep up the good work at Ronald McDonald House!
By Linda Lutz, Bob Evans Farms
Every month, Brian and I look forward to going to RMHC. We get excited on planning the menu to make sure that we can put a smile on each and every face. The feelings I get are so overwhelming that I have been given this great opportunity to spend a couple of hours and make family members who are being challenge by medical issues with their children, have a home cook meal and be normal for just a little while. I can’t image what they are going through, and if we have those few hours to make these families happy, our job is done. I have grown to love the staff, and some of the families we have had the opportunity to see month after month. When we arrive and families come up to us and say they look forward to seeing us every month-it doesn’t get any better than that.
By Karen Kruse, Volunteer
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio has grown under my skin since I began volunteering in January 2015. At first it was the feeling of accomplishment to clean rooms, doing tons of laundry and occasionally helping out in the dining room. Then I got to know other volunteers, staff and families at the House. They all are the heart and soul of this special place and it shines through them in every act and word they speak. It is such a joy to see a spark of hope in the eyes of parents when they share their cares and worries. Seeing a smile on the face of a little one keeps me going throughout the day. Each week I look forward to a variety of tasks to complete and find that the time passes so quickly. Finding motivation to come to the House each week is never a problem.
To learn more about all the ways you can volunteer at RMHC of Central Ohio, please click here.
By Ashley Martin, Red Shoe Society Member
I’m originally from Alabama (Roll Tide), but moved to Columbus after graduate school. I was very active in the volunteer community in Birmingham, so I was excited to plug in to the Columbus community. I looked at a few different organizations, but some didn’t fit my schedule and others made me feel like a cog in the wheel. I wanted somewhere that I could lead, get my hands dirty and see the impact.
I found out about Red Shoe Society from my friend, Courtney, who asked me to go to A Toast to Tinseltown! I was totally impressed with the quality of the event that the Red Shoe Society had pulled together. Around the same time, I had some friends who had a son who was born with a serious illness that led to them spending most of his short life in a hospital. I knew that I wanted to be able to help a place that provides families like them rest during one of the most difficult times of their lives.
The Columbus Ronald McDonald House is magical. It’s filled with the smiles of happy kids and the parents seem at ease with their family all together. As a Red Shoe member, I have been able to cook and serve breakfast to our families, play games & blow bubbles with them and much more. I’ve also been encouraged to step up and be a leader within the organization as a fairly new member, which was really exciting! This year, I implemented a program for our members that helps new folks plug seamlessly with a friendly face.
If you’re looking for a place that you can plug in and really make a difference, I encourage you to check out the Red Shoe Society. Plus, it gives you a great reason to buy lots of new red shoes! 😀
By Abigail Brumme
“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” – Tom Bodett
As the summer ends and back to school season begins, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is serving as a home-away-from-home for many families whose focus is not back to school, but instead the well-being of their seriously ill child. RMHC of Central Ohio serves thousands of families each year that are being given their most difficult test yet.
As you celebrate the end of summer and prepare for the many lessons and tests during the back to school season, please consider supporting our families of seriously ill children that are being put through a different type of test this school season. Your donation will help to provide a comforting place to sleep, home-cooked meals, activities for our families to spend time together, and a place of hope. To donate, simply click here to support our families. Thank you for supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
By Adrienne Bingham, Blog Coordinator, POINT
On a Friday evening this past fall, a team from a local Columbus nonprofit – POINT – had the honor of visiting and serving at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House through hosting a Bingo night for families and friends within the RMHC community. I can safely say, of the many events I have been a part of through working at POINT, this one was the most impactful.
My name is Adrienne Bingham, and I serve as the Blog Coordinator for POINT, an in-development social app for community charity and volunteerism connections; I had the privilege of being on the volunteer team for Bingo night.
Life seems to never be more fulfilling than when surrounded by people who know how to love others well, which is why I think I was so comfortable after walking in the doors of the house – the Columbus Ronald McDonald House loves others well, arguably when those individuals and families may need it most.
Anyone can construct a building, outfitting it with many rooms, certain amenities and aesthetics. It takes the unquantifiable passion and perseverance of loving volunteers and employees of that building to transform its culture into that of a home-away-from-home, where 137 rooms, home-cooked meals, spaces for play, relaxation and the meeting of daily needs are made available to its families.
That Friday evening we were given one of those spaces to play. In the dining room, around dinnertime, we set up multiple tables with bingo cards, paper squares for gameplay and spread out to enjoy many prize-filled rounds with incredible RMHC families and kids. Some POINT members called the numbers, whereas others refilled supplies, or got to play along; I was one of the latter, and it truly was a blast.
At the beginning I wondered if anyone would want to play with us, but that quickly subsided, as enthusiastic, energetic and fun-loving kids brought the party to us. With competitive and resounding “BINGO!”s the night flew by, and at the end I am certain I received more than I gave.
The willingness to be open, authentic, welcoming and simultaneously joyful is what struck me most about the families struggling with the illness of one or more of their children, who are patients of nearby hospital and treatment facilities.
For me, I will always remember Ashton – a rambunctious redhead who could give the Flash a (quite literal) run for his money, and one who – with what must be more adversity than most children ever have to face – exuded yet still more liveliness and love of fun than I’ve seen in a long time. It was through his warrior mom, Amanda, that I came to know his story, and his birthday wish of raising funds for the Columbus Ronald McDonald House in lieu of gifts. All he wanted was to give back to the home away from home that had given him and his family so much.
The RMHC community left our entire team that night with the right answer to the choice within hardship: be the good. Embody love in action. Give the fight, or the hard-fought battle of others, everything you’ve got. Love others well.
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 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 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!