By Brett Letestu
My name is Brett Letestu, but some of you may know me as “the Canadian with the Minnesotan accent.” My husband and I came to Columbus less than three years ago when he joined the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team. We now live here full-time with our sons, Caleb and Dylan.
Giving back is very important to us. Although we may move more often than the average family, we always look for ways we can contribute to each community we live in.
I first became involved with the Ronald McDonald House last winter after touring the facility with my fellow Lady Jackets. I was so impressed with the enormous amount of hard work our neighbors in Columbus did to make this sanctuary for families a reality. On a more personal level, I was thrilled to see the Blue Jackets involvement and immediately asked what I could do to help.
Shortly after that tour, I began volunteering at the house weekly. I help with everything from answering the phones, to cleaning room after a family checks out, to doing laundry and stocking shelves. In my time at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, I’ve met some of the most amazing, inspiring people and made some true friends for life. Honestly, I never imagined my time there would impact my life as much as it has. I’m deeply humbled to be even a small part of an organization that provides so much comfort to so many in need.
Besides volunteering, the Lady Jackets also organize special projects and events to help the the Columbus Ronald McDonald House even more. During the holidays, we joined forces with the Blue Jackets Foundation to organize a Blue Jackets Favorites Basket Auction and Raffle. We gathered a variety of our husbands’ favorite things to be auctioned off, including game worn items, game consoles, golf items and their favorite candy, movies and gift cards to their favorite restaurants. The proceeds went to the charity of our choice—and of course we chose Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio!
Most recently, we’ve started designing and outfitting a “Princess Room” as part of the current expansion project. As the mother of two boys, this is particularly exciting for me—I’ll finally get to help design a room with pink, princesses and glitter! We’re also working hard to gather ideas and materials to make this room come to life. We hope to get inside the room and begin making the magic happen by beginning of May, and we’ll be sure to update you on our progress.
We’re grateful and humbled to have this opportunity to help make little girls’ dreams come true, and look forward to celebrating the room’s completion with—what else? —a Grand Opening Tea Party!
As mentioned before, working with the wonderful and dedicated employees, fellow volunteers and meeting the remarkable families that stay there has been a life changing experience for me. This unique nonprofit provides a real win-win for everyone. I’m so proud to work alongside you!
By Delyse Twitty
I truly believe that I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to be able to have my dream job. I’d often heard the saying, “Find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”, but I wasn’t sure that it was actually possible. In December I discovered that it was not only possible, but that the saying was 100% true.
My name is Delyse Twitty and I am a Family Services Manager at the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. Words can’t even begin to describe the love that I have for my job. I always knew that I wanted to work at a nonprofit, and the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio was always my first choice. The reality of this amazing organization is even greater than I ever dreamed that it could be. The staff and volunteers are beyond wonderful, but it’s the families here that change your life. Every family that stays here has their own story, their own unique set of circumstances and they each leave their own special set of footprints on your heart. I treasure the time that I get to spend privately with each family and I cherish every moment that I work here.
I can honestly say that I wake up every day and feel completely blessed that I get to work around such great people. Every day here is an eye opening, heartwarming reminder that I’ve found my place in this world. I get to spend my days with the best staff, volunteers and families imaginable, and for that I am forever thankful. The Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio has truly changed my life.
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 Sean Murray, Membership Committee Chair of the Red Shoe Society, Group of Young Professionals
Years ago, when I was a youngster, McDonald’s ran a commercial featuring Ronald McDonald and other characters with a catchy song I still remember to this day. The song begins with Ronald singing When you believe in magic, and I hope you do, you’ll always have a friend wearing big red shoes. I actually forgot about that song until 2011 when I visited the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for the very first time to volunteer with my team at work.
I was new to the Columbus area and looking for ways to volunteer and new friends to make. My group toured the House and did our volunteer work. I was touched by how much the staff and volunteers do for the families of seriously ill children. At the very end of my trip to the House, I was informed of a group of young professionals whose sole purpose was coming together to assist at the Ronald McDonald House. I asked for information and sent an email, which ended up being one of the best decisions I have made in my life!
Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to the most talented, dedicated and fun-loving group of people I have ever met, the Red Shoe Society. Everyone was welcoming and wanted to get to know me. I volunteered for one of the bigger fundraisers, Dig it For the House, and had an absolute blast. If there’s such a thing as “fun in the sun” in Columbus, Ohio, this event is definitely it! I met the tournament organizer, Bill, and through his energetic and positive leadership, the event had its most successful turnout (and topped that this year). I met Tony, the president of the Red Shoe Society at the time, whose team made it a goal to raise the most funds for the event so they could enjoy the day in the “VIP” lounge. I met Jamie, whose tireless work and seemingly endless hours coordinating with the group during meetings and events really helps keep everything running smoothly.
Since then, I have helped plan membership events, volunteered with the Red Shoe Society to make breakfast for families at the Ronald McDonald House, as well as other fundraising events for the House. I have gotten together to hang out with group members as friends. I can think of no better way to spend my free time than with this group and helping the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Everyone has so much fun and projects are undertaken with a love and passion for giving back that is difficult to describe.
These people, and the many others I have met over the past few years at Red Shoe Society events, are people I am honored to call my friends. Through hard work, determination, hours of planning, members of the Red Shoe Society truly do make magic happen for Ronald McDonald House and I am proud to call myself a member. If I wasn’t a believer in magic before I became involved with the Red Shoe Society, I am a believer now!