By Mackenzie Schuler
If you have not had the chance to visit the Columbus Ronald McDonald House recently, you may be in for some serious surprises. We are undergoing a 42 guest room expansion, which will put our guest room capacity at 122 rooms, making the Columbus Ronald McDonald House the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. Our expansion is named “Building More Stories of Hope”, which is a fitting name for the work we are doing here to support families of seriously ill children. While we are adding rooms to all floors of our House, we are going to be able to hear about all of the great stories our families have to share. With this expansion, we will be able to serve even more families of seriously ill children. Here are some of the great things you will see when you come visit our House!
Commercial Kitchen: We will have a commercial kitchen, which is completely outfitted by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. This kitchen will allow our meal groups to have adequate space to prepare and serve meals for our families, as well as having the experience of preparing a meal in a restaurant-esque environment. This kitchen will also eliminate meal groups using our current family kitchens, so families can continue to prepare their own meals if they so choose. Our dining room is being completely redone, from tables and chairs to the flooring, and we cannot wait until we can show you what’s been cooking behind the scenes!
Green Space and Playground: Currently, our green space and playground have been out of commission, because of our construction site, but do not fret—they will be making a comeback! We will have a great themed playground for the kids to play, as well as more green space available for our families.
Safelite Serenity Rooftop Garden: Our rooftop garden will be a space for families to reflect, relax, and have an oasis in the midst of chaos while their children are being treated at central Ohio hospitals. This space will have beautiful patio furniture and will be a wonderful way for families to unwind and enjoy themselves while staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
Long Term Housing: We will be offering long-term housing to families who will be staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for six months or longer. Four homes will be constructed within our property to keep families close to their children. By offering this service, families will have a home-like atmosphere to be able to keep some sense of normalcy while their day to day routines will vary during their child’s hospitalization.
We are extremely grateful and thankful to be able to serve even more families here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. There are so many organizations, groups, and individuals who helped make this dream a reality. The Ronald McDonald House is truly the House that love built.
We have had several different people write for our blog, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, we wanted to share the gift of love from a former family who stayed at our Ronald McDonald House. Here is their story.
By the Garcia Family
My daughter, Esmeralda (Esmie), was transported via air ambulance from Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona to Nationwide Children’s Hospital on November 2nd, 2012.
Esmie was diagnosed with Interstitial Lung Disease, a rare autoimmune disease that attacked her lung organ. Esmie’s disease began at 11 years old, and she continued having difficulties breathing, muscle weakness and pain. With the care of the doctors she was receiving and her oxygen support, she was able to make it through until October 6, 2012. Her lungs had gotten worse—they had scarred and stopped functioning.
Doctors in Phoenix did not have much to say, but they told us Esmie was going to need a lung transplant. She was then put on the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Machine (ECMO), a procedure that uses a machine to take over the work of the lungs. Four days after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital team came to Phoenix, they airflighted Esmie to Columbus. On November 24, 2012, Esmie received her lung transplant, and this was a huge gift to us. On January 8, 2013, Esmie was discharged from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
I want to say thank you to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. While I was there, I met a lot of caring staff members and volunteers. The Columbus Ronald McDonald House made me feel at home. In those stressful moments with my daughter, I really had a home to sleep, eat, and shower just to be ready to go to the hospital, which was less than a minute away, and be with my Esmie. Just knowing I had been able to be well-rested to speak with Esmie’s doctors made all of the difference in the world.
From the bottom of our hearts, we truly appreciate everything the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has to offer. It has been a long journey, but we truly treasure all of the time we have been able to spend together because of the Ronald McDonald House!
By Darla Stover
On my road to becoming a quinquagenarian, I felt a strong need to make my life more meaningful. After struggles with a very important person in my life, I knew I needed to help other families, so I went back to my Alpha Delta Pi days and began to volunteer once again for the Ronald McDonald House. Very early on, I knew I wanted to make Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio my work home.
The Ronald McDonald House holds such an incredible energy that you feel as you walk through the front door. The families staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House are the strongest and most resilient people I know. They are thrown into a foreign medical world to which they must quickly adapt. They learn in a matter of days the names and treatments of conditions and illnesses and know what their child needs to thrive. The families move through their journey with such grace and gratitude for the simplest gestures at Ronald McDonald House.
Faith in humanity is restored when meeting our dedicated volunteers, when looking at the schools, businesses and community groups who gather wish list items, host fundraisers, make meals and clean the House. The staff members are a rare breed of people who are so dedicated to the cause and work together as a cohesive group for the betterment of the whole. They are a talented group who give their time so willingly during and after work hours.
I have never worked harder in my life, and yet I feel so fulfilled. At the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, no problem is too big to solve and no effort is too small to help these families who may be far from their homes and their support systems. As a member of the Ronald McDonald House Charities team, we check our own worries at the door and focus on those with greater needs with laser focus. The lines between corporate executives, public figures, working citizens and the families are completely
erased. Each person involved in with Ronald McDonald House Charities uses their strengths and connections to make the House bigger and better able to help the families who are engrossed in healing their children.
If you haven’t visited the Ronald McDonald House, our staff personally invites you to take a tour. Your life will be forever changed.
by Mackenzie Schuler
For many of us, getting Thirty-One Gifts products is something we look forward to whenever a new catalog comes out, looking at all of the new prints, and debating over which product we want to choose. For families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, having free time to pour over prints is not something they have the time for—they are focused on helping their child heal at one of our area hospitals. However, families staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House are being exposed to all of the wonderful ways Thirty-One Gifts is giving back to RMHC—their organization really is the gift that keeps on giving! I want to take a moment to highlight some of the great ways this organization is helping Ronald McDonald House Charities.
By having the generosity of Thirty-One Gifts, we are able to continue on with our mission of serving families of seriously-ill children in central Ohio. They truly understand and empathize with what the families are going through, and go above and beyond the call of duty to help our families each and every day at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. We are so grateful for all of the support Thirty-One Gifts provides to us here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Their support is a gift that is unmatched!
by Angie Hartley
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is easy to forget the little things. Often we may take them for granted because they have always been there, but what happens when they no longer are?
Sometimes it’s the little things that are most important to our families. It’s a warm meal, clean clothes, comfortable bed, and friendly smile to help you get through the hard times. This is all made possible through the generosity of our community.
Each year we ask our the community to support the Ronald McDonald House any way they can, and each year I hear people say, “I know what I’m doing isn’t a lot, but I want to help.” What they don’t realize is they are helping in a big way! You don’t have to be a doctor, fireman, or superhero to make a significant difference in someone’s life. You just have to have the passion to give back however you can. For some, it may be through monetary or in-kind donations, and for others it may be through their time and talents, but for our families, your support means the world to them.
For nearly four years, I have had the privilege to work as the Development Director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. I know how important the Ronald McDonald House is to families of seriously-ill children and I have seen first-hand how generous our community is. Each day, we have volunteers who spend their time in the evening supporting our families after a long day of work. We have donors who generously give as they are able to support nights of rest for our families. And we have groups that have collected so many wish list items they come in by the carload. It is all of these things that help us make our House a home for our families. While some may say their actions are small, they are big to us!
As we come to the end of another year, I want to send a special thank you to everyone who supports RMHC. Thank you for donating your time, talents and treasures to make our House a home for families of seriously-ill children. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without each of you. I wish you all a Happy Holiday and best wishes for the New Year!
by Ryan Wilkins
Having a child in the hospital is beyond stressful. I unfortunately know from personal experience. When Dylan, our first son, was born in February of 2005, he had a fever. After measuring and weighing him, nurses took his temperature, and all of a sudden, the air was sucked out of the room. Their faces changed, and the doctor was called over for a hurried conference. Then they turned around to my wife and I and told us the news no new parent is ready to hear – “we need to take your child to the neonatal intensive care unit.” The joyous birth of our first child turned into the most frightening experience of our lives in the span of about two minutes.
While we were in the delivery room trying to process what just happened, the only thing on our minds was doing everything we could to fight for our baby’s life. For the next week amazingly sweet and gentle nurses cared for Dylan, helping cure a severe infection. Had it not been for modern medicine, he likely would not have survived. But thanks to the expertise and hard work of the medical professionals, he is a healthy and happy third grader today.
While Dylan was in the NICU inside that clear plastic box with tubes all over his body, there wasn’t anything that could tear his mother and I away from his side. Like many parents thrown into these circumstances, we couldn’t imagine not being there for him. Even though there was nothing we could do for him medically, we knew somehow that being there for him would make a difference. So, for that week, we slept anywhere we could find a place to sleep in the hospital. It wasn’t the optimal situation, but we made it work. What I wish is that there would have been a Ronald McDonald House across the street from that hospital.
At the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, we help families who are going through circumstances just like mine. The goal is simple – provide a home-away-from-home near the hospital for families whose children are being treated. Such a simple thing can make a profound difference in the life of the whole family. We slept on uncomfortable couches back in 2005. However, had there been a Ronald McDonald House right across the street, we would have been able to get a few hours of sleep, take a shower, grab some food to eat, and connect with other families going through similar situations.
That is what drives me every day as I perform my duties at as Director of Community Relations and Marketing for RMHC of Central Ohio. Everything we do is to help moms and dads, just like me, to be close to their children who need them desperately.
When I work to encourage people to donate their vehicles to provide a whole week at the Ronald McDonald House for a family, I think of what it would have meant to Sarah and I to be able to stay at a Ronald McDonald House and have that provided by a generous donor. When we are working to tell the story of the families at the House, I can’t help but put myself right in their shoes. The Ronald McDonald House is such a wonderful gift that we can give to families who are going through the most stressful circumstances.
As we grow to be the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world, I am so proud to be a part of something that is more than the biggest – it will be a support to up to 122 families every night so they don’t have to worry about where they can sleep or what to eat. They can rest assured that a warm bed and comforting community of caring people will be there for them at the House, right across the street, every night. That is invaluable.
by Meredith Harrison
This week, while we take time to reflect on things we are thankful for, I am most thankful for the opportunity to be a part of something much greater than me, the Ronald McDonald House.
My journey started in 2003 when I was in my freshman year at Otterbein College, the year I joined a sorority. This sorority, like so many others, had the opportunity to meet new friends, socialize and to volunteer. Our charity of choice was the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, where we could interact with the volunteers, families and staff. One of my favorite things to do was to host a meal—tacos, of course! At the time, I never would have dreamed that RMHC would impact my life like it has so many others before me. I was hooked!
It started small, spending time with the Housewarmers, answering phones, cleaning rooms and doing crafts with guests. It grew into something much bigger, literally. As the House grew, so did my love for the organization and its mission to help families of seriously ill children.
Have you ever heard the saying, “if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life?” Here I am, 10 years later, doing what I love, working for the Ronald McDonald House as the Donor Relations Manager, and what is even more meaningful is working to help families in need.
Today at the Ronald McDonald House, I spend time doing something unlike anything I’ve done, helping people I would have never met otherwise, and impacting the lives of so many people, including mine. I never know what to expect when I arrive at work. It could be something simple like thanking a generous donor, helping a little girl’s dreams come true by designing a princess room, or even moving 160 beds so that the families have a comfortable bed to sleep on at night. That’s what I love the most—I can always count on something new and exciting knowing it will impact others in a bigger way that I could have ever imagined.
Today, I am thankful for so many things and RMHC is one of them.
My name is Jeff Holzaepfel, and I am a senior at the University of Dayton. This past summer, I was given my first internship at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio as the Marketing Intern. Coming into the internship, I had a vision I would assist with social media marketing and give my ideas on some advertising; however, this was not the case. My internship with RMHC had me making videos, writing for the monthly newsletter, helping to set-up and take down for special events, and navigating through the city to ensure people in central Ohio knew about the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
This was not the typical internship where I was in the office all day. The projects I was tasked with took me out of my comfort zone, which made the whole summer even more enjoyable! The project that most forced me out of my comfort zone was making two videos—there was a volunteer video and a video starring families that were guests at the House. The major challenge of the project was initiating the entire interview process. I was nervous at the beginning because I did not know how to approach volunteers or families, but I had to be proactive and finish the videos. The entire experience turned out to be fantastic. Not only did this project enhance my creative skills, I also have learned better communication skills, which are going to come in use when I am searching for a job a semester from now.
Obviously, the whole summer couldn’t be all work and no play. The staff and other interns made it exciting to come to work. The work environment was unlike anything I thought it would. I felt as if RMHC was one big family. Everyone was more than willing to help one another out on a project, which was one of the biggest lessons I learned that cannot be taught in a classroom. School makes the real world seem as if it is an all work, no play mentality, but from my experience, you can’t get the final product without the fun and loving environment at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.