By Amy Gooden
In January 2007 my son Joshua was born five weeks premature and suffered severe digestive complications. A few days after he was born he was transferred from Genesis Hospital in Zanesville, Ohio to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Columbus Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It was a very bewildering and overwhelming time. My husband’s company closed and he was unemployed. I had been off work and on bed rest.
The first night we were at Nationwide Children’s Hospital the wonderful staff allowed us to stay in a special room directly across from the NICU. The next day we searched the area for a local hotel close to the hospital. Although we did not have the financial resources, we were prepared to charge each night of our stay on a credit card. We did not know how long our stay would be and the cost each night was well over $100 a night. Just before checking in at a local hotel we received a call from our case worker at Nationwide Children’s. She said a room was available at the Ronald McDonald House and we could stay there at no cost. It was such a blessing! What a relief to know we did not have to worry about how we were going to pay for our stay. Plus, the hospital was just across the street. We did not have to worry about transportation to and from the hospital.
There was something about the House that was so very comforting. Each night when we returned from the hospital, a local company or volunteer organization had prepared dinner for all of the guests. It was cold and dark outside. I can’t explain how comforting it was to receive a warm meal and sit quietly among the other residents knowing my son was just across the street.
Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio provided us with a private room with our own bathroom, a completely stocked and modern kitchen, laundry facility, and a media room. All they asked of us was to clean up after ourselves. Each guest was assigned an area of the House to keep clean. Our area was the library. The library was already a very clean place, but we checked it every day to make sure it was swept and dust free!
It is through those gestures that makes RMHC such a remarkable place. At that time, my husband and I were not able to provide any funds for our stay at the House, but I remember as we were preparing to check out, I thought, someday I will give back to RMHC of Central Ohio for their generosity.
I first had the opportunity to give back to RMHC when I became the advisor for the Rotaract Club at Muskingum University. One of our ongoing projects for is to collect aluminum pop tabs. Since January 2014, the Rotaract Club has engaged the entire campus community to collect pop tabs. On April 28th our club will take a tour of the House and present our pop tabs. We haven’t been able to weigh our tabs yet but I can tell you that I have a giant tub of pop tabs that we will have to roll out of my office!
In July, I will be a contestant in the Dancing with the Divas contest. It is a dance competition and fundraiser similar to the television show Dancing with the Stars. The contest is in its sixth year and is hosted by the Dancing Divas, which is a group of women who promote the love of dance for all ages. Each contestant picks a charity to raise funds; thus, this becomes my second opportunity to give back as my charity will be Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio! My Diva partner and I will be performing a tap routine to Singing in the Rain. I haven’t tap danced since I was 11 years old, so we have started practicing! I have no doubt that we will have a fabulous routine for the show! I am very excited and so happy to be able to finally give back to RMHC.
Today my son is a happy, healthy and enthusiastic 9 year old! Thank you to the wonderful staff at RMHC for helping us through such a stressful time in our lives. The Ronald McDonald House is truly an amazing place, a place of comfort and hope.
By Mackenzie Schuler
I love the fall. I think one of the biggest reasons I love it is because I love watching the The Ohio State University Buckeyes (I’m sorry to my family in Iowa—I still love Iowa and my roots, just not when Ohio State plays them!) College football has a lot of amazing stories that take place both on and off the field. The stories I love are the ones where these football teams take these incredibly bright and resilient children who are battling childhood illnesses and adopt them as an honorary member of their team. AJ McCarron of Alabama befriended Starla Chapman. Nebraska Cornhuskers had Jack Hoffman score an amazing touchdown. The Ohio State University Buckeyes consider Jacob Jarvis a member of the team. These are just a few examples, but these stories pull at your heart strings and unite the community to support these amazing kids!
These inspirational sports stories remind me of some of the incredible stories I have had the honor and privilege to meet here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Every family I have met and every family that stays at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has an incredible story to share. That’s why we are looking for past or current families who have stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House to share your story.
Beginning October 13th, we will begin a campaign on CD102.5 in partnership with McDonald’s and Ohio Center for Broadcasting called Stories of Change, where Columbus Ronald McDonald House stories are shared—family stories, volunteer stories, donor stories, etc. We would love to have you have a conversation between your family about your experience the Ronald McDonald House (we have questions to help you get the conversation going, no worries!) by recording an audio file. You can record the audio file on your phone—click here for directions. If you are coming to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House before October 1st and would like to record your story, please contact Mackenzie Schuler. By recording your story, you are helping share the importance of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House—your story helps create hope and inspire others to share their stories of change because of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
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 Jennifer Tackett
Christmas 2013 was supposed to be magical. It was our first as a married couple and we were also expecting our first child. I hadn’t felt great that entire day so we checked my blood pressure and it was really high. We went to our local ER just to be safe. After a few tests they told us I had severe Pre-Eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome and the only cure was to deliver the baby! Our hearts sank and we were terrified because I was only 25 weeks pregnant. The next day on Christmas morning I was transported from our hometown of Pikeville, Kentucky to the University of Kentucky in Lexington which was three hours away because they had a higher level NICU for the baby. I was given so many medicines and steroid shots to try to help keep her in. Four days after being there, my internal organs started to shut down and my brain started to swell so they rushed in and did an emergency c-section. At exactly 26 weeks pregnant on December 29th we delivered a beautiful but very tiny 1 pound 6 ounce baby girl whom we named Autymn Layne. Her lungs were severely premature and she was placed on the ventilator. She was given a 50% chance of surviving at that time. During this trying time we were three hours from our home and didn’t know where we would stay to be close to our baby girl. The local Ronald McDonald House had just closed for renovation. We knew we would be there a few months and we could not afford a hotel for that long. We pulled our RV to a spot we found 45 minutes from the hospital. It was a long, cold winter traveling back and forth daily, but we survived. After five months we heard the Ronald McDonald House was opening. I will never forget the feeling I had when we checked in. I couldn’t help but cry during the tour thinking how blessed we were to be able to have such a nice and safe place to rest only minutes away from our baby!
After many months and failed attempts to get Autymn off the ventilator, we realized that her lungs were too sick to be able to allow her to breathe on her own. She was diagnosed with BPD (Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia) which is a chronic lung disease. In May 2014 she had to have a trach placed. This made her worse than before. We were told that she may not make it another 30 days. We were not willing to accept that for an answer. After some research, we learned that Nationwide Children’s Hospital had an actual BPD unit for babies just like Autymn. We knew we had to get her there ASAP. This hospital was six hours from our home, so naturally we thought what are we going to do? Where are we going to stay? We were told there was also a Ronald McDonald House in Columbus where we could stay. This lifted a great burden from our shoulders.
In July 2014, my daughter and I were airlifted to Nationwide Children’s as my husband, Erick, made the trip by car with our belongings. While I stayed with the baby and was getting her settled in, Erick walked over and got us checked in at the Columbus RMH. He came back and told me how nice it was and how nice everyone was to him. What a blessing it was to have such a nice, safe place to sleep and have a warm meal within walking distance from the hospital! The most important thing the Ronald McDonald House gave us was TIME with our daughter. A baby’s development improves so much better with the presence of both parents. Without the Ronald McDonald House we would not have been able to be with her daily and be the parents we wanted to be to her and help her thrive. It also allowed Autymn’s grandparents to be close to her and give her that special attention only a grandparent can! We would have only been able to afford to drive and see her a few times a month if not for them. For this we are forever grateful!
Nationwide Children’s truly saved Autymn’s life and five months after arriving in Columbus on NICU day 351 Autymn was released to go HOME for the first time! We can never thank everyone at the hospital and at the Ronald McDonald House enough for everything they have done for our family during this tough journey! The kindness shown to us from the Ronald McDonald House staff and volunteers has truly changed us as people. It makes us want to give, help more, and be better people than we were before. We feel we are better parents and all around better human beings than we were before we started on our journey. Nobody can begin to imagine what a great organization RMHC truly is until you have a sick child, need a safe, warm place to stay and a place to go to after a long hard day at the hospital to escape the monitors and machines. It was also a place where we made lifelong friends with other parents going through similar situations. It means so much to have people to talk to that empathize with how you feel and what you are going through.
Autymn is now 19 months old and has been home for 8 months. She is the happiest baby you will ever meet and always has a smile on her face. She is meeting all of her milestones and doing great on a minimal amount of oxygen so we expect to be able to get her trach out this spring! We travel to Columbus once a month for a few nights for follow-up visits. It is so nice to know we can continue to stay at the Ronald McDonald House with Autymn. She loves all the different rooms she can play in during our stays! Every month I always say “we’re home” as we pull in the parking lot. It truly does feel like home away from home and we look forward to visiting and seeing our family and friends each month! Thanks again for ALL that you continue to do for not only our family but for ALL families with sick children!
I have the amazing privilege of getting to meet so many wonderful people—people who I would not have an opportunity to meet otherwise. I recently had a conversation with a mom, which is nothing new; I have conversations with moms all the time. This conversation, however, was especially exciting. She is from another country and does not speak English. She and I have met several times over the past year and have always used an interpreter. During a recent visit, she came into my office and in very broken English, and many hand gestures, she communicated with me. I was able to understand what she needed and was able to help her. As she stood to leave the office, she looked at me, smiled and said, We talked. What an amazing thing we shared.
The Ronald McDonald House is such a unique place; it brings together a group of people who are from vastly different backgrounds but share a common goal. These parents are looking for the best care for their child whether the child is born too early or a teenager, undergoing long-term treatment or a quick procedure, from the United States or the other side of the world. The differences become very small and a wonderful community is formed.
It is very exciting to meet all of these families and have conversations with them; even when those conversations consist of broken English and hand gestures.
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 Katie Cannon, Team RMHC Member
I promised myself that I would run a half marathon before I turned 50. Being that my longest run ever was 4 miles, this truly would be a major accomplishment for me.
I am not a runner. In fact, I hate to run. When I saw that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House had a fundraising team for the half marathon, I joined immediately. Running for RMHC was the incentive I needed to keep on training, especially because I have personally witnessed why the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is a necessity for families at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t give up on myself because I would then be giving up on the families that needed the RMH!
My oldest child, Rachel, was born on December 4th, 1991, with a very serious heart defect. Her first three months of life and many, many future days and weeks were spent in Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
During this stressful time, my ex-husband and I had the luxury of our child being hospitalized in the city in which we actually lived. We could go home every night to our own bed; our families kept our fridge stocked with food, and we never lacked for visitors to sit with us during the scariest times ever of our whole lives!
I couldn’t even imagine dealing with a Rachel’s hospitalization, far from our own home and support system. Yet I met so many parents that were doing exactly that and remaining strong because of the Ronald McDonald House. Until my time with Rachel at Children’s, I just thought the Ronald McDonald House was basically a hotel that parents could stay in for a very small cost. Wow, was I ever wrong!
The Ronald McDonald House does provide the hotel-type rooms at very little or no costs. However, it provides so much more. RMHC families get a true family to go home to every night by just walking across the street, instead of driving hours to their far away homes. There are home cooked meals waiting every night. Most importantly, because of volunteers, there is a built in support system, to help through those very long and scary times.
Thank you to RMHC of Central Ohio! I am so proud to have helped this great cause! I thank you for being the incentive to check “run a half marathon before you are 50” off of the bucket list!
By Vicki Chappelear
A bright-eyed four-year-old, little girl walked into my office and gave me a big smile. She looked me straight in the eye, placed her hands on her little head and exclaimed, “I don’t have any hair!” She said it as if I didn’t know, but I did know. Her story is much like that of many of the kids I see daily.
I have the privilege of working with the families of kids who are pretty sick. I have seen all types of illness come into my office—cancer, spina bifida, heart issues or an illness yet to be diagnosed—you name it, chances are good I’ve have met a family dealing with it.
There is something that stands out to me about these kids—their resilient attitude. They do not sit around and feel sorry for themselves. I’ve actually witnessed five and six year olds comforting each other and having conversations about medical procedures I do not understand. Many of these little ones don’t know any different; this is their normal. Few of them know life apart from feeding tubes, wheelchairs or a complex cocktail of daily medicine.
The parents do an amazing job of trying to maintain their childhood innocence; their strength is incredible to me. What is a parent to do when their hopes of what is considered a normal childhood is dashed? When bikes are traded for wheelchairs and playgrounds for exams rooms and ORs? They do their best to keep things as “normal” as possible, all the while feeling the pressures of making wise medical decisions and the never-ending barrage of medical bills that they will never be able to pay. And yet, these moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas put on a brave face for their little ones.
I believe these amazing kids have a gift to see life for what it is, to embrace the life they have, to make the most of every moment. God has given them the strength to handle unimaginable trials with grace and a smile. They are not upset with their situation; they do not compare what they are going through with those who are not going through a life-altering experience.
I no longer see children in wheelchairs or children from whom childhood has been stolen, but rather, I see their smiles. The twinkle in their eyes and their love of life as they know it. It’s not about what happens to you or what you are going through, it’s about the eye through which you see those circumstances. These little ones are far wiser than their years.
So when I hear the squeal of laughter coming from a child in a wheelchair or even see the precious smooth, round head of a bright-eyed little girl, I smile because I am reminded there is joy in being alive. This is the path God has chosen for them and they embrace it.
By Diana Beil, RMHC of Central Ohio Volunteer
In 1991, my brother was a patient at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. For several months, my mother stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House while he was in the hospital. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a group of coworkers who prepared a meal for the families staying at the House. Being there reminded me of all the stories my mother shared about her time staying at the House and how blessed we were to have the House during such a difficult time. After that visit, I realized I wanted to become more involved with the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and I have been volunteering ever since.
My favorite part of being a Housewarmer is the interactions with the families. It is a great feeling to know the simplest of tasks – providing directions, providing forgotten toiletries, etc. makes their day just a bit easier. I am always fascinated by the distance people come to receive care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I have a great sense of pride for the Hospital and the House, and feel confident telling the families that they are in the best place they can be for their child. I also have met some of the most generous people working at the House. It is nice being surrounded by others who value volunteerism and giving back to our community.
My mother came to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House with me a couple years ago to take a tour. It is very different than the small house she remembers. I can’t wait to have her come back and check out the new addition. I think the most rewarding part of being a volunteer at the House is knowing I’m making my mother proud and giving back to such a wonderful place that helped our family all those years ago!