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 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.
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!
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.
By Stephanie Milan
I’m fairly new to my role here as Volunteer Manager at RMHC of Central Ohio, so when I went to unlock the Princess Room yesterday for my new friend, Sydney, I fumbled around a little, figuring out which magical key on my ring was the correct one.
This isn’t the first set of keys I’ve been given by the friendly folks of the Ronald McDonald House Charities; it’s actually my third.
The first set I received as a guest at the RMH in Cleveland while my newborn baby boy, Milo, was seen by a specialist after having been born 16 weeks early, weighing just over one pound. Those keys opened the door to a soft bed and a warm meal after very long and scary days in an unfamiliar place.
The second set of keys was given to me just months ago, when I began volunteering here just after Milo, at age three, had fought his battle with cancer as hard as he could, but had to let go. With a whole lot of sadness in my soul and way too much idle time, I found my way here. I will forever be grateful for those keys, as they opened my heart to a new way to heal through helping others.
But the keys I hold now, they unlock something much more than the doors to this house. They open a whole new world of possibilities. A world where guests become friends, volunteers are a family and the welcoming warmth of this enchanted house makes all people that enter feel like they are home.
Dear Ronald McDonald House Volunteers and Staff,
My husband and I would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Our baby, Clay, was transferred here very unexpectedly after being born prematurely. We have now spent almost a month at Nationwide Children’s Hospital as our son has grown and learned how to eat. We would not have been able to manage this without your help! We live two hours away and have a three year old son at home. While my husband has stayed home with our son, it has been a comfort knowing I had somewhere safe to stay that is so close to the hospital. This has allowed me to watch over our baby and be involved in his care. Everything from the room to the services you provide has went above and beyond. This is truly a wonderful place! Thank you all for being so good to our family!
The Boggs Family
By Katie Cannon, Team RMHC Member
I promised myself that I would run a half marathon before I turned 50. Being that my longest run ever was 4 miles, this truly would be a major accomplishment for me.
I am not a runner. In fact, I hate to run. When I saw that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House had a fundraising team for the half marathon, I joined immediately. Running for RMHC was the incentive I needed to keep on training, especially because I have personally witnessed why the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is a necessity for families at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t give up on myself because I would then be giving up on the families that needed the RMH!
My oldest child, Rachel, was born on December 4th, 1991, with a very serious heart defect. Her first three months of life and many, many future days and weeks were spent in Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
During this stressful time, my ex-husband and I had the luxury of our child being hospitalized in the city in which we actually lived. We could go home every night to our own bed; our families kept our fridge stocked with food, and we never lacked for visitors to sit with us during the scariest times ever of our whole lives!
I couldn’t even imagine dealing with a Rachel’s hospitalization, far from our own home and support system. Yet I met so many parents that were doing exactly that and remaining strong because of the Ronald McDonald House. Until my time with Rachel at Children’s, I just thought the Ronald McDonald House was basically a hotel that parents could stay in for a very small cost. Wow, was I ever wrong!
The Ronald McDonald House does provide the hotel-type rooms at very little or no costs. However, it provides so much more. RMHC families get a true family to go home to every night by just walking across the street, instead of driving hours to their far away homes. There are home cooked meals waiting every night. Most importantly, because of volunteers, there is a built in support system, to help through those very long and scary times.
Thank you to RMHC of Central Ohio! I am so proud to have helped this great cause! I thank you for being the incentive to check “run a half marathon before you are 50” off of the bucket list!
By Vicki Chappelear
A bright-eyed four-year-old, little girl walked into my office and gave me a big smile. She looked me straight in the eye, placed her hands on her little head and exclaimed, “I don’t have any hair!” She said it as if I didn’t know, but I did know. Her story is much like that of many of the kids I see daily.
I have the privilege of working with the families of kids who are pretty sick. I have seen all types of illness come into my office—cancer, spina bifida, heart issues or an illness yet to be diagnosed—you name it, chances are good I’ve have met a family dealing with it.
There is something that stands out to me about these kids—their resilient attitude. They do not sit around and feel sorry for themselves. I’ve actually witnessed five and six year olds comforting each other and having conversations about medical procedures I do not understand. Many of these little ones don’t know any different; this is their normal. Few of them know life apart from feeding tubes, wheelchairs or a complex cocktail of daily medicine.
The parents do an amazing job of trying to maintain their childhood innocence; their strength is incredible to me. What is a parent to do when their hopes of what is considered a normal childhood is dashed? When bikes are traded for wheelchairs and playgrounds for exams rooms and ORs? They do their best to keep things as “normal” as possible, all the while feeling the pressures of making wise medical decisions and the never-ending barrage of medical bills that they will never be able to pay. And yet, these moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas put on a brave face for their little ones.
I believe these amazing kids have a gift to see life for what it is, to embrace the life they have, to make the most of every moment. God has given them the strength to handle unimaginable trials with grace and a smile. They are not upset with their situation; they do not compare what they are going through with those who are not going through a life-altering experience.
I no longer see children in wheelchairs or children from whom childhood has been stolen, but rather, I see their smiles. The twinkle in their eyes and their love of life as they know it. It’s not about what happens to you or what you are going through, it’s about the eye through which you see those circumstances. These little ones are far wiser than their years.
So when I hear the squeal of laughter coming from a child in a wheelchair or even see the precious smooth, round head of a bright-eyed little girl, I smile because I am reminded there is joy in being alive. This is the path God has chosen for them and they embrace it.