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 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 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 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.
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 Diana Beil, RMHC of Central Ohio Volunteer
In 1991, my brother was a patient at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. For several months, my mother stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House while he was in the hospital. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a group of coworkers who prepared a meal for the families staying at the House. Being there reminded me of all the stories my mother shared about her time staying at the House and how blessed we were to have the House during such a difficult time. After that visit, I realized I wanted to become more involved with the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and I have been volunteering ever since.
My favorite part of being a Housewarmer is the interactions with the families. It is a great feeling to know the simplest of tasks – providing directions, providing forgotten toiletries, etc. makes their day just a bit easier. I am always fascinated by the distance people come to receive care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I have a great sense of pride for the Hospital and the House, and feel confident telling the families that they are in the best place they can be for their child. I also have met some of the most generous people working at the House. It is nice being surrounded by others who value volunteerism and giving back to our community.
My mother came to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House with me a couple years ago to take a tour. It is very different than the small house she remembers. I can’t wait to have her come back and check out the new addition. I think the most rewarding part of being a volunteer at the House is knowing I’m making my mother proud and giving back to such a wonderful place that helped our family all those years ago!