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.
For almost a year old, this little girl looks healthy. She is full of giggles and smiles—however, there is more than meets the eye. Story’s story is a wonderful reminder of hope. Lauren, Story’s mother, was 20 weeks pregnant when she went in for a regular checkup, where the doctor became concerned about Story’s heart. Lauren and her husband, Adam, were sent to a high-risk fetal doctor, where they learned heavy news—their baby girl had a major heart defect.
The Hill family is from Kentucky, and their doctor knew their home hospital would not be able to handle the magnitude of Story’s heart defect, so Lauren and Adam were referred to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The couple did not know where they would stay during Story’s surgeries and treatments, so they were referred to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, and knew this place would serve as their home-away-from-home during a scary and unknown time in their lives.
On October 23, 2013, Lauren made the trip to Columbus. Because of the magnitude of Story’s heart defect, Lauren would be giving birth at Riverside Methodist Hospital, which is known for their fantastic labor and delivery services. On October 28, 2013, Story was born and four hours after her birth, she was transferred to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. On November 1st at a mere five days old, Story had her first of three heart procedures and her heart was the size of a strawberry. She was in the hospital for 3 ½ weeks. At five months old, Story had her second surgery, which was more intensive and invasive. The little girl had a blood transfusion and her heart was stopped while she was put on bypass.
Earlier this year, Story was not taking her feedings, but Lauren and Adam were convinced it was because she was teething. Her mother took Story to a scheduled appointment, where the doctor gave devastating news: Story was having heart failure. She was immediately airlifted from Kentucky to Nationwide Children’s Hospital and admitted to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. On July 3, 2014, Adam and Lauren made the decision to put Story on the transplant list.
Every morning, Lauren would wake up and say to herself, “Today could be the day that my daughter gets a new heart!” Even though there were dark days, Lauren and Adam never gave up hope. On August 17th, Lauren didn’t wake up thinking about Story receiving a new heart. Adam was in Kentucky keeping insurance going when Story’s doctor gave some unexpected news: he was stopping Story’s feeds and Lauren needed to call Adam, because they had a heart for Story! “We experienced so many emotions that day—we grieved for the family that had lost their child, fear for the major surgery our daughter would endure, and elated there was a match for our sweet girl.”
The surgery went well, and Story has had some bumps in the road, but she has been staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House during her weekly appointments. “The Columbus Ronald McDonald House is our home-away-from-home. The volunteers and staff are our second family. We love having our suite here at the House because we can cook and spend time together as a complete family and keep our life feeling normal in abnormal circumstances. We love what a homey atmosphere this place is—the smells and sounds are familiar to our own home. With the stress of being three hours away from our home, we do not know what we would have done without RMHC of Central Ohio. This place is a gift, just like Story’s heart is a gift to us.”
Update: Today is a wonderful day to celebrate with the Hill family. After being in Columbus for more than four months, Story is heading home today! We are so glad we could provide a home-away-from-home for this young family during a season of their lives.
By Carly Damman
It’s just a mere four letters put its meaning is far from simple. A life without hope might mean sleepless nights worrying about your sick child, long days at the hospital praying for the best, evenings spent scrambling to get food on the table and mornings waking up with a knot in your stomach because it’s going to be another gut-wrenching day with your child.
A belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. Persevering through the storm. Remaining optimistic through pain and agony. Faith in things unseen. A better tomorrow. A cure.
An injured runner not giving up on race day. A teenage girl and a dream that he’ll ask her to the dance. A failing report card followed by long nights studying in the library. A little boy and his aging dog. A feeling of wanderlust with empty pockets. A sick child but the will to continue the fight.
These are examples of hope; never giving up; always looking forward.
This is a word that’s tossed around Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio on a daily basis. However, during my short three months here, I’ve had a hard time really grasping the meaning of the word. Hope can mean so many different things for so many different people. For the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, hope is something that comes easier. With a comfortable bed, a warm meal, a hot shower and a bounty of spaces for relaxation and fun, families are hopeful. Hopeful that surgery will go well. Hopeful that a cure will be found soon. Hopeful that cancer treatments will finally work. Hopeful that doctors discover a breakthrough that brings their precious child back to health.
Working at the Ronald McDonald House has revolutionized my view of hope. I see it every day. A family that has been here for months and months greet me with a warm heart and a smile. Their child faces a life-threatening illness but still…there’s hope. It’s an honor to work at a home full of hope. Full of stress, worry, tears, challenges but above it all, full of hope that tomorrow will bring peace, comfort, joy and recovery.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is a special place that carries hope through the hallways, the rooms, the kitchen, the staff offices, the volunteers’ hearts and the families that we serve. For me, hope now has a deeper meaning. It’s no longer an abstract, philosophical word. It’s tangible.
HOPE is our Ronald McDonald House families.
By Ralph “Rusty” Garber
I have been trying to find a simple way to respond to the many people who ask me how I like volunteering at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. I have finally figured out what this feeling is that I have each night as I leave the house after helping our families for a few hours. I leave feeling grounded. Now, I simply tell anyone who asks, that it grounds me.
I have been a businessman for 35 years with a great company, the New York Life Insurance Company. I have held many different positions and lived in four different cities on the East Coast and in Ohio. The last eight years, however, I have traveled each week from my home to offices in Indianapolis and Columbus. I live about 100 miles from either city in a small village near the Indiana/Ohio border. Although it would seem glamorous to have an expense account, eat out each evening and stay at nice hotels, I can tell you it can soon become lonely and quite empty. Feeling there had to be a way for me to use my evenings more productively and that I was wasting away my talents by sitting in a hotel room and watching TV, I started looking for volunteering opportunities online. To my dismay, most required a commitment for a specific day and time and my travel schedule just couldn’t accommodate that. Finally, RMHC of Central Ohio popped up on my Google search and the organization allows me to have the ability to have a flexible schedule. Now I schedule time at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House when my business travels take me to Columbus.
I will let you surf through the various articles on the RMHC website to learn about the Ronald McDonald House in depth, but let me tell you about my little piece of it, what I do, and how it affects others and me. I am a Housewarmer/Host for the House. As such, I do pretty much whatever is needed that evening from doing laundry or making beds (don’t tell my wife), to cleaning the kitchen or filling the pop machine. By far, however, I love the times when I have the opportunity to interact with the families, either as a tour guide or just chatting with them in the dining room or public areas. Every situation is different and how I can make things just a little easier for them varies. Whenever I do a family tour, the most important thing I tell them is that the RMH staff and volunteers’ only job is to relieve them of the additional worry about food, housing, and to provide them the opportunity to be close to their child during their time of need. I always see a little relief in their tired and worried eyes when I tell them this piece of information.
Perhaps the best way to tell you about how my time at RMH affects me is to describe an amazing encounter I had with a young girl, probably eight or nine years old, at the end of my shift one evening.
As background information, I need to tell you my wife and I had an unusual accident in December with me tumbling off a ladder resulting in the ladder breaking my wife’s leg and the fall damaging my knee. The injury required me to rely on a cane and my wife having surgery and using a walker for a while. As time went on, I started to catch myself moaning and groaning about the pain and inconvenience of my injury to anyone who would listen. Frankly, I was tired of being hurt.
As I rounded the corner, I came face to face with this remarkable young lady who was moving about the hall quite nimbly using a walker. She looked up at me with more engaging eye contact than most of my business associates. Trying to make conversation, I commented to her that my wife was using a walker but that she didn’t get around nearly as well as the young girl did. With her eyes twinkling she said, “I am not going to need mine much longer.” I said that was great and asked why she wouldn’t need it any more. She went on to tell me that the following day she was having surgery to prepare her leg for a brand new prosthetic leg. She was excited and confident. Her mother and grandmother, who were standing nearby, looked at me, to see my reaction. I bent down a bit and quietly said to her that she will be walking and running again real soon. She smiled again and we went on our way.
As I got in my car to go back to the hotel, I sat back in the seat for a quiet moment before starting the engine and realized that, once again, I had received far more than I gave that night. Suddenly, my knee didn’t seem to be much of an issue anymore. I still have my cane but haven’t used it since that night. I let my grandkids play with it instead.
Yes, grounded…grounded feels good. I would strongly encourage anyone who took the time to read the ramblings that I scribbled out here, to call Kate or Meika at the House and explore the many ways you can get involved. Being grounded is an amazing blessing!
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.