When Brianna was in 8th grade, she lost 17 pounds in 10 days. She had to pull out of school and the extracurricular events she loved. Her quality of life was fading, and no one could provide the Smith family answers for Brianna’s condition. Finally, Brianna’s doctors in her home state of Alabama had an answer: Brianna suffers from gastroparesis, which is an incurable condition where the stomach muscles stop working. Her doctors recommended the family come to Ohio, where there were specialists who could provide answers and treatment for Brianna. The family came to Nationwide Children’s Hospital and stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House to be able to focus on Brianna’s health–this is just one example of how families travel from all over the world to receive care in Columbus. Below are letters from both Brianna and Brianna’s parents.
We wanted to thank all of the staff and volunteers for making us feel so welcome and at home here! We stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for almost three weeks as our daughter was receiving treatment for her gastroparesis. The first week she had a temporary pacemaker placed, then the next week they placed the permanent pacemaker. Staying as close to Nationwide Children’s Hospital was such a blessing and the Ronald McDonald House felt like we were at a home away from home–it is amazing! What a blessing the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has been! Thank you so much!
Margo and Joel Smith
The Ronald McDonald House was really nice especially since it was right by Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It helped when I had my surgery so I could just walk to appointments, which made it really easy. I love that we were fed meals–everything was so convenient.
By Dee Anders
The best flower coming this May will be opening the new rooms at the Ronald McDonald House in central Ohio. Even though the entire project will not be complete yet, we will have more guest rooms to accommodate all the families who have a child being treated in central Ohio hospitals. We are so grateful to our volunteers, board members, and community supporters who have supported Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio during this expansion. Most of all, we send our love and appreciation to the families who have weathered the expansion and renovation with us. The month of May will be a time to celebrate, do some spring cleaning and welcome families with open arms at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
By Emily Smith
Almost three years ago, my family went through a horrific automobile accident that left my youngest brother, Will, in critical condition with a traumatic brain injury. He eventually was sent to Nationwide Children’s Hospital here in Columbus and was cared for by the most wonderful staff. Will spent over four months on the rehabilitation floor working hard on his recovery and my family was fortunate enough to be there 24/7. We live about an hour’s drive from the hospital, and without the comfort and services that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House provided, we would not have been able to be near Will as often or as comfortable as we were. I truly believe Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio had a direct impact in Will’s recovery because without it, our family would have been more stressed and not have been able to be as active in his rehab.
The Ronald McDonald House provided a home away from home where we could relax after a long and often emotional day at the hospital. The House was a short walk across the street from the hospital and they provided three meals a day, a comfortable bed to flop down on and get a good night’s rest, a warm shower, laundry, a workout room, a library of books, and the best part: a community in which you healed and comforted one another while meeting strangers and sharing your stories over dinner.
I come from a family of runners, always training with our minds focused on the next race ahead. Running serves as my outlet, my way of relieving the stress of the day and serves as my time to reflect on what has happened during the day. During our stay at the House, I became very familiar with the workout room and the treadmill and although I prefer running outside, I would look forward to the afternoons I was able to unwind to the monotonous “clop, clop” of my feet hitting the belt. Believe it or not, I trained for a half-marathon in that room.
A year after the accident and our long residence at the House, I decided to run the 2012 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon as a member of Team Ronald McDonald House Charities, also known as Team RMHC. It was my way of giving back to the two organizations that gave so much to my family, and a small way to say ‘thank you’ to the countless individuals who took care of us during our time in need. The run was incredible. Previous patients deemed ‘Patient Champions’ line the course and cheer you on, meanwhile you cannot help but think it should be the other way around. I knew my brother was out on the course and anxiously looked for him the whole race. By mile 25 I was exhausted and upset that he was not at the two spots my dad told me to look for them. However, toward the end of mile 25 I spotted Will—he was standing (with assistance from my dad) and was cheering me on. Needless to say, I was crying while I crossed the finish line.
I will be running the Columbus Marathon again this year as a part of Team Ronald McDonald House Charities and I encourage you to do the same. As a team member, we fundraise for the House—a place that provides a home-away-from-home for countless families going through what might be the worst time of their lives. The House is a beacon of hope and warmth and the reward you will feel giving to this place will be invaluable.
*If interested in learning more about Team RMHC, please reach out to Darla Stover at Darla.Stover@rmhc-centralohio.org*
By Brett Letestu
My name is Brett Letestu, but some of you may know me as “the Canadian with the Minnesotan accent.” My husband and I came to Columbus less than three years ago when he joined the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team. We now live here full-time with our sons, Caleb and Dylan.
Giving back is very important to us. Although we may move more often than the average family, we always look for ways we can contribute to each community we live in.
I first became involved with the Ronald McDonald House last winter after touring the facility with my fellow Lady Jackets. I was so impressed with the enormous amount of hard work our neighbors in Columbus did to make this sanctuary for families a reality. On a more personal level, I was thrilled to see the Blue Jackets involvement and immediately asked what I could do to help.
Shortly after that tour, I began volunteering at the house weekly. I help with everything from answering the phones, to cleaning room after a family checks out, to doing laundry and stocking shelves. In my time at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, I’ve met some of the most amazing, inspiring people and made some true friends for life. Honestly, I never imagined my time there would impact my life as much as it has. I’m deeply humbled to be even a small part of an organization that provides so much comfort to so many in need.
Besides volunteering, the Lady Jackets also organize special projects and events to help the the Columbus Ronald McDonald House even more. During the holidays, we joined forces with the Blue Jackets Foundation to organize a Blue Jackets Favorites Basket Auction and Raffle. We gathered a variety of our husbands’ favorite things to be auctioned off, including game worn items, game consoles, golf items and their favorite candy, movies and gift cards to their favorite restaurants. The proceeds went to the charity of our choice—and of course we chose Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio!
Most recently, we’ve started designing and outfitting a “Princess Room” as part of the current expansion project. As the mother of two boys, this is particularly exciting for me—I’ll finally get to help design a room with pink, princesses and glitter! We’re also working hard to gather ideas and materials to make this room come to life. We hope to get inside the room and begin making the magic happen by beginning of May, and we’ll be sure to update you on our progress.
We’re grateful and humbled to have this opportunity to help make little girls’ dreams come true, and look forward to celebrating the room’s completion with—what else? —a Grand Opening Tea Party!
As mentioned before, working with the wonderful and dedicated employees, fellow volunteers and meeting the remarkable families that stay there has been a life changing experience for me. This unique nonprofit provides a real win-win for everyone. I’m so proud to work alongside you!