By Adrienne Bingham, Blog Coordinator, POINT
On a Friday evening this past fall, a team from a local Columbus nonprofit – POINT – had the honor of visiting and serving at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House through hosting a Bingo night for families and friends within the RMHC community. I can safely say, of the many events I have been a part of through working at POINT, this one was the most impactful.
My name is Adrienne Bingham, and I serve as the Blog Coordinator for POINT, an in-development social app for community charity and volunteerism connections; I had the privilege of being on the volunteer team for Bingo night.
Life seems to never be more fulfilling than when surrounded by people who know how to love others well, which is why I think I was so comfortable after walking in the doors of the house – the Columbus Ronald McDonald House loves others well, arguably when those individuals and families may need it most.
Anyone can construct a building, outfitting it with many rooms, certain amenities and aesthetics. It takes the unquantifiable passion and perseverance of loving volunteers and employees of that building to transform its culture into that of a home-away-from-home, where 137 rooms, home-cooked meals, spaces for play, relaxation and the meeting of daily needs are made available to its families.
That Friday evening we were given one of those spaces to play. In the dining room, around dinnertime, we set up multiple tables with bingo cards, paper squares for gameplay and spread out to enjoy many prize-filled rounds with incredible RMHC families and kids. Some POINT members called the numbers, whereas others refilled supplies, or got to play along; I was one of the latter, and it truly was a blast.
At the beginning I wondered if anyone would want to play with us, but that quickly subsided, as enthusiastic, energetic and fun-loving kids brought the party to us. With competitive and resounding “BINGO!”s the night flew by, and at the end I am certain I received more than I gave.
The willingness to be open, authentic, welcoming and simultaneously joyful is what struck me most about the families struggling with the illness of one or more of their children, who are patients of nearby hospital and treatment facilities.
For me, I will always remember Ashton – a rambunctious redhead who could give the Flash a (quite literal) run for his money, and one who – with what must be more adversity than most children ever have to face – exuded yet still more liveliness and love of fun than I’ve seen in a long time. It was through his warrior mom, Amanda, that I came to know his story, and his birthday wish of raising funds for the Columbus Ronald McDonald House in lieu of gifts. All he wanted was to give back to the home away from home that had given him and his family so much.
The RMHC community left our entire team that night with the right answer to the choice within hardship: be the good. Embody love in action. Give the fight, or the hard-fought battle of others, everything you’ve got. Love others well.
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.
By Abigail Brumme
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”-Helen Keller
Working at the Ronald McDonald House allows me to stay connected with our mission each and every day. I know that the work I am doing with so many wonderful community members will make an impact on our families in so many different ways. I spend a lot of time making phone calls, giving tours, thanking our donors, and finding ways to connect others with what RMHC does. Recently, I had the chance to be on the others side of my typical every day by volunteering on a Saturday morning with my life group from Rock City Church to bake cookies for our families. As a staff member, I always have the chance to meet people who are visibly always enjoying their time volunteering at the House. Whether they are making a meal, baking, working with a project group, helping to clean the guest rooms or whatever it may be for that group, they have the ability to connect with the House on a new level. Coming in as a volunteer for just one morning at the House allowed me to connect with our mission on a new level. I was able to see the joy that families feel when a group of people they have never met comes in and simply makes a treat for them. We were told countless times how good the treats smelled and people were constantly stopping in the kitchen to say hello. Having this experience with my life group reminded me of the gratitude our families have for everyone and everything that comes through the doors of the House. People can get connected with the mission in so many ways. Whether it’s volunteering at events or at the House, collecting pop tabs, doing a wish list drive, getting their companies involved in cause marketing or community fundraisers, adopting rooms to support families, bringing in spare change, or whatever idea comes to mind. Every day I am amazed at the creative ways people choose to get involved with the House, and make a genuine impact on our families. There is a way to get involved in the House for everyone, and I am so thankful that I am able to witness people connecting our mission and our families. Like myself, and so many others, you too can find a way to help the House with a heart.
By Amanda Zari
When our four year old, Ashton, was diagnosed with hydronephrosis (a condition that typically occurs when one kidney becomes swollen due to the failure of normal drainage of urine from the kidney to the bladder), bilateral reflux, and chronic kidney disease, I was devastated. I was worried about a variety of things: how would we afford to travel to Columbus? How would we afford to stay for the many days of testing? How would we afford to get a hotel room for the recovery times of his surgery?
Over the past year, we have stayed at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio over 15 nights. I can honestly say the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has served as a home-away-from-home during some of the most difficult times in my life. When Ashton had his surgery, I was 35 weeks pregnant with his sister. I have no idea how I would have survived those very difficult days without somewhere to rest. Nationwide Children’s Hospital is as accommodating as possible, but I cannot even begin to tell you what I would have done during the weeks surrounding his first surgery. At 35 weeks pregnant, there was no way I would have fit on the cot that the hospital provided. I was able to have a warm meal and a good night’s sleep, so I could be rested to help provide Ashton with care. I was also grateful because we were able to spend the two nights between his discharge and follow up at the House. We live over four hours away, and I cannot fathom having to travel with him directly after his surgery.
We love the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for so many reasons. Every time we come to Columbus, Ashton has to have blood work or procedures that would even make an adult cringe. However, because he loves the Ronald McDonald House so much, going to Columbus is never a chore. When I asked Ashton why he loves it, he responded with “because it’s better than home!” He swears they always have his favorite foods. Ashton also has celiac disease, so he lives off of fresh fruit and chocolate milk, both of which are always available at the Ronald McDonald House. He carries the blanket the volunteers gave him before one of his appointments everywhere and swears it makes things hurt less.
The night before Ashton’s most recent surgery, I remember clearly being so apprehensive about everything that was to come. We cuddled up in the movie room and watched Curious George, and for that moment, all was alright. The Ronald McDonald House is more than a place to sleep; it’s a place to live. It has provided so many happy memories and so much joy to our family. This past year has been a year I would prefer not to relive. The House has been a light in dark and chaotic times. They work seamlessly with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to provide the best care available for both the patients and their families. I have no idea what we would have done if we had been expected to find a hotel in our price range. Gas alone for one of our trips is more than $150. The Columbus Ronald McDonald House has literally taken a huge weight off our shoulders.
For Ashton’s birthday, our family decided to start a new tradition: raising money for the charity of choice, and Ashton chose Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. He started with a goal of $500 (no small feat for a four-year old), and ended up raising $1600 for the Columbus Ronald McDonald House! We are once again raising money for Ashton’s fifth birthday! We are so appreciative of everything the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has provided for us.