By Carly Damman, Community Partnerships Associate
Food has a funny way of bringing people together. There’s something about the smell of food cooking in the kitchen, the hard work that goes into preparing for a large meal, the perfectly satisfied “full” feeling you get after the meal and most of all, the people you share the meal with.
Similarly, the sport of running creates a unique bond between former strangers. There’s something about the rush you get after a long run, the perfectly rhythmic pounding of the pavement as two people run together and the peace that surrounds a runner amidst the busy, chaos of everyday life. The bond of a group of runners can’t quite be explained until you experience it for yourself.
Not only was I able to witness this bond last week at the Team RMHC pre-race pasta dinner as a group of runners became fast friends through pasta and running, but I am fortunate enough to witness an even more special bond between families staying here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
There can be up to 130 families staying at the House at one time. Most of them, total and complete strangers dealing with a broad spectrum of medical situations, coming from various parts of the US and world and speaking several different languages. Despite the vast differences between the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, they share a common bond. They are all coping with the stress of having a seriously ill child in the hospital and they are finding hope and healing within the walls of our home away from home. Bonds quickly form between families as they connect with one another and find comfort through each other’s pain. Pain that becomes peace because of the Ronald McDonald House.
One of my most favorite moments in life is seeing connections form between people not because they come from similar backgrounds, wear the same clothes or come from the same place but because they share a unique bond that can hardly be put into words.
Team RMHC bonds over their mutual love for pasta and running but they also bond over their mutual love for our RMHC families. As they continue training and fundraising for our families, they are continuing to show me the power of a bond. A connection. A lasting unity that will empower others to share that same bond.
RMHC families bond over their mutual love for their children and grandchildren. The bond of love is one not easily broken. Virtually nothing can stand in the way of the love formed between a parent and child, certainly not even the devastating diagnosis of a serious illness.
Here at the Ronald McDonald House we’re in the business of keeping bonds strong. Bringing people together. Making connections. Sharing stories. Finding hope, love and healing when it doesn’t seem possible.
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, 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.
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.
By Tk Christenson
In March of 2013, I became a housewarming volunteer at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. I was looking for an opportunity to help others. My children and grandchildren have needed the services of Nationwide Children’s Hospital on occasion. I felt the Ronald McDonald House was a place where I could help support others with children in central Ohio hospitals no matter what I was doing at the house.
My favorite part of volunteering is seeing the smiles on people’s faces when you are listening to them or providing them with something they need. One day, a father was checking out of the Ronald McDonald House, and I had not seen him before. He looked at me and said, “I want to tell you guys that you saved our lives.” Since I had not met him before I said, “It must feel good to go home.” He replied, “Yes, we were only here for three days, but you all were here for us during a critical time. We will always be grateful.” Hearing him say this just overwhelmed me and I was happy I was there to help.
After I became a volunteer, I decided to increase my commitment to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio by adopting two rooms – one in memory of my husband and the other in memory of my mother. My husband was the kind of person who would give the shirt off his back if he felt you needed it and was always protective of others. My mother was a strong woman who was a social worker and a dedicated teacher who she spent her life around children. I felt this was a great way to honor my mother and husband while providing needed rooms for families of hospitalized children.
Occasionally, I will bring my granddaughter in to help at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and love that she can see the House. I am hoping these experiences will provide her an understanding of the importance of helping others.
I love working with the dedicated talented crew of volunteers and staff, many of whom have had distinguished careers. We are a community of volunteers with no task too large or small to tackle together.