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 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!
Dear Ronald McDonald House,
Our son was born on March 4th at Fairfield Medical Center. He was in respiratory distress and was immediately transported to Nationwide Children’s Hospital J4 NICU. I was not able to join him because of my C-Section until March 6th. One of the hardest things I have ever done was watch them take my new baby away and known I would not get to touch, hold, or even see him for at least two more days. After I was discharged, my husband and I drove immediately to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The social worker at the hospital had mentioned the Ronald McDonald House to my husband and by the time I was discharged and ready to travel to Columbus, they had a room available for us. What a blessing it was to be right there the whole time! My husband and I were able to take turns spending time in the NICU with our new baby and at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House with our four and six year olds. It was truly a blessing to be able to have our entire family together during this very trying and exhausting time we spent in the NICU. Being right across the street from the hospital allowed me to be able to nurse my baby almost around the clock and provide some much needed kangaroo care for both of us. Thank you for everything!
The Hayes Family
By Erica Hollar
Five years ago after finishing law school, I moved back to Columbus. School was over, and I was ready to start my career. Luckily I had found a job, but at the same time, I was looking for something to fulfill my desire to give back to the community. When we were younger, my mom had always instilled in my sister and I the idea of “paying it forward.” I finally felt like I was at a point where it was time for me to start giving to others. My mom, who is CEO and Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House told me about the Red Shoe Society. I thought it would be a great way to not only meet new people, but to also serve an organization my family had become so passionate about.
I joined that year, and since then I have held different offices, attended the best fundraisers in the city, helped others, and met some of the greatest people and some of my best friends. I joined the Red Shoe Society with the idea of helping others; however, I had no idea that by helping others I would be helping myself. When I participate in events through the Red Shoe Society, I feel a sense of fulfillment unlike any other. My personal favorite activity is serving breakfast on Saturday mornings. Something that is so easy, fun and simple for us means the world to the families staying at the House. As we all know, life gets hectic, and that is without a sick kid in the hospital. It’s nice to be able to bring some simplicity to these families that are going through turmoil.
I’m thankful to not only be a part of, but also have a leadership role, in the best young professional group in the city. As life gets hectic, I encourage each of us to remember why we do what we do. A small part of your day means the world to these families! Embrace each opportunity presented to you through the Red Shoe Society and the Ronald McDonald House. The impact that it will have on the families served, as well as you, will be monumental. I promise!
Ethan Graham was born at full-term and looked so perfect. His parents, Ryan and Ashley Graham, could not wait to take him home to see his siblings. A couple weeks later, Ethan was not able to have any bowel movements, so his parents took him to the doctor. Ethan’s doctors knew they weren’t able to give the answers the Graham family was looking for, so they sent Ethan from Kentucky to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. Vanderbilt could not give any answers as to what was going on with Ethan, so they sent him to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. While at Kosair, Ryan and Ashley found out Ethan had a bleeding disorder, so they sent Ethan and his parents to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The family had a nurse refer them to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, and they arrived right before Christmas of 2013.
Since Ethan has been treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, he has undergone three biopsies and two scopes. He has all of the symptoms for Cystic Fibrosis, but this little boy has not tested positive for this disease, so his diagnosis is still unknown. This has resulted in a lot of travel from the Graham family’s home in Kentucky to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. “We’ve met a lot of families over at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, only to find out the family we have been talking to is also staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. We met Story Hill and her parents (an amazing little girl whose story we told in 2014), and learned just how similar our children’s lives were—from living in Kentucky, to having the scary experience of having our children lifeflighted from Kentucky to Nationwide Children’s Hospital—it has been wonderful to know someone who has common ground that can relate to our family’s story.”
Ashley said she is continually blown away by the amenities at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. “We’ve taken so many pictures of Ethan in the library, so it has been fun to see him grow and change. The movie theatre has also been a lifesaver, because Ethan wants to stay up while his dad may want to sleep, so Ethan and I make our way to watch movies there late at night. I was here before, during, and after the expansion. I was here last Friday when they opened the NHL All-Star Tree House—what an amazing space! We love the Columbus Ronald McDonald House because of the volunteers and the sense of community. From listening to a little girl sing “Let It Go” from Frozen during dinner and applauding her for her performance, to bonding with other families in all of the beautiful common spaces, there is no place like the Ronald McDonald House. We are truly grateful for this place!”
By Mackenzie Schuler
For anyone living in the central Ohio area, you know this weekend is a major weekend for Columbus. If you are not familiar with what is happening, let me bring you up to speed: The 2015 NHL All-Star Game is happening at Nationwide Arena! This is a huge opportunity for Columbus to show the world why we are an incredible city that is the best kept secret.
One of the best kept secrets of The 2015 NHL All-Star Game is the Legacy project. In each city that The NHL All-Star Game is held, the League works with a local charity to complete a meaningful project. For this year’s charity project, several central Ohio charitable organizations submitted a proposal for what they would like commissioned for their charity.
When we submitted our proposal, I honestly had no idea what to expect. It sounded amazing, but I could not even wrap my mind around what we were going to be doing. We were in the midst of our grand opening, which has now made us the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. I was not sure the NHL would even choose the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for this project. However, I was proven wrong, and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House was fortunate enough to have been chosen to have our project commissioned for The 2015 NHL All-Star Game.
Columbus is an incredibly generous city that has the support of so many organizations. The NHL saw the generosity of the Columbus Blue Jackets, an organization that has proven to be a vital partner to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House time and time again. The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation have supported us by adopting rooms within the Columbus Ronald McDonald House (have you seen the Jacket Zone in our basement or The Lady Jackets’ Princess Room?!), bringing their team to the House to play games with our families, throwing an amazing princess party for our little girls, and helping with landscaping and other projects. The Columbus Blue Jackets, the Columbus Blue Jacket Foundation, and The Lady Jackets are truly helping families with seriously-ill children at the House. Without their support, we could not make a difference in the lives of these families every day. We are grateful.
While I am sworn to secrecy to not tell you about the NHL All-Star Legacy Project, I can tell you this: you are going to be blown away. Stay tuned for the unveiling on Friday, January 23rd at 9:30 a.m.
By Bob Tidwell
My name is Bob Tidwell. I am a volunteer at the Columbus Ronald McDonald on Tuesday night, and my role is the House Host. The volunteers on Tuesday night and the Family Service Managers are just great. I’m proud to be a part of that team.
The House Host position was created by RMH as it was expanding earlier last year when more rooms and more community spaces were added. This meant there was a greater need for helping patients and their families get checked in and settled at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Previously, I was a Housewarmer. When this new position was posted, I jumped at the opportunity as I enjoy the personal interaction with families, including the patients. In the process, I moved my hours later and later, as it seemed many families were checking in later after a long drive from their homes. Now I work from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday evenings. I’ve checked in families from North Carolina, Western Pennsylvania, Boston and many other cities, states, and countries.
Some families arrive in Columbus in the morning and go immediately to Nationwide Children’s Hospital or any of the other area hospitals with their child. The family, minus their child (who has now been checked in to the hospital) then comes to RMH after an exhausting day at the hospital to get checked into the House. Their needs seem to be different than those families who come to RMH late with their child still in tow so I try to adapt. However, these families all seem to have one thing in common—they look frightened and their look seems to say what is going to happen to my child? Either way there is visible relief when they understand there’s a place for them to eat and sleep. I tell them they are in the best place in the world—the hospital will take care of their child and RMH will take care of them with love and compassion.
When families check in, I like them to understand their basic needs will be taken care of: where they will sleep and where they will eat. As we walk around, I try to understand their needs, particularly if they plan to be here a night or two or for an extended period of time. Laundry facility, a spa where they can get haircuts, gym, movies, game room, library, etc. For families who check in late and are worn out from the drive, I give them an “efficient tour” and encourage them to read the facility information in their room or explore the House when they have a free moment.
When I was a Housewarmer, I certainly had the ability to say hi to folks over the weeks and make this experience more personal for them. The position of House Host, however, makes it possible to remember names (not always) but at least remember them and why they are there. It seems a great idea to touch as many lives as possible and a great strategic decision by RMH to create this position.
I was so touched when one of our families, who I had checked in and seen many times since then, came up to me and asked if I had eaten. I told them I had not. They then offered me some of food they had prepared for themselves. I think it’s symbolic of the appreciation of the families to RMH.
I love it when families come in late and have a little girl in tow, invariably going into Children’s for special testing or a procedure. I ask if they would like to see The Princess Room. The joy and awe on these little faces (and the parents) is incredible when they see it and go in. Maybe the visit is for open heart surgery or some other complicated procedure and they won’t have a chance to see it again. It’s wonderful for me and hopefully for them as well.
I also volunteer at another area hospital’s emergency room every week, also where I have the opportunity to work with families of patients who are brought in for emergency treatment. The personal dynamics are virtually the same—fear of the unknown. Though at the hospital it’s more of a short term issue while at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, unfortunately, is generally longer term. The support of RMH is an incredible benefit to our families and we should all feel proud for contributing.
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 Kate Ziegler
“We might not ever meet face to face, but I care about you and your well-being”.
The volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House at the kindest, most supportive and warm-hearted people I have ever met. Each day when I walk into work and smell homemade cookies, or see a group of kids making lasagna for lunch, or see a maintenance volunteer cleaning an air filter, it lifts my spirits in ways I can’t really put into words.
Not all of the acts of kindness that our volunteers perform on a regular basis are ever noticed. Our maintenance volunteers most especially typically fly under the radar. I can’t say that any of our families noticed that the air vents in the kitchen were cleaned this morning, that their bathroom fan doesn’t squeak, or that the fluorescent lights are never out. The maintenance volunteers at RMH work quietly behind the scenes to ensure our families are safe and well cared for so that they can spend more time at the hospital with their children and less time worrying about the small stuff.
It’s this type of giving that gets me out of bed in the morning. Each day I am surrounded by people who come into the Ronald McDonald House and say “I’m here to help make your day easier because I know you’re having a tough time. We might not ever meet face to face, but I care about you and your well-being.”
Take a moment to think about all the little things you do at home – changing air filters, cleaning baseboards, changing light bulbs…all of those things need to be done here too, except the people who live here can’t do them. If you stop by the Ronald McDonald House and notice that everything looks like it’s in its place, it’s because a volunteer made that happen!
If you are interested in becoming a Maintenance or Housewarming volunteer, visit rmhc-centralohio.org/volunteer.php
By Vicki Chappelear
On the eve of our grand opening weekend, I have to pause at the gravity that is taking place. “Grand Opening” even the name suggests a big event. What has taken place over the past two years at our current Ronald McDonald House, let alone from where we started more than 30 years ago with just 15 rooms, is staggering.
I was in the backyard the other day and I caught a glimpse of the House; I was taken back at the expanse. Then it hit me—this was all donated. Donated, given to us by people who care about what we do and why we do it. When I give tours to new families or community members, I always tell them everything they see has been donated, right down to the toilet paper! It is hard to wrap your mind around.
There are so many people who give of their time and resources to make it all possible. We have the most wonderful volunteers anywhere, whether they are preparing rooms for new families to arrive or a meal group coming in to prepare a warm meal. We can always count on them to be there to make Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio warm and comfortable for our guests.
I have the privilege of working with some of the most talented and caring people—people who care, not only, for the mission and purpose of the House, but also, lovingly care for families and cultivate and invest in relationships with those generous people who allow us to continue to serve families.
Thank you to all who have ever given, or will give in the future, to the Ronald McDonald House to help build more stories of hope.
On a personal note, my job is to work with the families, families who are going through a tough time. I cannot tell you how much being close to their children means to them. They often thank me with tears in their eyes or with generous hugs. They tell me they don’t know what they would have done without us. I could never fully communicate how truly grateful they are to have a place to stay and their most basic needs met. Thank you for being a part of touching their lives. You have no idea how far reaching and impactful you are in the lives of these families!