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 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.
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 Carly Damman
February 14th, 2015 marked a special day for both Ohio University students and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. On that day, over 130 students came together to dance for 12 hours straight while raising a total of $18,173 dollars for Ronald McDonald House families. February 14th marked the first ever dance marathon at Ohio University and the first ever dance marathon to raise support for RMHC of Central Ohio.
As an eager and ambitious college senior, I decided to help start BobcaThon at Ohio University. Little did I know it would land me a big girl job one day! BobcaThon became a reality due to hard work, passionate students and a desire to help the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. What a bittersweet moment for me when February 14th finally came around and the idea of a dance marathon became reality! Transitioning from being a student who helped plan the event to a full-time staff member at the Ronald McDonald House was a bit of a challenge for me at first. However, as soon as I stepped foot in the Student Center at Ohio University and saw the event come to life, the challenge was over and the celebration could begin! The students did such an incredible job honoring the families and embracing the atmosphere of a true dance marathon.
Reflecting on my tough transition from student to full-time staff member, I am repeatedly reminded of the transition families staying with us have to make. Can you imagine leaving your home, your friends, your family and your job to spend weeks, even months, at a hospital? It’s surely not an easy transition. It’s probably one of the hardest transitions a family ever has to make. My transition pales in comparison! I am so honored and so humbled to work for an organization that strives to serve families of seriously-ill children in their deepest time of need each and every day. I am beyond thrilled to continue working alongside BobcaThon students to make the dance marathon more successful each year.
For me, each hour of the 12 hour dance marathon symbolized an hour of anticipation for an RMHC family. An hour of waiting during a child’s surgery, an hour of celebration after a cure is found, an hour of praying for positive test results or an hour spent anxiously awaiting next steps on an already long journey. I admire the stamina of each BobcaThon dancer to stand on their feet for 12 hours straight but that’s nothing compared to the strength of our Ronald McDonald House families.
Remember to always take time to dance for the amazing families that stay at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House!
By Ryan Wilkins
Moving stinks. Everything feels unsettled. I know, because my wife, three kids, and me all moved this past week. And the time between homes was even more difficult. In quiet moments, while I was feeling sorry for myself, I had a small voice in the back of my mind. It reminded me that it could be much worse. Imagine if one of our dear children was sick? Or injured? I have a lot to be thankful for. But nonetheless, the moving process was hard.
But it wasn’t so much the process of carrying things around, or unpacking. It’s that feeling of being unsettled. You know what that feels like, right? Have you ever had a time in your life that you felt unsettled? You probably know exactly what I mean. It can be really tough emotionally more than anything.
Moms and dads of kids going through a tough medical situation are beyond stressed out. So, everything becomes a source of stress, anxiety, anger, or whatever difficult emotion they feel. I think that is why the mission of the Ronald McDonald House is so universally loved and supported worldwide.
Think about it. What if your child was in the hospital and you didn’t know where to turn? What would you do? It used to be common for parents to take their children to the hospital, drop them off, and then head back home – sometimes for weeks at a time. Can you imagine? Then parents started hanging around the hospital, sleeping in the lobbies and eating out of vending machines – not a great way to live, but still better than not being there for your child. So you can see why people were so grateful when Ronald McDonald Houses started popping up in cities around the country in the late 70’s.
That gratefulness continues to this day. Nearly every day I hear a family tell me thank you for the Ronald McDonald House. How they don’t know what they would do without it. That they would go broke. Or not even be able to be here with their child. Let’s never let that happen, friends. Together, we will continue to help the families stay together when their children need mom and dad most.
The farther I get away from the process of living out of boxes and not being able to find any of my stuff, the more I realize just how difficult it was for our family. And that was without the added stress of being in an unfamiliar place with a child in the hospital. Thankfully for families with children being treated in Columbus area hospitals, the Ronald McDonald House is here to take away stress.
Come in mom & dad. Sit down and get a bite to eat. Rest – even for just a few minutes – in one of the most comfortable beds you’ve ever laid in. Take a shower, and put on some clean clothes. Then you can get back to the hospital and be fully there for your child. You are welcome here at the Ronald McDonald House. And the whole community of Central Ohio is behind you, cheering you on. You are family here. This is our House.
By Amanda Zari
When our four year old, Ashton, was diagnosed with hydronephrosis (a condition that typically occurs when one kidney becomes swollen due to the failure of normal drainage of urine from the kidney to the bladder), bilateral reflux, and chronic kidney disease, I was devastated. I was worried about a variety of things: how would we afford to travel to Columbus? How would we afford to stay for the many days of testing? How would we afford to get a hotel room for the recovery times of his surgery?
Over the past year, we have stayed at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio over 15 nights. I can honestly say the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has served as a home-away-from-home during some of the most difficult times in my life. When Ashton had his surgery, I was 35 weeks pregnant with his sister. I have no idea how I would have survived those very difficult days without somewhere to rest. Nationwide Children’s Hospital is as accommodating as possible, but I cannot even begin to tell you what I would have done during the weeks surrounding his first surgery. At 35 weeks pregnant, there was no way I would have fit on the cot that the hospital provided. I was able to have a warm meal and a good night’s sleep, so I could be rested to help provide Ashton with care. I was also grateful because we were able to spend the two nights between his discharge and follow up at the House. We live over four hours away, and I cannot fathom having to travel with him directly after his surgery.
We love the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for so many reasons. Every time we come to Columbus, Ashton has to have blood work or procedures that would even make an adult cringe. However, because he loves the Ronald McDonald House so much, going to Columbus is never a chore. When I asked Ashton why he loves it, he responded with “because it’s better than home!” He swears they always have his favorite foods. Ashton also has celiac disease, so he lives off of fresh fruit and chocolate milk, both of which are always available at the Ronald McDonald House. He carries the blanket the volunteers gave him before one of his appointments everywhere and swears it makes things hurt less.
The night before Ashton’s most recent surgery, I remember clearly being so apprehensive about everything that was to come. We cuddled up in the movie room and watched Curious George, and for that moment, all was alright. The Ronald McDonald House is more than a place to sleep; it’s a place to live. It has provided so many happy memories and so much joy to our family. This past year has been a year I would prefer not to relive. The House has been a light in dark and chaotic times. They work seamlessly with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to provide the best care available for both the patients and their families. I have no idea what we would have done if we had been expected to find a hotel in our price range. Gas alone for one of our trips is more than $150. The Columbus Ronald McDonald House has literally taken a huge weight off our shoulders.
For Ashton’s birthday, our family decided to start a new tradition: raising money for the charity of choice, and Ashton chose Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. He started with a goal of $500 (no small feat for a four-year old), and ended up raising $1600 for the Columbus Ronald McDonald House! We are once again raising money for Ashton’s fifth birthday! We are so appreciative of everything the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has provided for us.