By Erica Hollar
Five years ago after finishing law school, I moved back to Columbus. School was over, and I was ready to start my career. Luckily I had found a job, but at the same time, I was looking for something to fulfill my desire to give back to the community. When we were younger, my mom had always instilled in my sister and I the idea of “paying it forward.” I finally felt like I was at a point where it was time for me to start giving to others. My mom, who is CEO and Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House told me about the Red Shoe Society. I thought it would be a great way to not only meet new people, but to also serve an organization my family had become so passionate about.
I joined that year, and since then I have held different offices, attended the best fundraisers in the city, helped others, and met some of the greatest people and some of my best friends. I joined the Red Shoe Society with the idea of helping others; however, I had no idea that by helping others I would be helping myself. When I participate in events through the Red Shoe Society, I feel a sense of fulfillment unlike any other. My personal favorite activity is serving breakfast on Saturday mornings. Something that is so easy, fun and simple for us means the world to the families staying at the House. As we all know, life gets hectic, and that is without a sick kid in the hospital. It’s nice to be able to bring some simplicity to these families that are going through turmoil.
I’m thankful to not only be a part of, but also have a leadership role, in the best young professional group in the city. As life gets hectic, I encourage each of us to remember why we do what we do. A small part of your day means the world to these families! Embrace each opportunity presented to you through the Red Shoe Society and the Ronald McDonald House. The impact that it will have on the families served, as well as you, will be monumental. I promise!
By Darla Stover
As I walk the halls of the Ronald McDonald House, I am amazed every day at the support coming from the Columbus community. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is so fortunate to be located in such a philanthropic city. As of October 2014, the 1.8 million people in the Columbus Metropolitan Area gave $1.08 billion to charity. The philanthropic spirit of Columbus is very evident at RMHC.
Throughout the House are the names of companies, foundations, individuals and organizations that have chosen to become a permanent part of the Ronald McDonald House. On the guest rooms are names of both permanent and annual supporters of the House. The maze of hallways and 137 guest rooms proudly boast the names of those who have chosen to become long-term supporters of RMH. The rooftop patio overlooking the courtyard holds pavers with meaningful quotes, memorials, company logos, volunteers, families and individuals that have left a legacy atop the expansion.
Throughout the courtyard, gardens and play space, large rocks with supporters names inscribed in them dot the landscape. These donors were instrumental in leading a successful capital campaign to build the expansion that opened in September 2014. The hallways themselves, as well as the community rooms, boast of the donors who adopted them.
These people who walk through the front doors of the Ronald McDonald House immediately feel the energy of the supporters-families, volunteers, corporations, foundations, individuals, groups and staff members. How can I help? What can I do? What can I give? These are questions we hear all the time at RMH. The partnerships and friendships created at the Ronald McDonald House are long-lasting, meaningful and impactful. Corporate partners extend their reach to their foundations, employees and clients. Individuals invite friends from their social circles and associates from their work to be a part of this community of families all caring for their hospitalized children at their home-away-from-home.
Ethan Graham was born at full-term and looked so perfect. His parents, Ryan and Ashley Graham, could not wait to take him home to see his siblings. A couple weeks later, Ethan was not able to have any bowel movements, so his parents took him to the doctor. Ethan’s doctors knew they weren’t able to give the answers the Graham family was looking for, so they sent Ethan from Kentucky to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. Vanderbilt could not give any answers as to what was going on with Ethan, so they sent him to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. While at Kosair, Ryan and Ashley found out Ethan had a bleeding disorder, so they sent Ethan and his parents to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The family had a nurse refer them to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, and they arrived right before Christmas of 2013.
Since Ethan has been treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, he has undergone three biopsies and two scopes. He has all of the symptoms for Cystic Fibrosis, but this little boy has not tested positive for this disease, so his diagnosis is still unknown. This has resulted in a lot of travel from the Graham family’s home in Kentucky to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. “We’ve met a lot of families over at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, only to find out the family we have been talking to is also staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. We met Story Hill and her parents (an amazing little girl whose story we told in 2014), and learned just how similar our children’s lives were—from living in Kentucky, to having the scary experience of having our children lifeflighted from Kentucky to Nationwide Children’s Hospital—it has been wonderful to know someone who has common ground that can relate to our family’s story.”
Ashley said she is continually blown away by the amenities at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. “We’ve taken so many pictures of Ethan in the library, so it has been fun to see him grow and change. The movie theatre has also been a lifesaver, because Ethan wants to stay up while his dad may want to sleep, so Ethan and I make our way to watch movies there late at night. I was here before, during, and after the expansion. I was here last Friday when they opened the NHL All-Star Tree House—what an amazing space! We love the Columbus Ronald McDonald House because of the volunteers and the sense of community. From listening to a little girl sing “Let It Go” from Frozen during dinner and applauding her for her performance, to bonding with other families in all of the beautiful common spaces, there is no place like the Ronald McDonald House. We are truly grateful for this place!”
By Mackenzie Schuler
For anyone living in the central Ohio area, you know this weekend is a major weekend for Columbus. If you are not familiar with what is happening, let me bring you up to speed: The 2015 NHL All-Star Game is happening at Nationwide Arena! This is a huge opportunity for Columbus to show the world why we are an incredible city that is the best kept secret.
One of the best kept secrets of The 2015 NHL All-Star Game is the Legacy project. In each city that The NHL All-Star Game is held, the League works with a local charity to complete a meaningful project. For this year’s charity project, several central Ohio charitable organizations submitted a proposal for what they would like commissioned for their charity.
When we submitted our proposal, I honestly had no idea what to expect. It sounded amazing, but I could not even wrap my mind around what we were going to be doing. We were in the midst of our grand opening, which has now made us the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. I was not sure the NHL would even choose the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for this project. However, I was proven wrong, and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House was fortunate enough to have been chosen to have our project commissioned for The 2015 NHL All-Star Game.
Columbus is an incredibly generous city that has the support of so many organizations. The NHL saw the generosity of the Columbus Blue Jackets, an organization that has proven to be a vital partner to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House time and time again. The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation have supported us by adopting rooms within the Columbus Ronald McDonald House (have you seen the Jacket Zone in our basement or The Lady Jackets’ Princess Room?!), bringing their team to the House to play games with our families, throwing an amazing princess party for our little girls, and helping with landscaping and other projects. The Columbus Blue Jackets, the Columbus Blue Jacket Foundation, and The Lady Jackets are truly helping families with seriously-ill children at the House. Without their support, we could not make a difference in the lives of these families every day. We are grateful.
While I am sworn to secrecy to not tell you about the NHL All-Star Legacy Project, I can tell you this: you are going to be blown away. Stay tuned for the unveiling on Friday, January 23rd at 9:30 a.m.
By Bob Tidwell
My name is Bob Tidwell. I am a volunteer at the Columbus Ronald McDonald on Tuesday night, and my role is the House Host. The volunteers on Tuesday night and the Family Service Managers are just great. I’m proud to be a part of that team.
The House Host position was created by RMH as it was expanding earlier last year when more rooms and more community spaces were added. This meant there was a greater need for helping patients and their families get checked in and settled at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Previously, I was a Housewarmer. When this new position was posted, I jumped at the opportunity as I enjoy the personal interaction with families, including the patients. In the process, I moved my hours later and later, as it seemed many families were checking in later after a long drive from their homes. Now I work from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday evenings. I’ve checked in families from North Carolina, Western Pennsylvania, Boston and many other cities, states, and countries.
Some families arrive in Columbus in the morning and go immediately to Nationwide Children’s Hospital or any of the other area hospitals with their child. The family, minus their child (who has now been checked in to the hospital) then comes to RMH after an exhausting day at the hospital to get checked into the House. Their needs seem to be different than those families who come to RMH late with their child still in tow so I try to adapt. However, these families all seem to have one thing in common—they look frightened and their look seems to say what is going to happen to my child? Either way there is visible relief when they understand there’s a place for them to eat and sleep. I tell them they are in the best place in the world—the hospital will take care of their child and RMH will take care of them with love and compassion.
When families check in, I like them to understand their basic needs will be taken care of: where they will sleep and where they will eat. As we walk around, I try to understand their needs, particularly if they plan to be here a night or two or for an extended period of time. Laundry facility, a spa where they can get haircuts, gym, movies, game room, library, etc. For families who check in late and are worn out from the drive, I give them an “efficient tour” and encourage them to read the facility information in their room or explore the House when they have a free moment.
When I was a Housewarmer, I certainly had the ability to say hi to folks over the weeks and make this experience more personal for them. The position of House Host, however, makes it possible to remember names (not always) but at least remember them and why they are there. It seems a great idea to touch as many lives as possible and a great strategic decision by RMH to create this position.
I was so touched when one of our families, who I had checked in and seen many times since then, came up to me and asked if I had eaten. I told them I had not. They then offered me some of food they had prepared for themselves. I think it’s symbolic of the appreciation of the families to RMH.
I love it when families come in late and have a little girl in tow, invariably going into Children’s for special testing or a procedure. I ask if they would like to see The Princess Room. The joy and awe on these little faces (and the parents) is incredible when they see it and go in. Maybe the visit is for open heart surgery or some other complicated procedure and they won’t have a chance to see it again. It’s wonderful for me and hopefully for them as well.
I also volunteer at another area hospital’s emergency room every week, also where I have the opportunity to work with families of patients who are brought in for emergency treatment. The personal dynamics are virtually the same—fear of the unknown. Though at the hospital it’s more of a short term issue while at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, unfortunately, is generally longer term. The support of RMH is an incredible benefit to our families and we should all feel proud for contributing.
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.