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 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 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 Regina Schwaderer
When I saw the post regarding the GoFundMe campaign for Henry the House Dog, it struck my heart deeply and I knew I needed to do everything possible to help make this happen for the House and its visitors.
I have been a guest at the House while my son was in ICU following brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. While my stay was very short (2 days), the realization that many are there for so long at times is there. In my 2 short days the magic of its existence was felt.
After my son’s surgery, once we received the full course of what was to take place to get him healthy; we had to make the difficult decision to rehome the dogs we had at the time. We were going to be gone almost all of the next 7 months as all of his chemotherapy required him to be inpatient for stays of 3 weeks at a time. This was very hard on me as they are just as important to me as my kids. When we were home, not having happy tails greeting me at the door made home not seem like home. Our highlight at that time was an occasional 4-legged visitor in the lobby of the hospital when we were inpatient. My son always lit up when he saw the dog even though I knew he wasn’t feeling the greatest, and I felt some of my heaviness lift too.
Ronald McDonald House already does so much too feel like home away from home for so many, but there is one thing missing: a dog. To myself and many families, a house isn’t a home without a dog (in my case 2 or 3). Henry will fill this spot and bring so much joy to so many.
My experience of staying at the House, drives me to do for the House. I joined the Cardinal Health Committee dedicated to the Ronald McDonald House to become more active in doing things for them. I am looking forward to do whatever I can to bring the committee together and bring Henry home! Here’s to hoping to meet Henry soon!
By Carly Damman, Community Partnerships Associate
This past weekend, 180 Ohio University students gathered together in the Baker University Center ballroom on campus to dance for 12 hours straight. Students weren’t just dancing for the fun of it. They were dancing for the kids and families that spend far more than 12 hours here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
They were dancing for the single mom who has a cancer-stricken young son in the hospital. For the parents who have to spend months apart from each other, one taking care of their ill child and the other at home working to keep up with medical expenses. Dancing for the new parents gripped by fear because their twin girls were born early and are struggling to breathe.
In the midst of difficult times, the Ronald McDonald House is there as an escape for these families, providing them with a free place to stay, a hot shower, a comfortable bed and a home-cooked meal prepared by the loving hands of our volunteers.
In the midst of the stress and busyness of college life, the students of BobcaThon Dance Marathon were hard at work fundraising, hosting on-campus events and preparing for February 13th, the day they would stand on their feet for RMHC families.
During the 12th hour of Saturday’s dance marathon, the executive team stood on stage, exhausted yet excited, to announce the final fundraising total: $40,473.01 for RMHC families. 404 additional nights of rest for RMHC families! Needless to say, the 2nd Annual BobcaThon Dance Marathon was hugely successful but I think there’s a bigger story to tell here.
Big kids helping little kids. Big kids DO have the power to change the world. Big kids DO care about giving back. Big kids ARE driven, goal oriented, smart and passionate. We live in a world where tragedy, cruelty, hate, stereotypes and pressure to perform cloud our view of “big kids”. Every day, I have the privilege of experiencing how big kids are helping little kids. College students helping the kids staying at RMHC of Central Ohio. A generation helping a future generation.
BobcaThon isn’t just a dance marathon that raises money for the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. It’s a display of big kids helping little kids. It makes me excited for the future, knowing that a group of empowered, driven and passionate big kids can change the lives of all the little kids who know nothing different than to keep fighting.
These big kids WILL change the world!
By Andrew Sturgill, Romeo’s Pizza
Many things lead me to donate pizza to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio. The most influential was Joyce Mitchell, my late mother-in-law and her fight with cancer. I remember her saying to me one day that she wasn’t feeling very well from all the chemotherapy, “man, a slice of pizza sure makes you feel normal.” That statement stuck with me, because it’s so true. Everyone loves pizza, I joke all the time the greeting kids give the pizza guy is second only to Santa Claus. Joyce’s statement turned a light on for me. It made me think about how truly blessed I am. I have four beautiful, happy, spoiled, ornery daughters. Most of the days in life for my wife, Stephanie, and I is a circus.
From the impact of what Joyce said, I wanted to start doing a monthly pizza party for kids that were at Nationwide Children’s Hospital with long-term illnesses that were there receiving treatment. I wanted to help the kids “feel normal”, even if only for a brief moment. I also believe that I am truly indebted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital because I was a patient there for 20 years. As with most things I set out to do I aim for the stars and fall short, but the moon has a great view too.
As Joyce and I did research, we realized that doing the pizza party at the hospital was not going to be an option because of many red tape details. However, that is what led our search to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. It made sense; as a parent, I believe there is nothing worse than having one of your babies sick or in pain without the ability to remedy it. I reached out to Columbus Ronald McDonald House and the Volunteer Manager, Meika, and set up the first pizza delivery. Meika is so awesome, always happy and thankful. It makes me feel great when we donate. I asked her if I could bring my two oldest daughters with me on the first trip there to help teach them how good it feels to give.
That first trip was so amazing, it was the only time I hung around while the kitchen staff plus Meika prepared the dinner, because Meika wanted to give the girls and me a tour of the House. As my daughters and I were leaving after our tour, I was able to see into the dining area. The good vibes coming out of there from the few families that had gathered and the kitchen team was amazing. There were many smiles and even some laughter. It gave me a feeling of happiness that is hard to explain; I was hooked.
That brings me to a story I want to share. My District Manager (DM) and I were having a meeting about six or eight months ago reviewing sales, delivery performance, labor cost, and food cost numbers. On that day I was able to coach my DM on something that is more important than pizza or profitability. The DM asked me why we do Ronald McDonald House orders. He explained that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is about 20 minutes away from our closest store’s delivery area and he wasn’t sure we would get any residual business impact from it. He pointed out that we don’t post it on our Facebook or other social media accounts. I believe my answer shocked him in a good way. I simply said, “it is because of how giving those pizzas make me feel.” He looked at me silently for a minute, confused. I explained to him I get more JOY out of giving those 20 or 30 pizzas to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio than I could ever explain with words. I challenged him to deliver an order. A month or so later at a different meeting he told me he had. He smiled at me and said that we should do that as often as the Columbus Ronald McDonald House needs us.
I wanted to share that because I think it speaks to the environment created by the staff, volunteers, donors, and parents at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. In one visit, the House hooked my DM the same way the House hooked me. In short, it makes you feel good being there. It’s a place you want to be a part of, even if it’s just a small part. It’s so funny because now Meika usually just texts me last minute when she needs a quick fill in dinner. I wonder if she knows I look forward to her texts. They make me smile.
I will continue to do all I can for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio for as long as I am permitted. It reminds me of Joyce, whom my family misses dearly. I would have never had the connection with RMHC without her. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio gives so much more to me than they know. No monetary amount or trade of goods ever comes close to the JOY I have when I get a text from Meika, and JOY is a really good thing.