By Linda Lutz, Bob Evans Farms
Every month, Brian and I look forward to going to RMHC. We get excited on planning the menu to make sure that we can put a smile on each and every face. The feelings I get are so overwhelming that I have been given this great opportunity to spend a couple of hours and make family members who are being challenge by medical issues with their children, have a home cook meal and be normal for just a little while. I can’t image what they are going through, and if we have those few hours to make these families happy, our job is done. I have grown to love the staff, and some of the families we have had the opportunity to see month after month. When we arrive and families come up to us and say they look forward to seeing us every month-it doesn’t get any better than that.
By Michelle Love, RMHC of Central Ohio Family
I tell people, you never think it is going to happen to you. I remember when my children were young, sitting around talking with friends, hearing about a precious child and their family who was going through a medical issue, and I would think to myself, “I just couldn’t do that.” Then one day, out of nowhere, our third child, Christin, got sick. That sickness has turned into a lifelong journey.
A few days before our daughter turned 5 years old, I got a phone call from a friend who had just visited, saying how sorry she was because her children had just come down with the flu and she was afraid they had given it to us. I told her not to worry and when our children did get sick, I thought, “No big deal, it’s just the flu.” I was wrong because Christin’s “flu,” her sickness, was not like that of her brothers.
A trip to our doctor revealed that Christin was dealing with something much bigger. I will never forget our pediatrician looking at me saying, “Michelle, you have a very sick little girl.” After being sent to our local children’s hospital, our daughter was diagnosed with bilateral duplicated renal systems, and during an exploratory surgery, we learned the condition was much more complicated than we had originally thought. Of Christin’s duplicated kidneys, one was not functioning and one was misconnected. All of which was causing her severe kidney infections. Our daughter underwent another surgery to correct the kidney problems and after a long hospital stay, we returned home full of hope that all of Christin’s medical issues had been fixed. However, it didn’t take long before our family realized something else was wrong. Multiple issues were revealed through more testing, but one in particular stood out – we learned Christin also had a tethered cord. This meant her spinal cord had limited movement and as a child with tethered cord grows, they can develop a variety of neurological or other symptoms.
We live in North Carolina surrounded by wonderful doctors and hospitals and for four years they tried different treatments, surgeries, and medicines to try and help Christin. Her symptoms got better but it was still not the quality of life we had hoped for her. Then one day, one of our doctors came to me and told me that she was sorry, there was nothing more she could do for Christin. She wanted to refer her to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
This was such a new thing for me. We had never had to travel for Christin’s care and it was scary to think that we were going to have to go to a new state and a new hospital to meet new doctors and try new treatments. On a cold and snowy day in February, Christin and I got on a plane and flew to Ohio. I remember landing, getting in a cab, and looking at my daughter, not realizing our lives were about to change forever when we pulled up to the Ronald McDonald House. When we walked through the doors we were greeted with the most caring smiles, we were surrounded by people who were going through the same things as we were, and these strangers that we were meeting for the first time were going to become our family.
When you are walking through a medical journey away from home, the Ronald McDonald House is there to walk beside you. They think of the practical things, like food, laundry, and a place to sleep. They also think of the FUN! When you look around the Ronald McDonald House, all you will see are smiles, children and their families running around giggling, playing, and having a good time. The Ronald McDonald House is a place where families can go to get away from their medical issues for a moment and focus on being a family.
I am so thankful for all those who support this incredible House. We are humbled and blessed to know that people we will never meet are supporting us as we walk through these difficult medical times, by supporting our home away from home, the Ronald McDonald House.
When people ask me “What does the Ronald McDonald House mean to you?” I always begin to tear up because it is so hard to put into words what they mean to us. I wish people could read my heart. I believe our little girl said it best. One day, when Christin was asked the same question, she looked at me and with biggest smile, said, “The Ronald McDonald House—it’s home!”
This Mother’s Day, please remember the mothers staying at the Ronald McDonald House as they care for their seriously ill child. You can make a difference in their lives by supporting this wonderful organization. Please make a donation today. Thank you for supporting our home away from home and the brave children and families who live here.
All our love,
Jonathan, Michelle, Brooke, Stephen, Christin, and David Love
By Carly Damman, Community Partnerships Associate
Food has a funny way of bringing people together. There’s something about the smell of food cooking in the kitchen, the hard work that goes into preparing for a large meal, the perfectly satisfied “full” feeling you get after the meal and most of all, the people you share the meal with.
Similarly, the sport of running creates a unique bond between former strangers. There’s something about the rush you get after a long run, the perfectly rhythmic pounding of the pavement as two people run together and the peace that surrounds a runner amidst the busy, chaos of everyday life. The bond of a group of runners can’t quite be explained until you experience it for yourself.
Not only was I able to witness this bond last week at the Team RMHC pre-race pasta dinner as a group of runners became fast friends through pasta and running, but I am fortunate enough to witness an even more special bond between families staying here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
There can be up to 130 families staying at the House at one time. Most of them, total and complete strangers dealing with a broad spectrum of medical situations, coming from various parts of the US and world and speaking several different languages. Despite the vast differences between the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, they share a common bond. They are all coping with the stress of having a seriously ill child in the hospital and they are finding hope and healing within the walls of our home away from home. Bonds quickly form between families as they connect with one another and find comfort through each other’s pain. Pain that becomes peace because of the Ronald McDonald House.
One of my most favorite moments in life is seeing connections form between people not because they come from similar backgrounds, wear the same clothes or come from the same place but because they share a unique bond that can hardly be put into words.
Team RMHC bonds over their mutual love for pasta and running but they also bond over their mutual love for our RMHC families. As they continue training and fundraising for our families, they are continuing to show me the power of a bond. A connection. A lasting unity that will empower others to share that same bond.
RMHC families bond over their mutual love for their children and grandchildren. The bond of love is one not easily broken. Virtually nothing can stand in the way of the love formed between a parent and child, certainly not even the devastating diagnosis of a serious illness.
Here at the Ronald McDonald House we’re in the business of keeping bonds strong. Bringing people together. Making connections. Sharing stories. Finding hope, love and healing when it doesn’t seem possible.
By Ryan Wilkins
This time of year makes my heart warm. I’m not totally sure what it is that makes me so glad. Nostalgia? A sense of gratitude? A reminder of what is most important in the world? Whatever the reason, I become full of holiday cheer. Maybe it’s more about the fact that we pause to think about the people in our lives that we care about most. Giving gifts will do that.
Have you seen the video where children have to decide between receiving a gift and giving their parents a special gift? If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it here. What is it about giving that is so moving? I watch these children willingly forsake their dream gift in order to give their parents something special. And when asked, their reactions are each the same. They put their own wants below the value of giving their mom or dad something special – and here’s the kicker – they understand the meaning of giving a gift. Their emphasis is on the act of giving, and not even specifically what they are giving.
This holiday season, I want to say “thank you” to everyone who has so generously supported the Ronald McDonald House. Whether through giving your time, talents, or treasure, you have made a tremendous impact on families just like Evelyn’s. And you give to the Ronald McDonald House so selflessly. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without you.
So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all that you do, so selflessly, to support kids going through tough medical circumstances each and every day. I am so thankful for you.
By Vicki Chappelear
A bright-eyed four-year-old, little girl walked into my office and gave me a big smile. She looked me straight in the eye, placed her hands on her little head and exclaimed, “I don’t have any hair!” She said it as if I didn’t know, but I did know. Her story is much like that of many of the kids I see daily.
I have the privilege of working with the families of kids who are pretty sick. I have seen all types of illness come into my office—cancer, spina bifida, heart issues or an illness yet to be diagnosed—you name it, chances are good I’ve have met a family dealing with it.
There is something that stands out to me about these kids—their resilient attitude. They do not sit around and feel sorry for themselves. I’ve actually witnessed five and six year olds comforting each other and having conversations about medical procedures I do not understand. Many of these little ones don’t know any different; this is their normal. Few of them know life apart from feeding tubes, wheelchairs or a complex cocktail of daily medicine.
The parents do an amazing job of trying to maintain their childhood innocence; their strength is incredible to me. What is a parent to do when their hopes of what is considered a normal childhood is dashed? When bikes are traded for wheelchairs and playgrounds for exams rooms and ORs? They do their best to keep things as “normal” as possible, all the while feeling the pressures of making wise medical decisions and the never-ending barrage of medical bills that they will never be able to pay. And yet, these moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas put on a brave face for their little ones.
I believe these amazing kids have a gift to see life for what it is, to embrace the life they have, to make the most of every moment. God has given them the strength to handle unimaginable trials with grace and a smile. They are not upset with their situation; they do not compare what they are going through with those who are not going through a life-altering experience.
I no longer see children in wheelchairs or children from whom childhood has been stolen, but rather, I see their smiles. The twinkle in their eyes and their love of life as they know it. It’s not about what happens to you or what you are going through, it’s about the eye through which you see those circumstances. These little ones are far wiser than their years.
So when I hear the squeal of laughter coming from a child in a wheelchair or even see the precious smooth, round head of a bright-eyed little girl, I smile because I am reminded there is joy in being alive. This is the path God has chosen for them and they embrace it.