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 The Chisenhall Family
Our son, baby Joey, was born on September 2nd with HLHS, also known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and Jacobsen Syndrome fairly early into the pregnancy. My wife, Angela, and I are thankful for this because it allowed us to make the proper preparations needed to get Joey the best care possible for his condition. He will have to undergo a series of three surgeries. It is going to be a long journey, but we are fortunate to have many special people supporting us throughout our journey.
With that being said, Angela and I are also very fortunate to have the assistance of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. We reside in central Kentucky, which is approximately four hours from Columbus. The Columbus Ronald McDonald House has helped relieve the financial burden of being away from home and allowed us to concentrate on the well-being of our baby boy. Every person that we have met has been so helpful and considerate of our situation. The Ronald McDonald House has also allowed us to meet other families that are going through similar situations, which has made a huge impact on our overall outlook of Joey’s condition. Thank you for everything!
The Chisenhall Family
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.
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 Jamie Foltz
Hello! My name is Jamie Foltz and I have worked at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for over 7 ½ years. I have worn many hats in my time here, but none more important than “Friend.” My mom always used to say that “friends are the very best medicine.” They cheer you up when no one else can. They sit in silence with you when no words will do. They hold your hand through your darkest moments without expecting anything in return. It is friends that get us through some of the toughest times life can throw at us. For families with sick kids, it is friends who help make nearly everything possible.
Now normally at the Ronald McDonald House we’re mostly talking about “Family.” That’s really what we are all about, after all. Keeping families together when it seems like life has other plans. When we talk about how the Ronald McDonald House happens, how it all comes together; it’s all about the friends that make it a reality. Friends who make meals for families they have never even met. Friends who donate their time to give back big smiles to moms and dads who need it the most. Friends who help cover the cost of a family’s stay by taking on one simple challenge.
Last week some of RMHC’s most magnificent friends, The Red Shoe Society, launched a new challenge to our community. It’s called #PayForAStay and it’s an opportunity to help cover the cost for one night’s rest at the Ronald McDonald House. It costs the House about $100 a day to provide for a family in need. While families are asked to help contribute to their stay by giving a $20 donation for each day they are here, no one is ever turned away. And many families simply cannot give. This is where all those friends of the Ronald McDonald House come in. For every $20 donated to help cover the cost of what a family is asked to give, an ornament is given to hang in the donor’s home. They can keep it for themselves, or make the donation in someone else’s honor and give the ornament to them. It’s simple and helps carry on the custom of friends helping friends. To take the #PayForAStay Challenge, simply follow these 3 easy steps:
I took the challenge on Monday and challenged 3 of my friends to do the same. While my mom isn’t here to see just how right she was, I know that my simple gift of $20 has been some of the very best medicine a family at the Ronald McDonald House could ask for. I hope you will help me share the message that “Friends are the very best medicine” by taking the #PayForAStay Challenge too.
By Angie Hartley
Nearly five years ago I became an employee of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Being the “new kid” I was trying to find a fun way to get to know my co-workers and help us form bond which prompted us to start making meals for our families on a regular basis. Each time we would change up the menu until the fall came. That first year I started the annual RMHC Staff Soup-Off competition. Staff members would make their own special soups and families would vote for their favorite soup. The rules were simple, you could not have two of the same soups and you could not make the same soup again. What was at stake? The greatest prize of all, 365 days of bragging rights and the most amazing handmade glitter trophy named “Sparkles”.
The tradition has continued for the last five years, each staff member perfecting their soups for that chance to win the trophy. This year was the Fifth Annual RMHC Staff Soup-Off a.k.a. “Revenge of the Soups”. We allowed staff to bring back any soup they wanted to win the trophy. Stakes were high and the friendly competition had begun. When the day of arrived, staff members began to pull out their “secret weapons” by adding a little more cream to their soups, frying up bacon, or putting in a dash of that special sauce, all in the name of winning.
This year was our biggest competition ever. We had eleven soups in the challenge which included: Boscoe’s Blue Ribbon Blowout Chili, Buffalo Chicken Chili, Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Cheesy Potato Soup, Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Creamy Tomato Soup, Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup, White Bean Chicken Chili, and Zesty Zuppa.
As families begin to arrive one-by-one we begin to serve our soups making the best presentation possible. Families tried each special soup and voted for their favorites. At the end of lunch all of the votes were tallied. Out of the eleven soups only one could win the entire competition. This year’s winner was our newest team member Carly Damman who joined us in July. Carly made Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup which won by a landslide.
Our team has grown over the years and this has provided a wonderful opportunity for us to come together and support our mission in a fun way. This day is truly a fun day for our team and one we look forward to each year. We all come together and for one hour we do not discuss work, we talk to each other and share a good laugh or two. Below we have shared a few of the soups at this year’s soup off.
Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
2½ cups half and half (half and half is a half cream, half milk mixture found next to the heavy cream)
2½ cups milk
1 Tablespoon chicken base, or two chicken bouillon cubes crushed
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2½ cups chopped rotisserie chicken (cooked chicken breast will work)
½ cup cooked and chopped bacon
1 cup cubed ham
2 cups grated Swiss cheese
CREAMY TOMATO TORTELLINI SOUP
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Minced Garlic
2-3 Tablespoons Sun Dried Tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
2 (10 3/4 oz) Cans of Condensed Tomato Soup
2 cups Half-and-half
2 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
1 whole 9 Oz Package Of Cheese Filled Tortellini
1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
CHEESY POTATO SOUP
4 ounces Velveeta cheese
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup of milk
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. seasoning salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 package of bacon
Shredded cheddar cheese
BUFFALO CHICKEN CHILI
1 pound of ground chicken
1 can white navy beans, drained and rinsed
14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
4 cups chicken broth
¼ – ½ cup buffalo wing sauce (start with ¼ cup and add more at end if needed)
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 cup frozen corn kernels
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon dried cilantro
¼ teaspoon salt
8 oz cream cheese
Blue cheese crumbles (optional)
Providing a meal for families is a great way for families, organizations, and companies to get involved at the Ronald McDonald House and you are able to see the direct impact you make in the lives of our families. For more information on making a meal please click here.
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 Laura Hadley
As a Ronald McDonald House intern, I have been working to spread awareness for the “share your stripes” campaign. For the past week, I have been collecting pictures with people wearing red and white striped socks who are #forRMHC.
I began making calls to friends informing them that they could help raise money for the Ronald McDonald House by donating their extra change at local McDonald’s registers. I also asked if I could take photos of them in their socks to help spread awareness through social media. So here I was, with my 12 pairs of red and white striped socks setting off on a journey around Columbus to snap a couple pictures. Easy enough, right?
Wrong. I quickly learned it was going to be hard to get a hold of well-known people in Columbus, get them a pair of striped socks, and get their picture taken in a short time frame. I decided to shift my focus to college students. I was able to photograph students at both The Ohio State University and Denison University. Overall, I was happy with the pictures I was able to get.
While gathering photos, I learned a few things:
I found overwhelming support from my friends, which made my life a lot easier. Yet, while they all agreed to help me by putting on festive socks and letting me snap a picture, I never asked any of them to donate their money. I wasn’t even sure my out-of-state friends knew what the Ronald McDonald House was and what the organization offers to their guests. However, I kept collecting pictures and trying my best to explain what the pictures were for.
Sunday afternoon, a group of friends and I went to McDonald’s. Some of them had helped me with the photos and some hadn’t. Not wanting to make a sales pitch, I did not remind them of the donation boxes. What happened next was truly an amazing feeling – as I watched my friends order and pay, I couldn’t help but notice them dropping their change into the RMHC donation boxes. Finally, it was my turn to order and make my donation. It was at this moment, I realized my work at the Ronald McDonald House had actually impacted people.
This project has taught me that a small favor, can lead to a small donation, which is making a big difference #forRMHC. How are you going to help?
By Amber Fosler
When my friends and I partnered with Columbus Running Company to form Love 2 Reach (L2R), our goal was to use physical fitness as a way to reach out to our community. We would train to walk and run full and half marathons while raising money and volunteering time to a local charity. I was pregnant when we selected Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio as our benefactor. I knew it was a great organization but I could have never guessed what a huge impact Ronald McDonald House would have on my life.
I trained with L2R through much of my pregnancy. A month after my son, Elias, was born, I jumped back into training; this time with a run stroller and a sidekick. A week after Elias’s first training, he was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, biliary atresia. Two weeks later, he had major abdominal surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital but we were cautioned that most babies with biliary atresia need a liver transplant before they reach kindergarten. To say this was a stressful time is an understatement.
As he recovered from surgery, we tried to just settle into our life as a family of three. I struggled to find the balance of being back to work, being a new mom and training for a “comeback” half marathon. My husband has been amazing and knows that without running and race walking, I couldn’t possibly have any sense of balance. Getting in mileage is the one thing that is truly a stress reliever and he made sure I had time to get out there. Being out on the trails is the place I dealt with the emotions of my son’s diagnosis. It is where I went to feel like myself when the rest of my world felt like chaos.
Elias’s health took a very quick turn for the worse at the beginning of the year. I found myself crying as I called the airline to cancel my flight to Orlando for what was supposed to be my 10th half marathon. I was crying because my post-baby comeback race wasn’t to be. I was crying because my 6 month old baby was in Intensive Care.
January and February had more days in the hospital than at home. We faced life threatening complications, two calls to 911, two ambulance rides and two helicopter rides to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The only running and walking that happened was within the walls of a hospital.
Elias’s amazing pediatrician and the equally amazing team at Nationwide Children’s GI clinic saved my son’s life with his early diagnosis. They carefully monitored his care until his liver started to fail. Nationwide Children’s doesn’t currently perform liver transplants, which is how we found ourselves at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
My son was added to the national liver transplant list in January. By mid-February, Elias was in acute liver failure. He was running out of time waiting for a deceased donor. While my husband and I tried to get through each hour, each day with our very sick baby, a gift was in the works. My husband’s cousin, Zac, was evaluated to be a living liver donor. He was a match. On February 26th of this year, our hero, Zac, donated a portion of his liver to Elias. Zac selflessly gave Elias the gift of life and gave our family hope.
Since January, we have spent a total of 58 days at Ronald McDonald House of Pittsburgh. My involvement with Ronald McDonald House came full circle. The House came to my family’s rescue during a very dark time. They gave us a place to rest our head. A place to let out the emotions we tried to hide from Elias while he was in the hospital. It gave us a clean, safe place to bring Elias post-transplant before his team felt he was stable enough to return to Columbus. I have no idea where we would have gone without Ronald McDonald House. I went from knowing it was a great organization to experiencing it firsthand.
Elias is now 15 months old and is nearly 8 months post-transplant and he’s thriving. He’s gaining weight, meeting his developmental milestones and keeping us on our toes but now for good reasons. Life threatening complications have been replaced by an ornery boy unrolling toilet paper and playing in the cat’s water bowl.
Since we returned to Columbus in April, I’ve been able to hit the trails again. While I wasn’t able to commit to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Half Marathon due to a follow-up surgery Elias had scheduled at the beginning of October, I trained as if I was going to race. However, the stars aligned in the 11th hour. Three days before the half marathon, after 11 days in Pittsburgh for his surgery, we arrived back home. Someone gave me a race bib and on Sunday morning, I lined up at the start for my tenth half marathon and my first post-baby half marathon. It was like a big party at the end of a very long and heartbreaking journey. Passing by Nationwide Children’s Hospital during the race was very emotional since we spent so much time within those walls. Running through the Angel Mile was even more emotional because not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude that we are one of the lucky families and our little man survived.
Once again, running and race walking has given me an outlet to process everything my family has been through this year. It’s given me an outlet to relieve stress but is a reminder to be thankful that Elias is still my training sidekick and L2R’s unofficial mascot.
By Megan Koester
Those little copper pennies, silver nickels, and quarters collect – in our pockets, our cars and the change containers on our dressers. All of those coins add up and can make a significant impact in the lives of others.
40 years ago, it was change collected at McDonald’s that provided the support to build the first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. For 40 years people have been giving their change to bring families closer together when they need it most. Today there are 337 Ronald McDonald Houses in 35 different countries – that is a lot of change. Last year, the Donation Box Program raised more than $28 million in the United States! The impact of each and every penny is beyond measure. The ability to bring a family together when a child is in the hospital is life changing for the child and their family. We know that healing happens when families are together, and the ability to stay without a monetary commitment allows families to rest and rejuvenate while being just steps away from their child.
Every day when people walk into the Ronald McDonald House they are changed by their experience. Families were changed the minute their child was admitted to the hospital and now they are finding the resources they need to be strong for their child. Their priorities, daily routines and emotions have all changed to cope with their new surroundings. Volunteers walk through the doors of the House each day because they have been changed by the strength and compassion they have garnered from families. Community supporters walk through the doors of the house and change the levels of opportunities for families by adding spaces and experiences that enhance a family’s stay. Each and every day staff creates an atmosphere that accepts and welcomes change – they provide the family support networks and operational structure to care for families in their greatest time of need.
Today, you can continue to be an advocate for change by participating in RMHC Day of Change. Simply drop your spare change in the donation box at McDonald’s restaurant. Those coins will join millions of others that have grown this charity and fulfilled a need for families to be with their hospitalized children. Please join us in celebrating 40 years of support from McDonald’s and the community and help us continue to strengthen the Ronald McDonald House for years to come.