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 Angela Alder, Strategic Partnerships Associate
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Gandhi
While pursuing my Bachelor’s degree and working full-time, I spent, what little free time I had, planning events for a local wedding planner. I spent countless hours doing the less than glamorous, behind-the-scenes work involved in executing any big event. I worked tirelessly on timelines, contracts, budgets and calming anxious brides all for the rewarding moment of seeing it all come together on a couple’s big day! It wasn’t long before I realized I had found a new passion in event planning!
After graduation in the spring of 2012, I walked away with a diploma, some larger than life student-loan debt, quite a bit of free time, and a yearning for something more. I wanted to give back. I was so enthusiastic about events, but wanted any (all) of my volunteer efforts to be put towards meaningful work. If I was going to be giving of myself, I wanted it to be in the service of others. A friend of mine was on staff at the Ronald McDonald House and invited me in for a tour. As we walked through the halls, she spoke of the young professionals group dedicated to supporting the volunteer and fundraising needs of the House. These young men and women (of the Red Shoe Society) took part in hands-on opportunities such as cooking meals for the families, donating items, peer-to-peer fundraising, awareness of the mission and planning & organizing, you guessed it, special events! I joined immediately and began attending the monthly meetups. I was soon introduced to Jamie, the Special Events Director and other Red Shoe Members who invited me to be on the planning committee of one of Red Shoe Society’s biggest events, A Toast to Tinseltown.
For the next four years, I volunteered on the Red Shoe Society. Through networking and volunteering, I built relationships with those that shared the mission of the House and followed suit by building friendships with many of the members on staff as well. I continued to work full-time in a corporate office where I facilitated multiple in-kind giving opportunities, collected pop tabs for the Pop Tab Program and invited coworkers to come see first-hand, the House that Love Built. I wanted to share the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities with anyone that was willing to listen.
A few months ago, I got a call from Jamie with the opportunity of a lifetime. She asked me to be a part of the RMHC team as a full-time staff member. I couldn’t hold back the tears! As the Strategic Partnerships Associate, I now lead the young professionals of the Red Shoe Society and host multiple special events for the organization throughout the year! Here at the House, I am surrounded by staff members that I have, for so many years, grown to know and love. Here, I am able to work alongside volunteers who give selflessly of their time and hearts to make the lives of others a little bit easier. It is here, at the Ronald McDonald House that I was finally able to find myself, only after losing myself in the service of others.
Last year, Shannon Thomas’ cousin had premature twin boys, Cale and Cole, born in Marietta, Ohio. The twins were healthy in size for being born premature. However, they had multiple complications and were rushed to Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Cale and Cole stayed in the NICU for close to two months.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio became a huge blessing for Shannon’s cousin during an extremely difficult and stressful time. It allowed them to stay close to their babies, rest in a comfortable bed and enjoy delicious, homemade food.
Shannon was so moved when she heard about the option to run for Team RMHC, Ronald McDonald House’s charity running team, stating:
“The decision to join Team RMHC was a no brainer. I completed my first marathon in May for my own personal goals, but this one is for the twins!”
Team RMHC is filled with runners motivated by similar stories. They have each been touched by the love and care that flows from the Ronald McDonald House. Emily Smith and her family stayed at the House while her brother, Will recovered from a tragic car accident. Emily even completed training for her first marathon on a RMHC treadmill in the Columbus Crew SC exercise room! Parker Sinclair has volunteered at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House with the Red Shoe Society and joined Team RMHC with his wife, Elizabeth. Ken Grape’s grandson was born prematurely. The House saved his grandson’s parents a two-hour drive while he spent 7 weeks in the NICU. The stories of Team RMHC runners are what drives each runner, what motivates them to stomp out another mile, what encourages them to finish the fight! Thirty runners completed the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon or Half Marathon to celebrate and cherish the stories that connected them to RMHC of Central Ohio.
13.1 or 26.2 miles completed.
195 nights of rest provided for RMHC families.
Ready to make a difference in your own life and in the lives of RMHC families? Join Team RMHC for our spring season!
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 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.
By Tony Szymczak, Immediate Past President of Red Shoe Society
Upon starting a new job, my boss mandated that I get involved with a charity. I remember thinking that information should have been disclosed in the interview! The same week, a friend asked me to get involved with the charity they worked for, and that charity happened to be Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. Coincidence? Now, I don’t think so but at the time I thought it was convenient because I didn’t have to research anything. Sometimes you realize that things were just meant to happen. As fate would have it, I began “volunteering” at the House with the Young Professionals Board.
Growing up in a small Ohio town, I never really had much exposure to charities or organizations that helped others in need. Sure, when I was younger, I sold subs and candy bars for little league, but I knew that was going to help me directly. When I say I sold subs, I mean I asked my mom and dad to take the order sheets to work. I would hardly consider that an experience in helping others. In fact, one year I think I ate the candy bars before I sold them so I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count as fundraising. I began my time with the YPB with that as my volunteering experience.
I pretty much sat on my hands for the first couple of months, but felt good because I was fulfilling my duties as an employee and friend by being there. During one meeting, I was tasked with leading an event. I accepted the task and that was the moment that started my real experience at RMHC and it changed my life significantly. Through that event, I learned a few things: I learned volunteering could be a lot of fun, RMHC was full of great people, being a part of a good cause is very fulfilling, and that I liked helping others.
Fast forward 6 years and I am now able to reflect on how Red Shoe Society has changed. The Young Professionals Board is now The Red Shoe Society. The group has grown by 10 times. We help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the House. We were named the top volunteer group in Columbus. Most importantly, we are making a significant difference in the lives of those families who need it.
Fast forward 6 years, and I am now able to reflect on how RMHC of Central Ohio has changed me. Shortly after my first event experience, I changed careers and went to work for a non-profit. It is at this company I met my future wife. Thank you RMHC! The man I currently work for I met through the House. Thank you RMHC! The person who will be performing our wedding ceremony I met at the House. Thank you RMHC! When I really began volunteering at the House, I could see the impact our efforts had on others. What I could never imagine is the effect that volunteering and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio would have on my life. Thank you RMHC! You have changed my life in ways that I would have never imagined.
By Sean Murray, Membership Committee Chair of the Red Shoe Society, Group of Young Professionals
Years ago, when I was a youngster, McDonald’s ran a commercial featuring Ronald McDonald and other characters with a catchy song I still remember to this day. The song begins with Ronald singing When you believe in magic, and I hope you do, you’ll always have a friend wearing big red shoes. I actually forgot about that song until 2011 when I visited the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for the very first time to volunteer with my team at work.
I was new to the Columbus area and looking for ways to volunteer and new friends to make. My group toured the House and did our volunteer work. I was touched by how much the staff and volunteers do for the families of seriously ill children. At the very end of my trip to the House, I was informed of a group of young professionals whose sole purpose was coming together to assist at the Ronald McDonald House. I asked for information and sent an email, which ended up being one of the best decisions I have made in my life!
Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to the most talented, dedicated and fun-loving group of people I have ever met, the Red Shoe Society. Everyone was welcoming and wanted to get to know me. I volunteered for one of the bigger fundraisers, Dig it For the House, and had an absolute blast. If there’s such a thing as “fun in the sun” in Columbus, Ohio, this event is definitely it! I met the tournament organizer, Bill, and through his energetic and positive leadership, the event had its most successful turnout (and topped that this year). I met Tony, the president of the Red Shoe Society at the time, whose team made it a goal to raise the most funds for the event so they could enjoy the day in the “VIP” lounge. I met Jamie, whose tireless work and seemingly endless hours coordinating with the group during meetings and events really helps keep everything running smoothly.
Since then, I have helped plan membership events, volunteered with the Red Shoe Society to make breakfast for families at the Ronald McDonald House, as well as other fundraising events for the House. I have gotten together to hang out with group members as friends. I can think of no better way to spend my free time than with this group and helping the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Everyone has so much fun and projects are undertaken with a love and passion for giving back that is difficult to describe.
These people, and the many others I have met over the past few years at Red Shoe Society events, are people I am honored to call my friends. Through hard work, determination, hours of planning, members of the Red Shoe Society truly do make magic happen for Ronald McDonald House and I am proud to call myself a member. If I wasn’t a believer in magic before I became involved with the Red Shoe Society, I am a believer now!