By Debbie Conkel, Team RMHC member
I was asked to join Team RMHC in 2015 through my involvement in the Columbus RoadRunners Club. I jumped at the chance because a close friend of mine works at RMHC of Central Ohio and has taken me through the facility several times. It’s a wonderful place and so important for families. Not having any children myself, I nonetheless can totally sympathize with the pain and fear that must come with a child being in the hospital for an extended stay. Being able to stay at a place as cheerful and welcoming as the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has to be a comfort to these families, especially those with other young children.
I’ve been a runner for many years, and have supported a few causes over the years, but I’m committed to Team RMHC because of my personal connections and for the great work that it does. I appreciate all the fun events that take place up until race day for the team and all the great people you get to meet and interact with.
I love running and would probably run the Columbus Half Marathon anyway, but it means so much more to be running for a cause. I love the fact that the race course actually goes right by RMHC, which makes it all the more special. I appreciate the support of friends and family members who have donated to the cause and I can assure them that every dollar goes to helping the families staying at RMHC which means a lot to them.
I’m looking forward to race day, and supporting Team RMHC during my run! Let’s go team, and let’s keep up the good work at Ronald McDonald House!
By Linda Lutz, Bob Evans Farms
Every month, Brian and I look forward to going to RMHC. We get excited on planning the menu to make sure that we can put a smile on each and every face. The feelings I get are so overwhelming that I have been given this great opportunity to spend a couple of hours and make family members who are being challenge by medical issues with their children, have a home cook meal and be normal for just a little while. I can’t image what they are going through, and if we have those few hours to make these families happy, our job is done. I have grown to love the staff, and some of the families we have had the opportunity to see month after month. When we arrive and families come up to us and say they look forward to seeing us every month-it doesn’t get any better than that.
By Karen Kruse, Volunteer
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio has grown under my skin since I began volunteering in January 2015. At first it was the feeling of accomplishment to clean rooms, doing tons of laundry and occasionally helping out in the dining room. Then I got to know other volunteers, staff and families at the House. They all are the heart and soul of this special place and it shines through them in every act and word they speak. It is such a joy to see a spark of hope in the eyes of parents when they share their cares and worries. Seeing a smile on the face of a little one keeps me going throughout the day. Each week I look forward to a variety of tasks to complete and find that the time passes so quickly. Finding motivation to come to the House each week is never a problem.
To learn more about all the ways you can volunteer at RMHC of Central Ohio, please click here.
By Ashley Martin, Red Shoe Society Member
I’m originally from Alabama (Roll Tide), but moved to Columbus after graduate school. I was very active in the volunteer community in Birmingham, so I was excited to plug in to the Columbus community. I looked at a few different organizations, but some didn’t fit my schedule and others made me feel like a cog in the wheel. I wanted somewhere that I could lead, get my hands dirty and see the impact.
I found out about Red Shoe Society from my friend, Courtney, who asked me to go to A Toast to Tinseltown! I was totally impressed with the quality of the event that the Red Shoe Society had pulled together. Around the same time, I had some friends who had a son who was born with a serious illness that led to them spending most of his short life in a hospital. I knew that I wanted to be able to help a place that provides families like them rest during one of the most difficult times of their lives.
The Columbus Ronald McDonald House is magical. It’s filled with the smiles of happy kids and the parents seem at ease with their family all together. As a Red Shoe member, I have been able to cook and serve breakfast to our families, play games & blow bubbles with them and much more. I’ve also been encouraged to step up and be a leader within the organization as a fairly new member, which was really exciting! This year, I implemented a program for our members that helps new folks plug seamlessly with a friendly face.
If you’re looking for a place that you can plug in and really make a difference, I encourage you to check out the Red Shoe Society. Plus, it gives you a great reason to buy lots of new red shoes! 😀
By Abigail Brumme
“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” – Tom Bodett
As the summer ends and back to school season begins, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is serving as a home-away-from-home for many families whose focus is not back to school, but instead the well-being of their seriously ill child. RMHC of Central Ohio serves thousands of families each year that are being given their most difficult test yet.
As you celebrate the end of summer and prepare for the many lessons and tests during the back to school season, please consider supporting our families of seriously ill children that are being put through a different type of test this school season. Your donation will help to provide a comforting place to sleep, home-cooked meals, activities for our families to spend time together, and a place of hope. To donate, simply click here to support our families. Thank you for supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
By Vicki Chappelear, Family Service Manager
Pierced ears. Almost every little girl dreams of getting her ears pierced, I know I did! It’s hard to believe that such a common rite of passage for most girls would be considered dangerous to your health. But for one little girl I know, this has been the case.
This precious little girl, with a contagious laugh, has been fighting cancer. And I mean fighting with everything she’s got. She and her family have been guests at the House for a long period of time. We have walked this battle with her through the good days and the bad days—through puffy cheeks and the loss of hair, and the joy of seeing her get to go home. These are the kids we will always remember!
She has a remarkable family. We’ve gotten to know different members of her family as they would come to visit during her long hospital stay and subsequent release to our isolation suite here at the House. She has an incredible mom who has been with her every step of the way. Her mother has been transparent and has not been afraid to share her feelings with us openly and honestly. It’s as if we have become family, too. That’s what happens when you walk through such a life-altering experience with someone. You have a bond that’s indescribable and it’s priceless.
It so warms my heart to see these kids come back to visit us with good reports! This spunky little girl, who is now sporting her returning dark, curly hair, was so excited to receive a list from the doctor of things she’s allowed to do now: go to see a movie, go to the library and yes, even get her ears pierced!
By Andrea Biada
Earlier in the year we rolled out the Adopt-a-Family program at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio. The program was created so supporters can adopt a family at RMHC and know they are helping families win the fight against life-threatening illnesses. To acknowledge our important Adopt-a-Family donors in a special way, I created a one-of-a-kind recognition wall. With help from our wildly talented graphic designer Lynne Holmes, we created stand-alone images that when together, similar to a puzzle, form a heart.
Next, I was on a mission to recruit artists from the Central Ohio community to paint the individual pieces and incorporate their artistic style into the overall design. I was blown away by the number of artists who volunteered their time and talent to paint a picture that will be forever cherished by the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
Most of the artists had never been to the House prior to coming here to paint a piece for our donor wall. They were blown away by our mission and efforts to provide our families with the utmost quality of support. After coming to the House, they were even more excited to contribute their artistic efforts and leave a lasting impact on the families staying at RMHC.
The Adopt-a-Family donor wall will be displayed in the House in the near future. The artists are eager to return to the House to see the finished wall as well as continue to support the families we serve.
For more information on our Adopt-a-Family program, please contact Andrea Biada via email or call 614-227-3775.
By Jason Sutermaster, Volunteer
I have been volunteering with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio for a little over two years. I got my start when some friends and I were looking for an opportunity to do volunteer work. We felt our best opportunity would be if we could do something to help children. At the time, I was attending a gym called Go Fitness. The owner, Nick Osborne, had previously told me about how his staff will fix lunch for the families at RMHC of Central Ohio. We gave the House a call and talked to a super nice lady named Meika. We got our day scheduled, planned our meal, went shopping and arrived not really knowing what we were getting into. None of us had ever been to the House before. It was amazing! Everyone we came in contact with was incredibly sweet and helpful. So many families came up to say thank you and ask us what we were cooking. We had so many laughs and truly loved our time with the House. We enjoyed our volunteer experience so much, we scheduled a second date. At this time, I was able to speak to several of the volunteers about what other opportunities are available to support the House. Once again, I was put in contact with Meika and I attended a volunteer orientation meeting a short time later.
Around this same time, I became involved with a company called ACN Inc. ACN is one of the leading global sponsors of Ronald McDonald House Charities. Every quarter at our national conventions, we raise money to help support the local RMHC in the city we are staying. Additionally, the company’s world headquarters are in Charlotte, NC. Just a few short years ago, ACN recognized there was not a local Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte and donated all the funds necessary to help build the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte.
From that inspiration and the positive experience I had cooking lunch with my friends, we decided to become more involved with our local House. It was so amazing to learn the significance of RMHC of Central Ohio. Our local ACN team has a committed effort to cook a dinner for the families at least once a quarter. Our group loves it and often times we have more volunteers than we need to prepare the meal. That offers us an additional opportunity to help keep the kitchen as neat and tidy as possible. Many of our group members enjoy walking around the dining room and offering fresh brownies or helping sweep up crumbs. It never gets old to see new team members come to help out and watch the amazement in their eyes of the complexity of the House. It’s so much bigger and does much more than they had ever imagined.
On occasion, we have been referred to as “The Red Meat Group” from a few families that have stayed long enough to see us return. Our menu rarely changes as we always like to grill burgers and hot dogs, even if there is six inches of snow outside. That amazing aroma seems to just travel up the stairways and elevator shafts to spread the alluring smell of a summer picnic. It helps bring everyone together to enjoy a tasty meal and spread some smiles, while breaking up what can often be a stressful day for the families. We love seeing the staff and volunteers whom have come to recognize us and thank us every time we cook. It has been a very rewarding experience for us and we look forward to a continued partnership in the future. To the House with a Heart, thank you for having us!
By Darla Stover, Program Director
The Columbus Ronald McDonald House is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even while our families are sleeping and re-energizing for the next day, 2 Family Services Managers are up all night tallying numbers for the day and preparing the House for the next day. The overnight staff takes pride in making sure that the kitchens, common areas and hallways are clean and the coffee is made so the families can wake up and worry only about one thing: taking care of their child. The Family Services staff at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio is a group of 25 managers, some full-time employees but most are part-time. Some of the Family Service Managers have other full-time jobs, some are attending school and yet others have children of their own they are raising.
Family Service Managers (FSMs) check families in and out. When checking families in, FSMs make sure the families know the rules of the House, where all the amenities are located as well as offer emotional support to families who are going through perhaps the most difficult time in their lives. To welcome them to the Ronald McDonald House, each family is given a Thirty-One Gifts tote bag filled with a blanket, stuffed animal and many other goodies. While families are staying at the House, the Family Service Managers make sure they have everything they need and try to take away all of the worries associated with being away from home. FSMs give out toiletries, laundry detergent, alert the families when meals are ready, as well as discuss sensitive situations with hospital social workers. All of these tasks are done to make the families as comfortable and cared for as much as possible so their main focus can be taking care of their child. Aside from caring for our families, the Family Service Managers, are constantly processing room requests received from the area hospitals. In order to process a request, they must run a background check, confirm the child’s appointment as well as determine availability on the request day. FSMs inspect each room before placing a family to ensure cleanliness and a welcoming environment for the family soon to be staying there. Each family upon checkout is given Girl Scout cookies for their trip home. Although a donation is not required, each family is asked to contribute for their stay or to help families in the future to stay close to their hospitalized child.
Our Family Service Managers keep the House safe while the families are sleeping, eating, relaxing, playing and re-energizing. They lend a hand, smile, give a hug, and just listen. They are always in tune with the needs of each family. The Family Service Managers are a most caring and compassionate group of people that dedicate themselves to the care, safety and happiness of each family walking through the doors of the Ronald McDonald House. They have the incredible ability to set their own problems aside during their shifts and focus on the families’ needs and wants. Many times it is the first person that the family meets when walking into the House that leaves the biggest impression on them and their experience while they stay here. For this very reason, the Family Service Managers take great care of the families who may be very fragile, stressed and tired. This group of managers possesses the unique ability to be business-minded, safety conscious and compassionate all at the same time. The families of hospitalized children who stay at the Ronald McDonald House could not be accommodated without the help, love and care of our Family Service Managers. We are forever grateful for them.
By Michelle Love, RMHC of Central Ohio Family
I tell people, you never think it is going to happen to you. I remember when my children were young, sitting around talking with friends, hearing about a precious child and their family who was going through a medical issue, and I would think to myself, “I just couldn’t do that.” Then one day, out of nowhere, our third child, Christin, got sick. That sickness has turned into a lifelong journey.
A few days before our daughter turned 5 years old, I got a phone call from a friend who had just visited, saying how sorry she was because her children had just come down with the flu and she was afraid they had given it to us. I told her not to worry and when our children did get sick, I thought, “No big deal, it’s just the flu.” I was wrong because Christin’s “flu,” her sickness, was not like that of her brothers.
A trip to our doctor revealed that Christin was dealing with something much bigger. I will never forget our pediatrician looking at me saying, “Michelle, you have a very sick little girl.” After being sent to our local children’s hospital, our daughter was diagnosed with bilateral duplicated renal systems, and during an exploratory surgery, we learned the condition was much more complicated than we had originally thought. Of Christin’s duplicated kidneys, one was not functioning and one was misconnected. All of which was causing her severe kidney infections. Our daughter underwent another surgery to correct the kidney problems and after a long hospital stay, we returned home full of hope that all of Christin’s medical issues had been fixed. However, it didn’t take long before our family realized something else was wrong. Multiple issues were revealed through more testing, but one in particular stood out – we learned Christin also had a tethered cord. This meant her spinal cord had limited movement and as a child with tethered cord grows, they can develop a variety of neurological or other symptoms.
We live in North Carolina surrounded by wonderful doctors and hospitals and for four years they tried different treatments, surgeries, and medicines to try and help Christin. Her symptoms got better but it was still not the quality of life we had hoped for her. Then one day, one of our doctors came to me and told me that she was sorry, there was nothing more she could do for Christin. She wanted to refer her to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
This was such a new thing for me. We had never had to travel for Christin’s care and it was scary to think that we were going to have to go to a new state and a new hospital to meet new doctors and try new treatments. On a cold and snowy day in February, Christin and I got on a plane and flew to Ohio. I remember landing, getting in a cab, and looking at my daughter, not realizing our lives were about to change forever when we pulled up to the Ronald McDonald House. When we walked through the doors we were greeted with the most caring smiles, we were surrounded by people who were going through the same things as we were, and these strangers that we were meeting for the first time were going to become our family.
When you are walking through a medical journey away from home, the Ronald McDonald House is there to walk beside you. They think of the practical things, like food, laundry, and a place to sleep. They also think of the FUN! When you look around the Ronald McDonald House, all you will see are smiles, children and their families running around giggling, playing, and having a good time. The Ronald McDonald House is a place where families can go to get away from their medical issues for a moment and focus on being a family.
I am so thankful for all those who support this incredible House. We are humbled and blessed to know that people we will never meet are supporting us as we walk through these difficult medical times, by supporting our home away from home, the Ronald McDonald House.
When people ask me “What does the Ronald McDonald House mean to you?” I always begin to tear up because it is so hard to put into words what they mean to us. I wish people could read my heart. I believe our little girl said it best. One day, when Christin was asked the same question, she looked at me and with biggest smile, said, “The Ronald McDonald House—it’s home!”
This Mother’s Day, please remember the mothers staying at the Ronald McDonald House as they care for their seriously ill child. You can make a difference in their lives by supporting this wonderful organization. Please make a donation today. Thank you for supporting our home away from home and the brave children and families who live here.
All our love,
Jonathan, Michelle, Brooke, Stephen, Christin, and David Love