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 Andrew Sturgill, Romeo’s Pizza
Many things lead me to donate pizza to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio. The most influential was Joyce Mitchell, my late mother-in-law and her fight with cancer. I remember her saying to me one day that she wasn’t feeling very well from all the chemotherapy, “man, a slice of pizza sure makes you feel normal.” That statement stuck with me, because it’s so true. Everyone loves pizza, I joke all the time the greeting kids give the pizza guy is second only to Santa Claus. Joyce’s statement turned a light on for me. It made me think about how truly blessed I am. I have four beautiful, happy, spoiled, ornery daughters. Most of the days in life for my wife, Stephanie, and I is a circus.
From the impact of what Joyce said, I wanted to start doing a monthly pizza party for kids that were at Nationwide Children’s Hospital with long-term illnesses that were there receiving treatment. I wanted to help the kids “feel normal”, even if only for a brief moment. I also believe that I am truly indebted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital because I was a patient there for 20 years. As with most things I set out to do I aim for the stars and fall short, but the moon has a great view too.
As Joyce and I did research, we realized that doing the pizza party at the hospital was not going to be an option because of many red tape details. However, that is what led our search to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. It made sense; as a parent, I believe there is nothing worse than having one of your babies sick or in pain without the ability to remedy it. I reached out to Columbus Ronald McDonald House and the Volunteer Manager, Meika, and set up the first pizza delivery. Meika is so awesome, always happy and thankful. It makes me feel great when we donate. I asked her if I could bring my two oldest daughters with me on the first trip there to help teach them how good it feels to give.
That first trip was so amazing, it was the only time I hung around while the kitchen staff plus Meika prepared the dinner, because Meika wanted to give the girls and me a tour of the House. As my daughters and I were leaving after our tour, I was able to see into the dining area. The good vibes coming out of there from the few families that had gathered and the kitchen team was amazing. There were many smiles and even some laughter. It gave me a feeling of happiness that is hard to explain; I was hooked.
That brings me to a story I want to share. My District Manager (DM) and I were having a meeting about six or eight months ago reviewing sales, delivery performance, labor cost, and food cost numbers. On that day I was able to coach my DM on something that is more important than pizza or profitability. The DM asked me why we do Ronald McDonald House orders. He explained that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is about 20 minutes away from our closest store’s delivery area and he wasn’t sure we would get any residual business impact from it. He pointed out that we don’t post it on our Facebook or other social media accounts. I believe my answer shocked him in a good way. I simply said, “it is because of how giving those pizzas make me feel.” He looked at me silently for a minute, confused. I explained to him I get more JOY out of giving those 20 or 30 pizzas to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio than I could ever explain with words. I challenged him to deliver an order. A month or so later at a different meeting he told me he had. He smiled at me and said that we should do that as often as the Columbus Ronald McDonald House needs us.
I wanted to share that because I think it speaks to the environment created by the staff, volunteers, donors, and parents at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. In one visit, the House hooked my DM the same way the House hooked me. In short, it makes you feel good being there. It’s a place you want to be a part of, even if it’s just a small part. It’s so funny because now Meika usually just texts me last minute when she needs a quick fill in dinner. I wonder if she knows I look forward to her texts. They make me smile.
I will continue to do all I can for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio for as long as I am permitted. It reminds me of Joyce, whom my family misses dearly. I would have never had the connection with RMHC without her. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio gives so much more to me than they know. No monetary amount or trade of goods ever comes close to the JOY I have when I get a text from Meika, and JOY is a really good thing.
By Andrea Biada, Major Gift Officer
For the past several years I headed our company’s annual holiday drive and I chose the Ronald McDonald House as the charity who would receive our contributions. With the Wish List in hand, I spoke to my coworkers and encouraged them to purchase items from the list for this great cause. The first time I came to the House was to drop off the assortment of items we collected during the holiday drive. As soon as the front doors opened, I felt warmth and compassion from the front desk volunteers and staff members. I was immediately impressed and drawn to the House and its mission.
Shortly thereafter, I noticed the Major Gift Officer position available on the Central Ohio AFP’s website. As I was reading the position posting I was instantly evoked with the same feelings of gratitude and warmth that I felt upon entering the Ronald McDonald House that cold, winter day not long ago. Needless to say, I joined the RMHC team in August of 2015 as Major Gift Officer and I couldn’t be more pleased in my new role.
As Major Gift Officer I meet with foundations and submit grant applications to secure funding for the House. I also give tours to familiarize groups, companies, and individuals with RMHC and its mission. I present naming opportunities, both annual and permanent room signs, as well as pavers for purchase to the groups. Our newest initiative, the Adopt-a-Family program, allows individuals and companies to adopt one or more of our guest families each year to ensure families have a place to call “home”.
The generosity that I see on a daily basis from our Central Ohio community and beyond is truly amazing. I’ve encountered folks who are already engaged in the House, groups new to RMHC, donors, and volunteers, and all come to the House with the same purpose – to help provide our families with the love and support they need to get through this difficult time. I’m grateful to witness such compassion, generosity, and devotion to one House and its mission. I look forward to accomplishing many things in 2016, but most important is working closely with the community to support the Ronald McDonald House and its mission.
By Barbara Matta
The Coaches’ Charity Challenge is something that has been near and dear to our hearts for the past four years. With this wonderful contest, Thad, alongside The Ohio State University Basketball team, the entire OSU Athletic Department, and the central Ohio community has come together to support one single cause: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
The outpouring of love and support RMHC of Central Ohio receives through this contest is incredible. The Coaches’ Charity Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for the community to see the heart of what truly matters to our family—helping keep families together while their children are being treated at central Ohio hospitals.
Thad and I have two daughters of our own, and we cannot fathom what we would do if one of the girls became extremely ill, or how we would try to maintain some sense of normalcy. Fortunately, this is where RMHC of Central Ohio steps in for families. The House provides an oasis in the midst of chaos. At the House, families have a chance to eat a home-cooked meal, do their laundry, play in the princess room, and watch movies in the in-home theatre—these are only some of the options. The House provides a sense of stability for families while their lives are turned completely upside down. The volunteers and staff care about each family that comes through the doors. This home captures and embodies the true spirit of love in every sense of the word.
For our family, the Coaches’ Charity Challenge is not just another contest, but a way to keep families together when they need it most. If we are able to win again, this contest will earn RMHC of Central Ohio $100,000, which translates to 5,000 nights of rest for families of seriously-ill children. For three years, RMHC has been fortunate to win with the support of the community, and we are in it to win it for 2016!
The Coaches’ Charity Challenge evokes a sense of competition that is felt both on and off the court. Thad knows he is fortunate enough to have the backing and support of so many community members voting every day for him on behalf of RMHC of Central Ohio.
The ball is in your court—we hope you will vote with us for the rest of the contest to help support Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, who really needs our support, as they are now the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. You can vote every day at VoteCoachMatta.com. Your daily vote helps provide a respite for the families at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, so they can focus on what truly matters—helping their children heal.
By Lindsey Beggin, Volunteer
I will be honest and tell you that my reasons for volunteering at this House in the first place were purely selfish. I was completely broken when I showed up for my first volunteer shift, so much, in fact, that I almost left in tears before I hit the door. A month earlier my brother broke his neck in the ocean, was life-flighted to the hospital, hooked up to a ventilator and deemed a quadriplegic. That following month was trying on my family and I as we all balanced visiting Austin in Chicago and working back home. For the next six months, Ronald McDonald Houses were our homes away from home when we visited, and my mother’s while she wasn’t staying with my brother in the hospital. RMHC gave my family so much more than just a place to eat and sleep during the scariest times of our lives, they gave us hope and such a loving community of support.
No matter how much they change, this house, these walls, and these people will always be my home away from home. I will never be able to articulate even a fraction of the impact this House has had on my life. Here in Columbus I’ve met some of the strongest, most beautiful people and I’ve seen unexpected corners of the community come together for the greater good. I’ll never be able to repay my debt to this House. I may have been broken that afternoon I first walked through those doors, but piece by piece this House helped me put myself back together again.
By Darlene Brady, Volunteer
THE HOUSE feeds my soul and for that, I am grateful. Before I began my stint as a volunteer, my life was perfect. So when it is said that square is square not squarer; round is round, not rounder, I have to say that it probably follows that the same might be said about perfect.
To me, The House has moved me into “perfecter” status. I am thrilled when I read the signs of gratitude posted in sporadic places. I am thrilled when I walk through the doors both in and out of THE HOUSE. I walk in happy to see everyone, full of energy. I walk out exhausted and happy knowing that I had a place to put my compassion and caring into action. The integrity of staff, volunteers, leaders, directors is a match to my own. That is not always easy to find in a charity organization.
The other day I saw a sign on a car bumper. It was a photo of a dog paw, and it said: Who rescued whom? That’s how I feel about THE HOUSE. I thought I was doing something good for someone else when I came to THE HOUSE but now realize that it is THE HOUSE that is doing something good for me.
Win/win – you can never lose when you have a win/win. I LOVE THE HOUSE. Blessings to all who volunteer, work, care, scrub, wash, dry, fold and in general answer the call.
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 Abigail Brumme
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”-Helen Keller
Working at the Ronald McDonald House allows me to stay connected with our mission each and every day. I know that the work I am doing with so many wonderful community members will make an impact on our families in so many different ways. I spend a lot of time making phone calls, giving tours, thanking our donors, and finding ways to connect others with what RMHC does. Recently, I had the chance to be on the others side of my typical every day by volunteering on a Saturday morning with my life group from Rock City Church to bake cookies for our families. As a staff member, I always have the chance to meet people who are visibly always enjoying their time volunteering at the House. Whether they are making a meal, baking, working with a project group, helping to clean the guest rooms or whatever it may be for that group, they have the ability to connect with the House on a new level. Coming in as a volunteer for just one morning at the House allowed me to connect with our mission on a new level. I was able to see the joy that families feel when a group of people they have never met comes in and simply makes a treat for them. We were told countless times how good the treats smelled and people were constantly stopping in the kitchen to say hello. Having this experience with my life group reminded me of the gratitude our families have for everyone and everything that comes through the doors of the House. People can get connected with the mission in so many ways. Whether it’s volunteering at events or at the House, collecting pop tabs, doing a wish list drive, getting their companies involved in cause marketing or community fundraisers, adopting rooms to support families, bringing in spare change, or whatever idea comes to mind. Every day I am amazed at the creative ways people choose to get involved with the House, and make a genuine impact on our families. There is a way to get involved in the House for everyone, and I am so thankful that I am able to witness people connecting our mission and our families. Like myself, and so many others, you too can find a way to help the House with a heart.
Elena and her husband, Milan, were living in Russia, where they met, when they had their first daughter, Josephine. At 4 months old, the Villareals noticed something was wrong with Josephine, so they went to the pediatrician. The doctor told Elena and Milan their daughter had Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1 (SMA). In 2011, the Villareals decided to move to the United States, where there was more research being done for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. There is no cure for SMA and the average life expectancy is 1-2 years old. Josephine passed away at 15 months in May 2012.