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 Aren Carmen
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into the first time I stepped through the doors of Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. I had heard the stories, the praise, the positivity that surrounds the house and their mission. I was nervous, painfully so. What could I do to help with something so big, so grand, so important? The first tour did nothing to quell my anxiety as we walked past room after room and I tried my best to soak up every statistic that was thrown at me. From play areas to family rooms, kitchens to offices, I was in awe. The scale of the house baffled me, the passion of the staff inspired me, but the families were what made everything fall into place. From day one I knew that this was not going to be any old internship.
Every time I walk through the doors now, it’s not anxiety I feel, it’s motivation. There’s an aura in the house, the offices, the staff themselves that drives everyone further. Pushes them a little harder to do anything and everything they can to support the families that need the help we provide. This summer I learned what a labor of love truly was. The staff and volunteers that keep the House up and running taught me that in their daily actions. They don’t seek praise, they don’t want anything but to see a family through the hardest times of their lives and finally out that door to get back to their homes happily. The families taught me what it meant to be gracious and strong in the face of tribulation. Despite the situations that led them to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, they stayed optimistic, friendly, and supportive of each other. I saw the power that a sense of community has in combating despair and fear. I watched families check in, weathered and drained. I watched them check out, bright with life and beyond thankful. I heard stories that tore my heart in two and met kids that I never wanted to stop talking to. I spoke to people that challenged my thinking and others that redefined words like love, courage, and strength.
One of the first things that happened to me when I got the news that I would be working at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio was a conversation with a friend who told me about the impact RMHC made on his family when his brother was born. He said that they didn’t know what they would’ve done had it not been for RMHC. It took being a part of the reality of the mission to realize the gravity of his words. When someone talks about the impact that the House makes, it doesn’t stop at the bed they sleep in, or the food they eat. It’s in everything that you experience here. The families, the staff, the support, the feeling of community, the love that you sense in everything that is done here, it all culminates in a truly humbling and powerful experience that words could never capture. The memory that I will hold most tightly to was watching a family I saw check in early into my time here walk out, both children by their side holding massive over-sized stuffed kangaroos, as they thanked the volunteers at the front desk, thanked any staff that was close enough to be thanked, and took one last look at the House that they had needed so dearly. There is so much that can be said for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, but none of those words embody what Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio truly is. I’m beyond thankful I had the chance to be even a small part of the mission, to experience what this House means to the families it serves, and to have met the people that spend their days focused on helping others through trials that most could not even imagine. The Ronald McDonald House has given me a truly meaningful experience, one that I will never forget.
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.
By Diana Beil, RMHC of Central Ohio Volunteer
In 1991, my brother was a patient at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. For several months, my mother stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House while he was in the hospital. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a group of coworkers who prepared a meal for the families staying at the House. Being there reminded me of all the stories my mother shared about her time staying at the House and how blessed we were to have the House during such a difficult time. After that visit, I realized I wanted to become more involved with the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and I have been volunteering ever since.
My favorite part of being a Housewarmer is the interactions with the families. It is a great feeling to know the simplest of tasks – providing directions, providing forgotten toiletries, etc. makes their day just a bit easier. I am always fascinated by the distance people come to receive care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I have a great sense of pride for the Hospital and the House, and feel confident telling the families that they are in the best place they can be for their child. I also have met some of the most generous people working at the House. It is nice being surrounded by others who value volunteerism and giving back to our community.
My mother came to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House with me a couple years ago to take a tour. It is very different than the small house she remembers. I can’t wait to have her come back and check out the new addition. I think the most rewarding part of being a volunteer at the House is knowing I’m making my mother proud and giving back to such a wonderful place that helped our family all those years ago!
By Abby Brumme
“As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.” –Dieter F. Uchtdorf. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was pretty much always that I was going to be a teacher, an actress, or ballerina, but we all know how that goes. If you asked me what I was going to do for my career when I started college, I would have again said that I was going to be a teacher. Here I am at my desk at RMHC of Central Ohio as the Development Associate with a Communications degree and I couldn’t be happier.
How did I end up here? Miracles. Miracles like Jenna, Brandt, Jackson, Lyndon, Robert, Carly, Dylan and so many more. I was lucky enough to get to know these little miracles through Dance Marathon, which raised money for the local children’s hospital at BGSU and I knew immediately that my career path was going to be changing. I met children who spent the beginning of their lives in the hospital, children who have beat all the odds, children who have gone to more doctors’ appointments in their short lives than most people will ever have to, but most importantly children who never wiped the smile off their faces or gave up hope no matter what they were going through. Spending time with these miracle children led me realize that my path in life was going to change and for the better.
Never in a million years would I have thought that I would have graduated college and within weeks begin working for such a rewarding organization. Every day at work I see new miracles coming through our doors who are also working to beat the odds against them. Not only do I see the many miracles who stay here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, but I also see countless volunteers, community members, organizations and so many others who selflessly give to create a welcoming home-away-from-home for the many families who stay with us. It’s true what the quote says–by losing myself in the service of others I found my path and my happiness.
By The National Board
One day, a mom and a dad will walk out their child’s hospital room with heavy hearts and seek solitude together in the Safelite Serenity Rooftop Garden of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. There, dozens of engraved pavers will line the walkway and represent to those parents that a community cares about them and their child.
This is why The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors is honored to be one of hundreds of donors who support the selfless cause of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House through participation in its rooftop garden paver program, and are truly grateful that such a charity exists for seriously ill children and their families.
The National Board has been tied to the good works of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House through the volunteerism of its employees and collecting items for the Wish List during the holidays. Additionally, in 2010, Nationwide Children’s Hospital donated its 40,900-pound watertube boiler to the National Board to be used as part of the training program the organization offers to pressure equipment inspectors from around the world.
About the National Board: Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, since 1919, The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors is a non-profit organization that promotes greater safety to life and property through uniformity in the construction, installation, repair, maintenance, and inspection of pressure equipment. Learn more at www.nationalboard.org.
By Dan Wyatt, Cardinal Health Employee
Beginning in January of 2014 my daughter, Riley, began to suffer from continual illnesses. After almost 2 months of constant doctors’ visits, she was finally diagnosed with HSP (Henoch-Schonlein Purpura). HSP is a form of blood vessel inflammation or vasculitis. HSP affects the small vessels called capillaries in the skin and frequently the kidneys. HSP results in a purplish skin rash associated with joint inflammation (arthritis) and sometimes cramping pain in the abdomen. As with most illnesses, its severity ranges from mild to extreme. Unfortunately we were about to find out Riley will soon be diagnosed with its most severe form.
On Riley’s 9th birthday (March of 2014) we were attempting to celebrate her birthday. We hadn’t even cut her cake when she leaned over to me and said “Daddy, something’s wrong.” Within minutes my wife and I were rushing Riley to Nationwide Children’s Hospital with severe internal bleeding. Within the course of one hour, Riley had lost all the blood in her body, twice. Without knowing the exact point of the internal bleed, numerous tests were being run while she was being given emergency blood transfusions. This is when we were told of the severity of the HSP and the critical situation Riley was now in. She was literally fighting for her life. After what seemed like forever, Riley was finally stabilized and moved into Children’s ICU, where she spent a week recovering. After still more tests, the doctors were not able to find the source of the bleed. She was eventually released with a high dose of steroids, to help with the internal bleeding, a course of 30 days of antibiotics to keep her from picking up any immediate infections, and pain medications.
A year later, Riley still suffers from HSP, however its side effects of the rashes, the severe stomach cramping and joint pain has been greatly reduced. Her specialist at Children’s finally gave the green light to discontinue the steroids and pain medications as of March 1st; and we hope that by the end of this year, she will be discharged from his care. At this year’s birthday celebration, Riley was surrounded by family and a dozen of her closest girlfriends! It truly was a celebration of her life!
I have been volunteering at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for the past couple years and I have always been touched by the stories of those with children spending time at the hospital. After I became one of those parents who spent more time at the hospital, rather than at home with their child, volunteering here took on a whole new meaning. I grew even fonder of the services that both Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House provide to those in need.
By Megan Evans, Grants Administrator, The Licking County Foundation
The Licking County Foundation is pleased to partner with the Ronald McDonald House to support the Helping Hands Program designed to help support nights of rest for families of seriously-ill children. Bordering Franklin County to the east, Licking County residents often find themselves in need of a place to call home when their young ones require care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The Licking County Foundation, founded in 1956 to improve the quality of life for all citizens of Licking County, is partnering with the Ronald McDonald House for a sixth year to support Licking County families in need of a place to stay.
Licking County consistently ranks within the top five counties in Ohio to use Ronald McDonald House’s services. Although most Licking County residents are within an hour drive of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, for many families with a seriously ill child, having the ability to stay at the Ronald McDonald House while their child receives treatment directly across the street provides a source of relief. Staying at the Ronald McDonald House provides Licking County residents the precious gift of time with their child and saves them countless hours they would otherwise use commuting to and from the hospital.
Since 2006, Ronald McDonald House has provided services to over 1,200 families from Licking County with over 10,000 nights of rest. The superior facilities at the Ronald McDonald House give families the ability to stay together and be close to their ill child, allowing them to focus on what is most important—the successful recovery of their child. We truly appreciate our partnership with the Ronald McDonald House and their support of the Foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for all citizens of Licking County, one family at a time.