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.
Dear Ronald McDonald House Volunteers and Staff,
My husband and I would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Our baby, Clay, was transferred here very unexpectedly after being born prematurely. We have now spent almost a month at Nationwide Children’s Hospital as our son has grown and learned how to eat. We would not have been able to manage this without your help! We live two hours away and have a three year old son at home. While my husband has stayed home with our son, it has been a comfort knowing I had somewhere safe to stay that is so close to the hospital. This has allowed me to watch over our baby and be involved in his care. Everything from the room to the services you provide has went above and beyond. This is truly a wonderful place! Thank you all for being so good to our family!
The Boggs Family
By Katie Cannon, Team RMHC Member
I promised myself that I would run a half marathon before I turned 50. Being that my longest run ever was 4 miles, this truly would be a major accomplishment for me.
I am not a runner. In fact, I hate to run. When I saw that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House had a fundraising team for the half marathon, I joined immediately. Running for RMHC was the incentive I needed to keep on training, especially because I have personally witnessed why the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is a necessity for families at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t give up on myself because I would then be giving up on the families that needed the RMH!
My oldest child, Rachel, was born on December 4th, 1991, with a very serious heart defect. Her first three months of life and many, many future days and weeks were spent in Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
During this stressful time, my ex-husband and I had the luxury of our child being hospitalized in the city in which we actually lived. We could go home every night to our own bed; our families kept our fridge stocked with food, and we never lacked for visitors to sit with us during the scariest times ever of our whole lives!
I couldn’t even imagine dealing with a Rachel’s hospitalization, far from our own home and support system. Yet I met so many parents that were doing exactly that and remaining strong because of the Ronald McDonald House. Until my time with Rachel at Children’s, I just thought the Ronald McDonald House was basically a hotel that parents could stay in for a very small cost. Wow, was I ever wrong!
The Ronald McDonald House does provide the hotel-type rooms at very little or no costs. However, it provides so much more. RMHC families get a true family to go home to every night by just walking across the street, instead of driving hours to their far away homes. There are home cooked meals waiting every night. Most importantly, because of volunteers, there is a built in support system, to help through those very long and scary times.
Thank you to RMHC of Central Ohio! I am so proud to have helped this great cause! I thank you for being the incentive to check “run a half marathon before you are 50” off of the bucket list!
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 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 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 Angie Hartley
Nearly five years ago I became an employee of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Being the “new kid” I was trying to find a fun way to get to know my co-workers and help us form bond which prompted us to start making meals for our families on a regular basis. Each time we would change up the menu until the fall came. That first year I started the annual RMHC Staff Soup-Off competition. Staff members would make their own special soups and families would vote for their favorite soup. The rules were simple, you could not have two of the same soups and you could not make the same soup again. What was at stake? The greatest prize of all, 365 days of bragging rights and the most amazing handmade glitter trophy named “Sparkles”.
The tradition has continued for the last five years, each staff member perfecting their soups for that chance to win the trophy. This year was the Fifth Annual RMHC Staff Soup-Off a.k.a. “Revenge of the Soups”. We allowed staff to bring back any soup they wanted to win the trophy. Stakes were high and the friendly competition had begun. When the day of arrived, staff members began to pull out their “secret weapons” by adding a little more cream to their soups, frying up bacon, or putting in a dash of that special sauce, all in the name of winning.
This year was our biggest competition ever. We had eleven soups in the challenge which included: Boscoe’s Blue Ribbon Blowout Chili, Buffalo Chicken Chili, Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Cheesy Potato Soup, Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Creamy Tomato Soup, Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup, White Bean Chicken Chili, and Zesty Zuppa.
As families begin to arrive one-by-one we begin to serve our soups making the best presentation possible. Families tried each special soup and voted for their favorites. At the end of lunch all of the votes were tallied. Out of the eleven soups only one could win the entire competition. This year’s winner was our newest team member Carly Damman who joined us in July. Carly made Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup which won by a landslide.
Our team has grown over the years and this has provided a wonderful opportunity for us to come together and support our mission in a fun way. This day is truly a fun day for our team and one we look forward to each year. We all come together and for one hour we do not discuss work, we talk to each other and share a good laugh or two. Below we have shared a few of the soups at this year’s soup off.
Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
2½ cups half and half (half and half is a half cream, half milk mixture found next to the heavy cream)
2½ cups milk
1 Tablespoon chicken base, or two chicken bouillon cubes crushed
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2½ cups chopped rotisserie chicken (cooked chicken breast will work)
½ cup cooked and chopped bacon
1 cup cubed ham
2 cups grated Swiss cheese
CREAMY TOMATO TORTELLINI SOUP
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Minced Garlic
2-3 Tablespoons Sun Dried Tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
2 (10 3/4 oz) Cans of Condensed Tomato Soup
2 cups Half-and-half
2 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
1 whole 9 Oz Package Of Cheese Filled Tortellini
1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
CHEESY POTATO SOUP
4 ounces Velveeta cheese
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup of milk
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. seasoning salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 package of bacon
Shredded cheddar cheese
BUFFALO CHICKEN CHILI
1 pound of ground chicken
1 can white navy beans, drained and rinsed
14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
4 cups chicken broth
¼ – ½ cup buffalo wing sauce (start with ¼ cup and add more at end if needed)
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 cup frozen corn kernels
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon dried cilantro
¼ teaspoon salt
8 oz cream cheese
Blue cheese crumbles (optional)
Providing a meal for families is a great way for families, organizations, and companies to get involved at the Ronald McDonald House and you are able to see the direct impact you make in the lives of our families. For more information on making a meal please click here.
By Kate Ziegler
“We might not ever meet face to face, but I care about you and your well-being”.
The volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House at the kindest, most supportive and warm-hearted people I have ever met. Each day when I walk into work and smell homemade cookies, or see a group of kids making lasagna for lunch, or see a maintenance volunteer cleaning an air filter, it lifts my spirits in ways I can’t really put into words.
Not all of the acts of kindness that our volunteers perform on a regular basis are ever noticed. Our maintenance volunteers most especially typically fly under the radar. I can’t say that any of our families noticed that the air vents in the kitchen were cleaned this morning, that their bathroom fan doesn’t squeak, or that the fluorescent lights are never out. The maintenance volunteers at RMH work quietly behind the scenes to ensure our families are safe and well cared for so that they can spend more time at the hospital with their children and less time worrying about the small stuff.
It’s this type of giving that gets me out of bed in the morning. Each day I am surrounded by people who come into the Ronald McDonald House and say “I’m here to help make your day easier because I know you’re having a tough time. We might not ever meet face to face, but I care about you and your well-being.”
Take a moment to think about all the little things you do at home – changing air filters, cleaning baseboards, changing light bulbs…all of those things need to be done here too, except the people who live here can’t do them. If you stop by the Ronald McDonald House and notice that everything looks like it’s in its place, it’s because a volunteer made that happen!
If you are interested in becoming a Maintenance or Housewarming volunteer, visit rmhc-centralohio.org/volunteer.php
By Amber Fosler
When my friends and I partnered with Columbus Running Company to form Love 2 Reach (L2R), our goal was to use physical fitness as a way to reach out to our community. We would train to walk and run full and half marathons while raising money and volunteering time to a local charity. I was pregnant when we selected Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio as our benefactor. I knew it was a great organization but I could have never guessed what a huge impact Ronald McDonald House would have on my life.
I trained with L2R through much of my pregnancy. A month after my son, Elias, was born, I jumped back into training; this time with a run stroller and a sidekick. A week after Elias’s first training, he was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, biliary atresia. Two weeks later, he had major abdominal surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital but we were cautioned that most babies with biliary atresia need a liver transplant before they reach kindergarten. To say this was a stressful time is an understatement.
As he recovered from surgery, we tried to just settle into our life as a family of three. I struggled to find the balance of being back to work, being a new mom and training for a “comeback” half marathon. My husband has been amazing and knows that without running and race walking, I couldn’t possibly have any sense of balance. Getting in mileage is the one thing that is truly a stress reliever and he made sure I had time to get out there. Being out on the trails is the place I dealt with the emotions of my son’s diagnosis. It is where I went to feel like myself when the rest of my world felt like chaos.
Elias’s health took a very quick turn for the worse at the beginning of the year. I found myself crying as I called the airline to cancel my flight to Orlando for what was supposed to be my 10th half marathon. I was crying because my post-baby comeback race wasn’t to be. I was crying because my 6 month old baby was in Intensive Care.
January and February had more days in the hospital than at home. We faced life threatening complications, two calls to 911, two ambulance rides and two helicopter rides to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The only running and walking that happened was within the walls of a hospital.
Elias’s amazing pediatrician and the equally amazing team at Nationwide Children’s GI clinic saved my son’s life with his early diagnosis. They carefully monitored his care until his liver started to fail. Nationwide Children’s doesn’t currently perform liver transplants, which is how we found ourselves at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
My son was added to the national liver transplant list in January. By mid-February, Elias was in acute liver failure. He was running out of time waiting for a deceased donor. While my husband and I tried to get through each hour, each day with our very sick baby, a gift was in the works. My husband’s cousin, Zac, was evaluated to be a living liver donor. He was a match. On February 26th of this year, our hero, Zac, donated a portion of his liver to Elias. Zac selflessly gave Elias the gift of life and gave our family hope.
Since January, we have spent a total of 58 days at Ronald McDonald House of Pittsburgh. My involvement with Ronald McDonald House came full circle. The House came to my family’s rescue during a very dark time. They gave us a place to rest our head. A place to let out the emotions we tried to hide from Elias while he was in the hospital. It gave us a clean, safe place to bring Elias post-transplant before his team felt he was stable enough to return to Columbus. I have no idea where we would have gone without Ronald McDonald House. I went from knowing it was a great organization to experiencing it firsthand.
Elias is now 15 months old and is nearly 8 months post-transplant and he’s thriving. He’s gaining weight, meeting his developmental milestones and keeping us on our toes but now for good reasons. Life threatening complications have been replaced by an ornery boy unrolling toilet paper and playing in the cat’s water bowl.
Since we returned to Columbus in April, I’ve been able to hit the trails again. While I wasn’t able to commit to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Half Marathon due to a follow-up surgery Elias had scheduled at the beginning of October, I trained as if I was going to race. However, the stars aligned in the 11th hour. Three days before the half marathon, after 11 days in Pittsburgh for his surgery, we arrived back home. Someone gave me a race bib and on Sunday morning, I lined up at the start for my tenth half marathon and my first post-baby half marathon. It was like a big party at the end of a very long and heartbreaking journey. Passing by Nationwide Children’s Hospital during the race was very emotional since we spent so much time within those walls. Running through the Angel Mile was even more emotional because not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude that we are one of the lucky families and our little man survived.
Once again, running and race walking has given me an outlet to process everything my family has been through this year. It’s given me an outlet to relieve stress but is a reminder to be thankful that Elias is still my training sidekick and L2R’s unofficial mascot.