By Betsi Werling
Editor’s Note: After almost a decade, Joe & Betsi Werling came back to Columbus from northwest Ohio last week, bringing their daughter, Savannah, with them to visit the house where the couple spent so many worried nights across the street from her crib in the NICU those many years ago. But this wasn’t just a casual visit. Joe & Betsi brought Savannah herself to the House so she could personally present a check for $150 in donations made from a lemonade stand she set up in their hometown to raise money for the House. We took the family on a tour of what had become the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world after having added eighty new family guest rooms, an indoor tree house, a princess room, and a commercial kitchen in 2014 after Savannah’s parents were guests staying in the House. It was also a good time to show Savannah the construction of more than 80 more new family guest rooms, a new kitchen area and dining room that will be completed in just over a few month. Savannah was able to see that her donation will be helping the once-largest Ronald McDonald House in the world operate, once again, as the largest in the world again.
On October 7, 2014, Savannah Werling was born in Lima, Ohio. Right after birth she was rushed to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where she would spend the next 3 weeks fighting for her life. I’ll never forget that first night, the anxiety of not knowing what was happening and the fear I felt when we got checked into the hospital and made our way to the room where Savannah was being cared for. Seeing a nurse working feverishly to change out IV bags and drawing samples as a doctor is reading off numbers and giving directions. I remember that first night when the doctor mentioned that the chances of Savannah making it through the night were slim and he suggested we try and get some rest and he had someone checking with the Ronald McDonald House to see if there was an open room. I remember a few hours later we were told there was an open room and we should walk over and get checked in as room availability was low.
Even though things are a bit of a blur from back then, it brought back a flood of emotions when
we recently visited for a tour of the new addition and renovations. It has been almost 9 years
since our stay at the Ronald McDonald House and seeing the changes that have been made
and the changes that are currently in progress warmed my heart. I saw the office where we
were checked in that first night and I could remember the fear and confusion I felt that first night.
Some of the areas brought back good memories and emotions such as the front desk, the cafeteria, and the Jim Tressel room. Savannah was amazed to see all the neat things that RMH has to offer and we are glad that she chose such an amazing organization to donate the money from her Lemonade stand (Savannah’s Snack Shack).
Rick Shepherd, Communications Manager for RMHC of Central Ohio, accepts Savannah’s donation check on behalf of the chapter, with parents Betsi and Joe by her side.
We are extremely thankful for all the kind generosity we felt during our stay and hope others
will feel the same!
Joe, Betsi, & Savannah Werling