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.
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 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
Every New Year, we feel the need to do something new. Lose weight. Exercise. Take up a hobby. I get it. When the calendar turns, there is a clean slate. But I wonder if we have things a bit backwards. There is a reason we are who we are, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. What if instead of trying to become someone else, you focused on being the best “you” that you could be?
Here’s why I ask. This year, as in every other year that I’ve worked at the Ronald McDonald House (almost exactly 7 years), I have witnessed some of the most incredibly generous and thoughtful gestures of love and compassion over the Holidays. We like to say that if you doubt humanity, just spend a few hours at the front desk of the Ronald McDonald House at Christmas time. You won’t believe how generous and selfless people are.
So this New Year, I hope that you, our friends, have resolved to be the same awesome selves that you were in 2014. Last year was probably our best year since opening in 1982, and that would be impossible without you. But the need is even greater in 2015, which will be our first full year in the newly expanded Ronald McDonald House.
Columbus, you are amazing. I brag about you to anyone who gives me the chance to talk about how sweet, selfless, and tenacious you are. You never see a challenge that you are afraid to face, and always amaze me with the resolve you show to support people who need your help.
So, with everything I’ve got, thank you for being you. In my opinion, you’re great the way you are. Keep being the best you, and we can conquer anything.
By Mackenzie Schuler
I love the holidays, but I have especially always loved Christmas. I love the lights, music, decorations, the food, and the traditions. My favorite thing about the holiday, however, involves the memories with my family.
One of my favorite memories involves my entire family when I was 1 or 2 (this isn’t the part of the memory that I remember, friends—it’s a prelude), my dad and my grandpa Dave (who were avid outdoorsmen), decided they were going to plant trees for wild life. In two days’ time, my dad and grandpa planted 3,000 trees on my grandparents’ land. These beautiful pine trees grew for a number of years. Around the time I was in elementary school, the trees were large enough for our family to cut down our own Christmas tree. On Thanksgiving afternoon, after all of the food had been eaten, my grandparents, parents, sister, aunt, uncle, and cousin went outside to the field, where all of the trees were planted. As my sister and I scrambled to find our Christmas tree, I noticed how proud my grandpa was. He loved making memories with our entire family. To be able to say we cut down our perfect Christmas tree that my dad and grandpa planted on my grandma and grandpa’s farm is a memory I will always cherish.
Providing memories for families of seriously-ill children to cherish during an extremely difficult time is something our volunteers and staff provide on a daily basis at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. I see it everywhere—from families who congregate together while they do laundry and ask how each other’s child is doing, to parents who switch shifts and go over their child’s care over dinner, so one parent can rest while the other spends time with their child in the hospital. You see mothers of premature babies console each other over coffee. You see meal groups making a homemade meal for our families to eat so they can gain strength and focus solely on their child’s health. You see a parent getting a hug from a volunteer after a difficult day over at the hospital. During the holidays, you see families shop in Santa’s Workshop so they do not have to worry about purchasing presents for their loved ones and they can focus on helping their child heal faster—that’s a memory to be cherished. Seeing families have a holiday meal with their loved ones and not having to worry about preparing it so they can spend every minute with their hospitalized child is a gift.
These small gestures that are shown day after day at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House make a lasting impact on a person’s heart. Although this is an unfathomable time in families of seriously-ill children’s lives, the relationships and memories made at our Ronald McDonald House will be cherished all through each and every person that walks through our doors. There is no price on providing families of seriously-ill children the gifts of hope, relaxation, relieving stress and togetherness—these are the gifts you will find each and every day at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, and these are the best kinds of gifts. We are so blessed to have volunteers, donors, and community supporters who make every day a gift for our families.