By Jason Sutermaster, Volunteer
I have been volunteering with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio for a little over two years. I got my start when some friends and I were looking for an opportunity to do volunteer work. We felt our best opportunity would be if we could do something to help children. At the time, I was attending a gym called Go Fitness. The owner, Nick Osborne, had previously told me about how his staff will fix lunch for the families at RMHC of Central Ohio. We gave the House a call and talked to a super nice lady named Meika. We got our day scheduled, planned our meal, went shopping and arrived not really knowing what we were getting into. None of us had ever been to the House before. It was amazing! Everyone we came in contact with was incredibly sweet and helpful. So many families came up to say thank you and ask us what we were cooking. We had so many laughs and truly loved our time with the House. We enjoyed our volunteer experience so much, we scheduled a second date. At this time, I was able to speak to several of the volunteers about what other opportunities are available to support the House. Once again, I was put in contact with Meika and I attended a volunteer orientation meeting a short time later.
Around this same time, I became involved with a company called ACN Inc. ACN is one of the leading global sponsors of Ronald McDonald House Charities. Every quarter at our national conventions, we raise money to help support the local RMHC in the city we are staying. Additionally, the company’s world headquarters are in Charlotte, NC. Just a few short years ago, ACN recognized there was not a local Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte and donated all the funds necessary to help build the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte.
From that inspiration and the positive experience I had cooking lunch with my friends, we decided to become more involved with our local House. It was so amazing to learn the significance of RMHC of Central Ohio. Our local ACN team has a committed effort to cook a dinner for the families at least once a quarter. Our group loves it and often times we have more volunteers than we need to prepare the meal. That offers us an additional opportunity to help keep the kitchen as neat and tidy as possible. Many of our group members enjoy walking around the dining room and offering fresh brownies or helping sweep up crumbs. It never gets old to see new team members come to help out and watch the amazement in their eyes of the complexity of the House. It’s so much bigger and does much more than they had ever imagined.
On occasion, we have been referred to as “The Red Meat Group” from a few families that have stayed long enough to see us return. Our menu rarely changes as we always like to grill burgers and hot dogs, even if there is six inches of snow outside. That amazing aroma seems to just travel up the stairways and elevator shafts to spread the alluring smell of a summer picnic. It helps bring everyone together to enjoy a tasty meal and spread some smiles, while breaking up what can often be a stressful day for the families. We love seeing the staff and volunteers whom have come to recognize us and thank us every time we cook. It has been a very rewarding experience for us and we look forward to a continued partnership in the future. To the House with a Heart, thank you for having us!
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 Darla Stover
The literal definition of grateful is feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; to be thankful. The staff, volunteers and families at the Ronald McDonald House are grateful and thankful for:
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all of the reasons to be grateful. Different countries celebrate Thanksgiving in unique and different ways. Here are some celebrations from all over the world:
However people choose to give thanks this season, I want to give thanks to all of the hard-working staff and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House, the staff and volunteers at the hospitals and most importantly, to our families who are my pleasure to serve every day.
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.
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.
By Joel Merrill
As the Facilities Director of the largest Ronald McDonald House on the planet, I am blessed and honored to work with many individual and group volunteers. Volunteers are what keep the Columbus Ronald McDonald House running.
Volunteers keep the Ronald McDonald House clean, maintained, and are always a ray of sunshine for the guests that stay here. They are the reason we can provide such a wonderful, clean place for the families of sick children that are being treated at our local hospitals. It is through the selfless efforts of our volunteers that we are able to take a little of the daily stress away from the families, so they can focus more energies on their child. It is easy for us to get caught up in the everyday grind and lose (even temporarily) sight of the real reason we are here. That reason is to provide a welcoming clean place for families to unwind, gather their thoughts, and recharge their emotions.
I recently was humbled by the interaction with a first time volunteer, Amie. She came to help us work on a house that we are remodeling for long-term stays for families to stay in. Amie came after her regular work hours at her job with a commercial real estate management company. She was happy to help with whatever we needed done. She helped me hang drywall for a few hours (until it got too dark to see). Amie was concerned she wasn’t helping enough (as is the case with the volunteers that I am blessed to work with). The majority of people may not realize just how much it means to the House that they come in and help. Even if it is for an hour, it is such a wonderful thing. It helps the morale of the families and gets much needed work done. Laundry cleaned and folded for rooms ready for a new family, families fed, play areas for the families maintained and/or built. For every hour a volunteer spends helping us, they save the limited staff here that hour. That is priceless for us.
I think there was an unexpected blessing for Amie, too. As we were touring the House at the end of her volunteer shift, we met a family from Minneapolis, Minnesota as they were walking with their child, Lydia. Lydia and Amie became fast friends and played and talked for a few minutes on the Safelite Serenity Rooftop Garden. We rode on the elevator with the family to the first floor. Those few minutes had a huge positive impact on Lydia’s family and me (I am sure on Amie, also) and will not soon be forgotten as we all go about our lives. Lydia is such a sweet, sincere, engaging child. She is full of wonder and a great example of the courage and strength all of the children at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House possess. Amie epitomizes the heart and spirit of volunteerism. It is humbling to see how much positive impact just a few minutes of time has on people when they volunteer. Thank you to Amie and all of the volunteers for reopening my eyes to the wonder that we call the House.
By Ralph “Rusty” Garber
I have been trying to find a simple way to respond to the many people who ask me how I like volunteering at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. I have finally figured out what this feeling is that I have each night as I leave the house after helping our families for a few hours. I leave feeling grounded. Now, I simply tell anyone who asks, that it grounds me.
I have been a businessman for 35 years with a great company, the New York Life Insurance Company. I have held many different positions and lived in four different cities on the East Coast and in Ohio. The last eight years, however, I have traveled each week from my home to offices in Indianapolis and Columbus. I live about 100 miles from either city in a small village near the Indiana/Ohio border. Although it would seem glamorous to have an expense account, eat out each evening and stay at nice hotels, I can tell you it can soon become lonely and quite empty. Feeling there had to be a way for me to use my evenings more productively and that I was wasting away my talents by sitting in a hotel room and watching TV, I started looking for volunteering opportunities online. To my dismay, most required a commitment for a specific day and time and my travel schedule just couldn’t accommodate that. Finally, RMHC of Central Ohio popped up on my Google search and the organization allows me to have the ability to have a flexible schedule. Now I schedule time at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House when my business travels take me to Columbus.
I will let you surf through the various articles on the RMHC website to learn about the Ronald McDonald House in depth, but let me tell you about my little piece of it, what I do, and how it affects others and me. I am a Housewarmer/Host for the House. As such, I do pretty much whatever is needed that evening from doing laundry or making beds (don’t tell my wife), to cleaning the kitchen or filling the pop machine. By far, however, I love the times when I have the opportunity to interact with the families, either as a tour guide or just chatting with them in the dining room or public areas. Every situation is different and how I can make things just a little easier for them varies. Whenever I do a family tour, the most important thing I tell them is that the RMH staff and volunteers’ only job is to relieve them of the additional worry about food, housing, and to provide them the opportunity to be close to their child during their time of need. I always see a little relief in their tired and worried eyes when I tell them this piece of information.
Perhaps the best way to tell you about how my time at RMH affects me is to describe an amazing encounter I had with a young girl, probably eight or nine years old, at the end of my shift one evening.
As background information, I need to tell you my wife and I had an unusual accident in December with me tumbling off a ladder resulting in the ladder breaking my wife’s leg and the fall damaging my knee. The injury required me to rely on a cane and my wife having surgery and using a walker for a while. As time went on, I started to catch myself moaning and groaning about the pain and inconvenience of my injury to anyone who would listen. Frankly, I was tired of being hurt.
As I rounded the corner, I came face to face with this remarkable young lady who was moving about the hall quite nimbly using a walker. She looked up at me with more engaging eye contact than most of my business associates. Trying to make conversation, I commented to her that my wife was using a walker but that she didn’t get around nearly as well as the young girl did. With her eyes twinkling she said, “I am not going to need mine much longer.” I said that was great and asked why she wouldn’t need it any more. She went on to tell me that the following day she was having surgery to prepare her leg for a brand new prosthetic leg. She was excited and confident. Her mother and grandmother, who were standing nearby, looked at me, to see my reaction. I bent down a bit and quietly said to her that she will be walking and running again real soon. She smiled again and we went on our way.
As I got in my car to go back to the hotel, I sat back in the seat for a quiet moment before starting the engine and realized that, once again, I had received far more than I gave that night. Suddenly, my knee didn’t seem to be much of an issue anymore. I still have my cane but haven’t used it since that night. I let my grandkids play with it instead.
Yes, grounded…grounded feels good. I would strongly encourage anyone who took the time to read the ramblings that I scribbled out here, to call Kate or Meika at the House and explore the many ways you can get involved. Being grounded is an amazing blessing!