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 Carly Damman, Community Partnerships Associate
This past weekend, 180 Ohio University students gathered together in the Baker University Center ballroom on campus to dance for 12 hours straight. Students weren’t just dancing for the fun of it. They were dancing for the kids and families that spend far more than 12 hours here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
They were dancing for the single mom who has a cancer-stricken young son in the hospital. For the parents who have to spend months apart from each other, one taking care of their ill child and the other at home working to keep up with medical expenses. Dancing for the new parents gripped by fear because their twin girls were born early and are struggling to breathe.
In the midst of difficult times, the Ronald McDonald House is there as an escape for these families, providing them with a free place to stay, a hot shower, a comfortable bed and a home-cooked meal prepared by the loving hands of our volunteers.
In the midst of the stress and busyness of college life, the students of BobcaThon Dance Marathon were hard at work fundraising, hosting on-campus events and preparing for February 13th, the day they would stand on their feet for RMHC families.
During the 12th hour of Saturday’s dance marathon, the executive team stood on stage, exhausted yet excited, to announce the final fundraising total: $40,473.01 for RMHC families. 404 additional nights of rest for RMHC families! Needless to say, the 2nd Annual BobcaThon Dance Marathon was hugely successful but I think there’s a bigger story to tell here.
Big kids helping little kids. Big kids DO have the power to change the world. Big kids DO care about giving back. Big kids ARE driven, goal oriented, smart and passionate. We live in a world where tragedy, cruelty, hate, stereotypes and pressure to perform cloud our view of “big kids”. Every day, I have the privilege of experiencing how big kids are helping little kids. College students helping the kids staying at RMHC of Central Ohio. A generation helping a future generation.
BobcaThon isn’t just a dance marathon that raises money for the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. It’s a display of big kids helping little kids. It makes me excited for the future, knowing that a group of empowered, driven and passionate big kids can change the lives of all the little kids who know nothing different than to keep fighting.
These big kids WILL change the world!
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 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 Mackenzie Schuler
I love the holidays, but I have especially always loved Christmas. I love the lights, music, decorations, the food, and the traditions. My favorite thing about the holiday, however, involves the memories with my family.
One of my favorite memories involves my entire family when I was 1 or 2, my dad and my grandpa Dave (who were avid outdoorsmen), decided they were going to plant trees for wild life. In two days’ time, my dad and grandpa planted 3,000 trees on my grandparents’ land. These beautiful pine trees grew for a number of years. Around the time I was in elementary school, the trees were large enough for our family to cut down our own Christmas tree. On Thanksgiving afternoon, after all of the food had been eaten, my grandparents, parents, sister, aunt, uncle, and cousin went outside to the field, where all of the trees were planted. As my sister and I scrambled to find our Christmas tree, I noticed how proud my grandpa was. He loved making memories with our entire family. To be able to say we cut down our perfect Christmas tree that my dad and grandpa planted on my grandma and grandpa’s farm is a memory I will always cherish.
Providing memories for families of seriously-ill children to cherish during an extremely difficult time is something our volunteers and staff provide on a daily basis at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. I see it everywhere—from families who congregate together while they do laundry and ask how each other’s child is doing, to parents who switch shifts and go over their child’s care over dinner, so one parent can rest while the other spends time with their child in the hospital. You see mothers of premature babies console each other over coffee. You see meal groups making a homemade meal for our families to eat so they can gain strength and focus solely on their child’s health. You see a parent getting a hug from a volunteer after a difficult day over at the hospital. During the holidays, you see families shop in Santa’s Workshop so they do not have to worry about purchasing presents for their loved ones and they can focus on helping their child heal faster—that’s a memory to be cherished. Seeing families have a holiday meal with their loved ones and not having to worry about preparing it so they can spend every minute with their hospitalized child is a gift.
These small gestures that are shown day after day at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House make a lasting impact on a person’s heart. Although this is an unfathomable time in families of seriously-ill children’s lives, the relationships and memories made at our Ronald McDonald House will be cherished all through each and every person that walks through our doors. There is no price on providing families of seriously-ill children the gifts of hope, relaxation, relieving stress and togetherness—these are the gifts you will find each and every day at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, and these are the best kinds of gifts. We are so blessed to have volunteers, donors, and community supporters who make every day a gift for our families.
By Aren Carmen
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into the first time I stepped through the doors of Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. I had heard the stories, the praise, the positivity that surrounds the house and their mission. I was nervous, painfully so. What could I do to help with something so big, so grand, so important? The first tour did nothing to quell my anxiety as we walked past room after room and I tried my best to soak up every statistic that was thrown at me. From play areas to family rooms, kitchens to offices, I was in awe. The scale of the house baffled me, the passion of the staff inspired me, but the families were what made everything fall into place. From day one I knew that this was not going to be any old internship.
Every time I walk through the doors now, it’s not anxiety I feel, it’s motivation. There’s an aura in the house, the offices, the staff themselves that drives everyone further. Pushes them a little harder to do anything and everything they can to support the families that need the help we provide. This summer I learned what a labor of love truly was. The staff and volunteers that keep the House up and running taught me that in their daily actions. They don’t seek praise, they don’t want anything but to see a family through the hardest times of their lives and finally out that door to get back to their homes happily. The families taught me what it meant to be gracious and strong in the face of tribulation. Despite the situations that led them to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, they stayed optimistic, friendly, and supportive of each other. I saw the power that a sense of community has in combating despair and fear. I watched families check in, weathered and drained. I watched them check out, bright with life and beyond thankful. I heard stories that tore my heart in two and met kids that I never wanted to stop talking to. I spoke to people that challenged my thinking and others that redefined words like love, courage, and strength.
One of the first things that happened to me when I got the news that I would be working at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio was a conversation with a friend who told me about the impact RMHC made on his family when his brother was born. He said that they didn’t know what they would’ve done had it not been for RMHC. It took being a part of the reality of the mission to realize the gravity of his words. When someone talks about the impact that the House makes, it doesn’t stop at the bed they sleep in, or the food they eat. It’s in everything that you experience here. The families, the staff, the support, the feeling of community, the love that you sense in everything that is done here, it all culminates in a truly humbling and powerful experience that words could never capture. The memory that I will hold most tightly to was watching a family I saw check in early into my time here walk out, both children by their side holding massive over-sized stuffed kangaroos, as they thanked the volunteers at the front desk, thanked any staff that was close enough to be thanked, and took one last look at the House that they had needed so dearly. There is so much that can be said for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, but none of those words embody what Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio truly is. I’m beyond thankful I had the chance to be even a small part of the mission, to experience what this House means to the families it serves, and to have met the people that spend their days focused on helping others through trials that most could not even imagine. The Ronald McDonald House has given me a truly meaningful experience, one that I will never forget.
By Carly Damman
Running, as in life, involves highs, lows, exhaustion, excitement, joy and grief. I started running during my sophomore year of college and could not have imagined how the sport of running would impact my health, my friendships and my will power.
As a Ronald McDonald House staff member, I’ve had the privilege of managing our charity running team, Team RMHC. Team RMHC participants train for a half or full marathon race while fundraising for the families staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Not only that, but I’ve been involved in several races in the Columbus area representing the Ronald McDonald House as the charity beneficiary, including the Corporate Challenge 5k, the Color Run, the Hot Chocolate Run and the Red Shoe Run, just to name a few. Boy, how running has permeated every area of my life!
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Why does she keep talking about running? I hate running. Running has nothing to do with the Ronald McDonald House.”
But, oh, how you’ve been mistaken!
I run my race #forRMHC families and here’s how:
Countless hours in the hospital waiting room…
A year in and out of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House….
We are all running a race. A race we will finish through all the tears, setbacks, laughs and successes that life brings.
Dear Ronald McDonald House Volunteers and Staff,
My husband and I would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Our baby, Clay, was transferred here very unexpectedly after being born prematurely. We have now spent almost a month at Nationwide Children’s Hospital as our son has grown and learned how to eat. We would not have been able to manage this without your help! We live two hours away and have a three year old son at home. While my husband has stayed home with our son, it has been a comfort knowing I had somewhere safe to stay that is so close to the hospital. This has allowed me to watch over our baby and be involved in his care. Everything from the room to the services you provide has went above and beyond. This is truly a wonderful place! Thank you all for being so good to our family!
The Boggs Family
By Katie Cannon, Team RMHC Member
I promised myself that I would run a half marathon before I turned 50. Being that my longest run ever was 4 miles, this truly would be a major accomplishment for me.
I am not a runner. In fact, I hate to run. When I saw that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House had a fundraising team for the half marathon, I joined immediately. Running for RMHC was the incentive I needed to keep on training, especially because I have personally witnessed why the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is a necessity for families at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t give up on myself because I would then be giving up on the families that needed the RMH!
My oldest child, Rachel, was born on December 4th, 1991, with a very serious heart defect. Her first three months of life and many, many future days and weeks were spent in Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
During this stressful time, my ex-husband and I had the luxury of our child being hospitalized in the city in which we actually lived. We could go home every night to our own bed; our families kept our fridge stocked with food, and we never lacked for visitors to sit with us during the scariest times ever of our whole lives!
I couldn’t even imagine dealing with a Rachel’s hospitalization, far from our own home and support system. Yet I met so many parents that were doing exactly that and remaining strong because of the Ronald McDonald House. Until my time with Rachel at Children’s, I just thought the Ronald McDonald House was basically a hotel that parents could stay in for a very small cost. Wow, was I ever wrong!
The Ronald McDonald House does provide the hotel-type rooms at very little or no costs. However, it provides so much more. RMHC families get a true family to go home to every night by just walking across the street, instead of driving hours to their far away homes. There are home cooked meals waiting every night. Most importantly, because of volunteers, there is a built in support system, to help through those very long and scary times.
Thank you to RMHC of Central Ohio! I am so proud to have helped this great cause! I thank you for being the incentive to check “run a half marathon before you are 50” off of the bucket list!
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.