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.
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.