This Teen Serves Families

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Kayla Radel was just five days old when she had her first open heart surgery. “It was a life and death situation,” her mom, Shelly, explains. “There were complications. We were living at the hospital.”

Even though they resided locally in Brook Park, Kayla’s condition was too touch-and-go to be that far away from her. Halfway through her five-and-a-half month hospital stay, a social worker told Shelly and her husband John about the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.

John and Shelly appreciated the comfortable bed to sleep in, the transportation to and from the hospital, and the meals. And their two-year-old son could stay with them at the House.

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Their 10-week stay nurtured their love for the Ronald McDonald House. They began giving back to the House in numerous ways. John carried three-year-old Kayla on his shoulders up the steps of the first Tackle the Tower. They collected pull tabs, attended fundraisers, cooked meals for the families, and wrote thank you notes to donors.

Kayla, now a junior at Berea-Midpark High School, was looking for a volunteer opportunity. An acquaintance told them about the Teens Who Serve program, which provides area teenagers the opportunity to earn service hours while exposing them to the mission and vision of the Ronald McDonald House. Kayla signed up right away. "I joined the Teens Who Serve Program because I wanted to give back. "They helped me and my family so much I wanted to find a way to say thank you!"

One requirement of the program is to plan a fundraiser or wish list drive. Kayla decided to hold a wish list drive at her local elementary school where she also volunteers. She enlisted the Spirit Club to help her hang posters throughout the school, and she sent home letters with each student. Her former third grade teacher, Roberta Caleris, became the drive’s cheerleader, and items started pouring in.

We were overwhelmed by the response. We would have been happy to fill one big box. We never expected we would be delivering several boxes to the House! One mother even thanked Kayla for being a good role model for her daughter.
— Shelly Radel

Do you have a teenager who is interested in serving the community and learning more about the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland? Applications for the Summer 2017 session will be available this spring.

Tackling the Tower for RMH Families

Thank you to everyone who organized and worked at this event to make it a fun-filled day. Having never done anything like this in my life before, I had no idea what to expect. It was wonderful!! Looking forward to doing it again next year.
— Janet Grasso

Nearly 1,000 participants gathered on Saturday, February 4, 2017, for the 15th Annual Tackle the Tower at the Galleria & Tower at Erieside. The Galleria was abuzz with runners and walkers who climbed 37 floors, or 728 steps, to support the families of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.

The event kicked off with a Fun Walk, followed by the race. Runners took a break to cheer on Cleveland mascots – Moondog of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ketchup, Mustard, and Onion of the Cleveland Indians, Pozzie of the Canton Charge, Webster of the Akron Rubber Ducks, and Skipper of the Lake Erie Captains. Moondog beat the all-time mascot record with a time of 6:44.1.

Ronald McDonald rang the start of the Firefighter Challenge. Firefighters from more than 20 stations climbed the stairs in full gear, weighing in at more than 40 pounds! Some even wore air masks. (Many departments use the Tackle the Tower as a training opportunity.) Both the male and female Firefighter Challenge records were shattered: Joshua Allen with a time of 6:43.5 and Natalie Tomcsak with 7:58.1.

Two other all-time records were bested this year: Male 60 and Over - Jeff Winch with 5:35.7; Female 20 to 24 - Audrey Smolik with 5:36.9. Race times are now posted on the Hermes Cleveland website.

We could not put on Tackle the Tower without the help of dozens of volunteers who worked race day. Thank you! We would also like to thank our very generous sponsors: Life Storage, Majestic Steel USA, Athersys, Cleveland Monsters, The Anderson DuBose Company, Coca-Cola, Sirna & Sons Produce, Weston Hurd LLP, Consolidated Solutions, and Suburban Press. A special shout out goes to CARE, Cleveland Association of Rescue Employees, for providing EMT to keep our runners safe and healthy.

Make sure to visit our photo gallery on our Facebook page. 

JT's Championship

While the Cleveland Cavaliers were setting the stage for their first NBA Championship, 12-year-old Cavs fanatic, JT Gayhart, was embarking on his own journey.

All of his life, JT had been experiencing chronic dizziness that led to vomiting. His family had admitted him to various hospitals for treatment where he received countless GI exams that provided little help.

In March 2016, JT’s mother and father, tired of witnessing their son be subjected to increasingly painful migraines, sought the help of a pediatric neurologist in Cleveland. After visiting with the neurologist, the Gayharts finally received answers to the cause of JT’s debilitating migraines: a significant Chiari 1 Malformation of the cerebellum. Not only did JT have the malformation, he also had swelling along his spine.

As the Gayharts were getting answers, hope and joy collided as the Cavs clinched their first NBA Championship. Wanting to prevent any potential neurological side effects from the spinal cord swelling, doctors scheduled JT for surgery. The date of the operation? June 22, the same day as the Cavs championship parade. With JT’s surgery and recovery looming, the Gayharts scrambled to find a hotel room that was both cheap and close to the hospital. It was at this point that Yvonne and her husband were referred to the Ronald McDonald House by Yvonne’s aunt. 

What a blessing! We were welcomed in immediately, given a tour, and shown our room, which was clean and well-kept. We could ALL stay to support each other and be there for my son.
— Yvonne Gayhart

While the hospital cared for JT, the Ronald McDonald House cared for his family so that they could provide the foundation their son needed to recover. "At a time when we could not work and finances were so tight, the onsite amenities of laundry, family dinners, an area for our other children to stay, and transportation to and from the hospital were amazing and comforting," Yvonne says.

Being a self-proclaimed “HUGE” Cavs fan, JT distracted himself in the preoperative room by watching the championship parade with family and hospital staff. After undergoing a successful surgery, JT and his family returned home after less than a week at the hospital and the Ronald McDonald House. Grateful for the comfort that the House provided, Yvonne and her family now speak about their experience any chance they get. 

Because of our experience, I have encouraged the physicians I work for and co-workers to donate to the Ronald McDonald House.
— Yvonne

In December 2016, the Ronald McDonald House partnered with the Cavaliers to provide tickets for the Christmas Day rematch between the Cavs and Warriors. Knowing how big a Cavs fan JT is, his grandmother grabbed a pair of tickets for JT and his dad. Little did she know that her purchase would give JT the chance to high-five the players as they entered the court. With his jaw on the floor, JT slapped hands with the reigning NBA Champions, bringing full circle the family’s journey in Cleveland. 

You can support families just like JT's by making a donation today!

Pulling Together

Pop! Fizzle! Snap!

That noise, the noise made when pulling off the small tab from a can of soda, was music to Monica’s ears. Born with Down syndrome, Monica Jakubisin was also born with a compassionate heart and strong desire to help families facing uncertain circumstances. During Monica’s first job after high school, she learned about the impact that donating the little tabs of aluminum had in helping families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. The organization works with a local recycler to turn donated tabs into cash to help families staying at the House.

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Monica knew the purpose of the Ronald McDonald House was to help families stay close by when their child was in the hospital. Monica had enough hospital experience to know that you want your family to be near when you are sick.
— Mary Ellen Jakubisin, Monica’s mother

From that moment forward, Monica has been committed in collecting tabs any time she sees them on an empty can. She places the tabs into sandwich baggies and cups and then into a bigger container for easy storage. Word of Monica’s philanthropic efforts eventually reached her extended family in Florida, and during the family’s visit to the sunshine state, they presented her with a box full of pull tabs to contribute to her donation. In April 2015, Monica and her family made their first visit to the Ronald McDonald House to donate her collection of pull tabs. When she arrived, House volunteers weighed the tabs…10 lbs worth, which totaled more than 10,000 pull tabs!

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Thrilled with her donation, Monica wanted to keep pulling for the House so she could do her part. Last spring, Monica learned that the Ronald McDonald House would be hosting their inaugural Pull Tab Palooza event. All were welcome to visit the House, interact with guests and pet therapy volunteers, and watch a magic show by Ronald McDonald. Monica was sold, and in May she and her family once again made a special visit to donate her pull tab collection and contributed to the 4,600+ lbs of pull tabs that were donated by the community that day!

Thank you, Monica, for pulling for the Ronald McDonald House! We hope to see you at this year’s Pull Tab Palooza on Friday, May 19, 9 am-6 pm, at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland! 

Running for a Reason

When Jennifer and Clayton Brown found their daughter Aubrey having a seizure in the middle of the night, their world froze. The family from Sanford, Michigan, put everything on hold to search for answers to help their 12-year-old daughter. With seizures so severe they placed Aubrey in the ER, the Browns sought counsel from local neurologists and doctors. But Aubrey’s seizures continued and grew worse. The unexpected nature of her condition left Aubrey, a competitive gymnast, unable to perform, and the family grew weary.

In the summer of 2014, Aubrey experienced a seizure that lasted 30 minutes, a particularly long and dangerous attack. Jennifer and Clayton turned to local resources to find answers, but the hospital had a six month wait list. With their Michigan contacts tapped out, Jennifer called a Cleveland hospital and set up an appointment for the coming week. The family began their six-hour drive to Cleveland on a crisp September day.

The pediatric epileptologist diagnosed Aubrey with cortical dysplasia on her right frontal lobe, the cause of her grand mal seizures. Aubrey was admitted to the hospital for a week so doctors could video and EEG monitor Aubrey’s nightly seizures.

With hotel expenses and hospital bills piling up, a nurse told the Browns about the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. At the House, they found a warm and welcoming environment where they could get much needed rest and food.  It was a place where they could take care of themselves and, in turn, take better care of Aubrey. 

The Ronald McDonald House took us in and told us we could stay as long as we needed. We were so stressed out, but we knew we had a safe haven at the House. You can’t put a price on that.
— Jennifer Brown

The House also helped them put their own experience in perspective. Clayton met a nine-year-old guest who also had frequent seizures and was awaiting a hemispherectomy to treat his epilepsy. Despite his medical challenges, the boy greeted each day with an enduring sense of optimism.

After many more visits to Cleveland for treatment over the next two years, doctors were finally able to identify a medication successful in reducing Aubrey’s nightly seizures from 10-15 per night to zero. With the new treatment Aubrey is now participating in competitive cheer and pole vaulting and getting a better night’s sleep, which has helped her excel in school.

Thankful to the Ronald McDonald House for providing for her and her family while in Cleveland, Jennifer wanted to give back, but was unsure how. A marathon runner, she had a serendipitous encounter in August with a man running the North Country Trail in Michigan on behalf of Ronald McDonald House. Jennifer was inspired and decided to run the Detroit Marathon in October 2016 to raise funds and awareness for the House.

Running for the Ronald McDonald House gave me a cause to run for, which helped give me focus and meaning when times became tough during my training.

Jennifer had her Creekers for a Cause, a group of philanthropic youth at the high school where she is a counselor, get involved by hosting a “Rise to Shine” campaign to collect wish list items and pull tabs for the House. Jennifer also raised more than $900 in donations from family and friends in support of her run. After a tough but successful Detroit Marathon run, she, Clayton, and Aubrey visited the House to drop off the donations and share their journey with volunteers and staff.

In an effort to continue to give thanks for the stability the House provided them when caring for Aubrey, Jennifer has registered to run on Team Ronald McDonald House Cleveland for the Chicago Marathon on October 8. When asked why she decided to run again on behalf of the House, Jennifer put it simply, “I have a strong desire to give back to the House and contribute in a way that I know how. Also, I look forward to seeing others on Team Ronald McDonald House and being a part of a group that is proud to run for such a great cause.” 

Families Give from the Heart

When Christine and Jack Gardner were sitting at the bedside of their son, Kaiden, they never imagined they would be in a position to help other families. At birth, Kaiden was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease known as Tetralogy of Fallot. At three months, he was admitted to the hospital for his first surgery, which took place on December 28, 2012.

Mom and Dad, who live in Massillon, had no plans to leave the hospital without their son. For 11 days they slept by his bedside so they could be close to him at all times. While there, they used the Ronald McDonald Family Room daily. They did their laundry, took showers, ate snacks, and relaxed in the recliners. 

The Family Room was our safe room. It was a quiet place where we could gather our thoughts while we waited for updates on Kaiden.
— Christine Gardner

In addition to the emotional toll it took on the family, the time was financially difficult. Christine couldn't work for nearly a year after Kaiden's birth. And they didn't expect to stay in the hospital so many days. "The food at the Family Room really helped us with expenses."

The Gardners had always been a generous couple. Each year the softball tournament they organized raised thousands of dollars for local charities. After their experiences with Kaiden, they founded Kaiden Kares, a nonprofit that provides Kare Bags for families staying at the hospital. The bags include toiletries, coloring books and crayons, games, snacks, and other comforts.

On December 28, 2013, the one-year anniversary of Kaiden's successful surgery, the Gardners and their friends came to the Ronald McDonald House to cook a meal for the families. They've been coming on that date ever since. This year they brought several Kare Bags for the Ronald McDonald Family Room families on behalf of their nonprofit.

When Kaiden was a baby, we barely got by financially. Now we’re in a position to give back. We are honored to help the Ronald McDonald House families.

Today Kaiden is a happy, thriving little boy. "He's a pistol," Christine says. "When something like this happens to your family, your life changes completely. You realize what's really important."

We have many opportunities for you to help the families of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. 

  

Ryver's Family Says Thank You

You are a hero! Thank you to everyone who donated to the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland in 2016. Your donations to the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland are keeping Ryver's mom, dad, and brother close while he grows and thrives. 

The Ronald McDonald House, our four Family Rooms, and RedTreehouse.org serve more than 100,000 people throughout the year. Your support is critical to make sure our families stay close no matter what time of year they are here.

A Home for the Holidays

Perry Como famously told us that there’s no place like home for the holidays. But when the unexpected happens, your family can be in a situation that’s out of your control. Just ask the Mullet family from Mechanicstown, Ohio.

Martin Mullet and his wife, Katie, were 26 weeks pregnant with their fifth child in late September when Katie’s blood pressure skyrocketed. With time working against them, Martin and Katie left their children with family and were rushed to Cleveland for care. A few day days later, Katie underwent an emergency C-section and gave birth to their baby boy, Nolan. Nolan was just 1lb. 11oz. at birth.

Nolan would have to remain at the hospital under continuous care for months as he developed, and the Mullets were faced with the stress of paying for accommodations, food, and parking. That’s when doctors and nurses told them about the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. Martin and Katie quickly filled out an application for a room so that they could be near their son as he grew stronger.

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Nolan’s four siblings soon joined Mom and Dad at the House to meet their new brother, and they remain in Cleveland over the holidays while Nolan continues to improve.

"If it wasn’t for the Ronald McDonald House, it would be impossible for my wife to be close to our son and for our children to be near their brother,” says Martin Mullet. “The House has been a very big blessing for us.

This will be the Mullet’s first holiday season away from their house and extended family. While it’s not the Christmas they expected, it’s one that Martin knows they’ll look back on fondly because they are sharing it with other families in similar circumstances. 

There are so many nice, good hearted people that we’ve met and embraced. We all support each other. It’s like a big family at the Ronald McDonald House.
— Martin Mullet

They were even able to use services at the House so they could ensure their family had as normal a Christmas as possible this year. Thanks to the computers in the media room, Katie was able to shop for the kids online.

The Nolans will be spending Christmas day cozied up in their room and close to Nolan. That way, he’s as much a part of their Christmas as they are of his. At four pounds, Nolan continues to make strides. Each day, the Mullets anxiously wait for word on when they’ll be able to return to Mechanicstown, sometime after the New Year.

Until then, we’ll be here keeping them close. We’ll be keeping them in our home for the holidays.

Quicken Loans - Cleveland Honored with Pillar Award

We are excited to share that Quicken Loans – Cleveland was honored with the 2016 Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service for their support of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. The award was presented at the Smart Business event on December 7, 2016, at LaCentre.

Our partnership with Quicken Loans started in 2010. What began as a clean-up day and a family meal turned into a total embrace of the Ronald McDonald House by the local Quicken Loans team. And in January 2015, Quicken Loans staff members from Mark Mazey and John Wargo’s team took their community service to the next level.

In the last 18 months, the Quicken Loans team enthusiastically has supported four activity nights; provided 2,900 meals to families at the House; managed a fall clean-up; hosted four fundraising events; and organized 13 chore groups. Their impact is felt by our families every time they volunteer with us.  

I don’t remember their individual names, but thank you to the Quicken Loans team member who played peek-a-boo with my son while they also cleaned. My son really misses his brother, and they absolutely made his day with their smiles and attention to him. Thank you!
— House guest

Quicken Loans team recently piloted a new program to serve families in our Ronald McDonald Family Room locations (UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s, Cleveland Clinic Children’s, MetroHealth Medical Center, and Fairview Hospital). The Fuel For Families Program, a direct response to a strong need, provides free, healthy bagged meals to families who do not want to leave their children at the hospital. Now our family caregivers do not have to sacrifice their own nutrition or incur more expenses during this critical time. 

In the first several months of the program, the Quicken Loans teams delivered more than 250 meals to our Family Rooms. Participant feedback has been enthusiastic! The Quicken Loans team is dedicated to continuing the program’s outreach, which has served more than 800 meals. 

Mark Mazey motivates the team during their Drive to Donate campaign

Mark Mazey motivates the team during their Drive to Donate campaign

Quicken Loans did not stop there. They also held a large “Wish List” collection drive to ensure items on our urgent needs list were available to our families and sponsored our Laundry Room. House families are guaranteed free 24/7 laundry while they stay with us. 

The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is proud and grateful for our partnership with the Quicken Loans – Cleveland team. Not only do they support RMH, they cheerfully contribute to our mission. Their strong culture of service is evident in everything they do. Thank you, Quicken Loans – Cleveland!

Learn more on how your company can get involved with the Ronald McDonald House.

OUR POND Stories: A Legacy of Love

We are excited to announce that OUR POND, a series of original children's stories, is now available online. The stories are donated to the Ronald McDonald House by Fred and Angela Close. These hopeful stories, which encourage the animals to use their special skills to problem solve, were written by Fred, narrated and illustrated by Angela, and are cloaked with the beautiful music of Simeon Wood. 

Fred, who had no siblings, was lonely as a child, so he invented adventures for his stuffed animal toys. One day his father bought him the record, "Peter and the Wolf," a narrated story accompanied by beautiful music. He loved it so much he played it over and over again.

Several years ago, I had a dream about ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ and I had a wonderful idea. Why not write another story with friendly animals living around a beautiful Pond and somehow add the music?
— Fred Close
BOING, HIDE, & RIDE

BOING, HIDE, & RIDE

He wrote several stories, and Angela narrated them. On a cruise in the Indian Ocean, they met Simeon Wood, who performed for the guests. Simeon loved the stories and volunteered to compose and play the music for all the animals. And the rest is history! Now a collection of five delightful stories recount the adventures of Nozzle, Jazz, Whizzy, Twitter, Zanzibar, Old Kate, Bubblebath, Shard, Snag, Clump, Sally, Posey, and Boing.

Fred and Angela, who live part of the year in England, are forming a partnership with a Ronald McDonald House in the UK to share these stories with their families. They see the stories as a way to share their love with RMH families for many years to come.

We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Animal Therapists Bring Joy to Our Families

Stanley Guido

Stanley Guido

Not all volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland walk on two legs. Some have four and are full of furry hugs and slobbery kisses. While our human volunteers bring smiles to the faces of our guests, those smiles shine a little brighter when our animal therapy partners come to visit. From a Yorkie-poo named Stanley Guido to a miniature horse named Dimples, RMH is privileged to have such amazing animal companions visit and play with children and their families at the House during a time when happiness and levity are needed in their lives.

What exactly does it take to become an animal therapist for the Ronald McDonald House? In Stanley Guido’s case, his owner Glen Stout had to take him to 22 weeks of training and administer the lessons at home to make sure they stuck. Stanley was originally found walking the streets of Cleveland by the Cleveland APL as a months old puppy. This is where Glen and his wife Tracy found Stanley Guido and were immediately smitten by his puppy charm.

Once Stanley Guido became certified, Glen and Tracy took him to local nursing homes and hospice at Southwest General. It was during this time that they were introduced to the Ronald McDonald House. Struck with curiosity and wanting to give Stanley Guido a change of scenery, the trio decided to pay the House a visit, and the rest is history. They have since welcomed Rosey, a poodle mix, to the family.

This House…I can’t stop talking about it. To be able to give something back with a 14-and-a-half-pound Yorkie-poo and 12-pound poodle is great. This is what life is all about.
— Glen Stout
Rosey

Rosey

Over three years they have been bringing Stanley Guido and Rosey to the House, the Stouts have seen the growth of guests and families, such as Jenna Beecroft. When they first met Jenna, she was wheelchair bound after being bedridden for a year. In subsequent visits with the dogs, they witnessed Jenna's journey from sitting in a wheelchair to being able to walk and jump.

Tobi, a Labrador retriever, was a guide dog for Max Edelman, a Holocaust survivor who suffered a severe trauma that left him blind in a Nazi concentration camp. Before Max passed away at the age of 91, he ensured that Tobi would have a good home with Sharon Dietrich. Sharon had Tobi certified as a Canine Good Citizen. He also passed the Bright and Beautiful Therapy’s dog test and the University Hospital’s Pet Pal program.

Tobi

Tobi

Looking for a way to brighten Tobi’s mood after Max’s passing, Sharon decided to bring him to the Ronald McDonald House to play with children and their families. She and Tobi now come to the House on a regular basis, and Tobi loves being used as a pillow by the littlest guests.

When asked what’s been the most gratifying part of her experience bringing Tobi to the House, Sharon says it’s “getting to see that the kids are not thinking about what’s going on with them. It helps to see them laughing. They enjoy Tobi, and that’s what makes me happy.”

Twelve dogs and one miniature horse brighten the days of our guests. Thank you to all of our furry and friendly animal therapy partners.

Do you have a furry friend who is therapy certified? Contact us!

Newlyweds-to-Be Demonstrate the True Meaning of Philanthropy

Greg DeVan and his bride-to-be, Dana Marie, aren’t your typical set of love birds. Bestowed with hearts of generosity and philanthropy, this couple wanted to take part of the focus off themselves during their wedding and bring to light the importance of giving back to others. In doing so, Greg and Dana Marie have decided that in lieu of wedding favors, they are sponsoring a room at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland to help support families in need.

Their efforts have already begun to have a positive impact in the lives of the Debra and Diana Donnarumma, the family currently staying in the room sponsored by Greg and Dana Marie.

This incredible couple is to be married next month. This makes it even more awesome, a truly generous, unselfish act donating for the love of children in a time that I am sure is filled with many expenses of their own upcoming wedding. Words cannot even express my gratitude!
— Debra Donnarumma

The couple is to be married on December 17, 2016. In an effort to recognize the date of their pending nuptials, the Ronald McDonald House was able to select sponsorship for room 217! Please join us in thanking Greg and Dana Marie for their generosity and wish them a marriage full of laughter, love, and kindness. 

The Science behind Helping Others

The word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek word “philanthropia,” meaning, a love of mankind. From the earliest centuries of human civilization, the concept of achieving a greater social good through philanthropy was incorporated into cultural and religious traditions.

Our ancestors may have been on to something. The saying “it’s better to give than receive” originated from these ancient traditions...and modern research supports it.

Research conducted by the National Institutes of Health suggests that people who donate have a greater sense of well-being. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that cooperation with others leads to more success. And a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison study demonstrated the power of philanthropy. “Our findings make a simple but profound point about altruism,” noted one of the study researchers. “Helping others makes us happier.”

Yes, indeed, helping others makes us happier. But it’s a two-way street. We are equally enriched by the families who stay at the House or visit our Family Rooms in area hospitals. Isn’t it funny when scientists validate what we’ve known all along?

Making Connections. Finding Hope. The Gebura Family Story.

Courtney and Justin Gebura knew the birth of their son Crosby would be a challenge, but also the greatest blessing. During their pregnancy, doctors informed them that their son would be born with a birth defect. A due date operation was set, and Courtney and Justin waited excitedly and anxiously for their son.

With three months to go, Crosby was excited to meet mom and dad too. On September 21, 2015 Crosby entered the world. However, arriving 12 weeks early meant that doctors could no longer perform the original operation.

What was supposed to be a brief stay has turned into a yearlong stay for Crosby. It was during these countless hours in the NICU that Courtney and Justin were told about the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. There was a bed, food, and shuttle service back to the hospital. They were sold.

Living at the House has had a big impact on Courtney and Justin and has helped them become better parents for Crosby. “The other families who live here really keep life in perspective. We’re from all different walks of life. Yet everyone comes together because we’re here for the same reason. Everyone caring for each other and having others to talk to…that has been super helpful.”

Each day Crosby continues to make progress under the careful eye of his parents. They hope to take him home in time for the holidays. Until then we’ll be here, keeping them close. Donate today!

Surgery: A Parent's Perspective

I hadn’t planned for the emotion I would feel when they wheeled my daughter away on the gurney.
— Brian Shenk

Last July, my 16-year-old daughter, Morgan, was admitted to the hospital to have double jaw surgery to correct an underbite. For a few years my wife and I held out hope that something might change and the orthodontist would tell us that the surgery was no longer necessary. But over time it actually became more pronounced. On the advice of several doctors and orthodontists, Morgan made up her mind that she would have the surgery in late June after school was out for the summer.

We arrived at the hospital at 5:30 am on a clear Wednesday and got her admission started. Everything went smoothly, and by 8 am she was prepped for surgery.

As much as we'd prepared for this day and applied logic and rational thought to the need for this procedure, I hadn't planned for the emotion I would feel when they wheeled my daughter away on the gurney. I literally thought to myself, "I wonder if we’re making a huge mistake." It felt like the medical equivalent of buyer’s remorse.

As any parent of a child in the hospital can tell you, the next five hours passed painfully slowly. We tried to distract ourselves with magazines and conversation, but my wife and I felt overcome with anxiety. While we got regular updates from the staff that the surgery was proceeding well, we heard few details and were left to imagine worst-case scenarios.

At about 2 pm, we were summoned to the recovery room where we met an incredibly kind nurse named Dee who would look after Morgan, monitoring her vital signs and pain levels for the next four hours. Morgan's entire face was dramatically swollen from her eyes to her chin. Blood and saliva trickled from her mouth as evidence of the severity of the surgery. Morgan would wake up for just a few seconds at time and only had enough energy to blink her responses to us.

Later that evening, she was given a bed on the 8th floor of the hospital where she would spend the next two days making further recovery.

It was during these days that I gained a first-hand appreciation for the difficulties faced by families of children in the hospital. I noticed a few things had changed in my perspective. Among them were:

  • I had little patience for what now seemed like less-important issues – keeping up with email, the lawn getting too long, etc.
  • We found some everyday tasks harder to deal with. How can we get our son to soccer practice? Who can take him? Why even bother?
  • It was a lot of work just keeping our extended family and friends informed of her progress - constant phone calls, texts etc.

We were fortunate that Morgan’s surgery was done close to home, only about 20 minutes away. As a result, we elected not to use Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland services in the hopes that another family, perhaps in a more difficult situation, could benefit.

Despite the fact that we didn’t stay at the house, we reflected a number of times on how beneficial the availability of RMH is to the families who stay there. Having a child in the hospital is emotionally exhausting, and the last thing parents want to have to do is find a place to stay near the hospital their child is in.

After returning home from the hospital, Morgan continued her slow recovery at home. She was restricted to a liquid diet for three weeks while her mouth was wired shut to limit the movement of her jaw.

After four weeks she was cleared to eat soft foods, and she slowly regained nerve sensation in her face. The swelling didn’t completely subside for another few months, but each day she had a little more energy and is now completely recovered.

The events surrounding her surgery this summer have taught us all a number of valuable lessons. Considering all we've learned, we’re more anxious than ever to continue our support of Ronald McDonald House. Please join me and donate today.

Veterans Continue to Serve

Created almost 100 years ago, Veterans Day (then called Armistice Day) celebrated the end of World War I. With about 23.4 million veterans in the United States today, odds are you’re related to a veteran, are buddies with a veteran, or are a veteran. And for that, we thank you.

Here at Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, we are especially honored to recognize four of our wonderful volunteers who have also served.

Dave Williams protecting an ammunition site in Korean in 1975

Dave Williams protecting an ammunition site in Korean in 1975

  • Kenneth Boehnlein has contributed his handyman skills in the Maintenance Department for the past three years. He served in the Navy.
  • Dave Williams, who recently received recognition with a Volunteer of Merit award, has greeted guests at our front desk for almost two years. He served in the Air Force and the Army National Guard.
  • Gary Richter, a 15-year front desk and driver volunteer at the House, received the Volunteer of Merit  in 2010 and our highest award for volunteerism, the Willa Jones Award, in 2012. He is veteran of the Air Force.
  • Bob (who has modestly asked us to not include his last name) served in the Air Force and for the last 8 months volunteers his time and talents fixing and replacing things at the House. 

Four veterans from different branches of the military who now share the same mission: to help and serve others.

From all of us at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland to our veteran volunteers and all veterans across the country, a deeply heartfelt thank you. 

Text by Sandy Williams. Photo courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Volunteers Recognized at Annual Brunch

The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland celebrated the commitment and generosity of our volunteers at the Volunteer Recognition Brunch on Saturday, November 5 at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's Stillwater Place. Nearly 200 volunteers and their fans gathered to recognize all volunteers and those who have served with special merit this year. 

To date, 330 volunteers have donated 27,377 hours. They have served 794 families at the House, 58,357 Family Room visitors, and 21,365 visitors to RedTreehouse.org!

Never in my life have I felt so welcome, comforted, and taken care of. The volunteer literally took care of me. She sat me down, made me coffee, made sure I had plenty of plush towels and toiletries; you name it. She asked about my daughter and made me feel better about the situation. Being a new mom, I could not have been any more grateful.
— Family Room visitor
Linda Peters, Marilyn Millet, Andrea Bernard, and Barbara Kolezynski

Linda Peters, Marilyn Millet, Andrea Bernard, and Barbara Kolezynski

The 2016 Willa Jones Award winners are the Lovely Lunch Ladies: Andrea Bernard (founder), Mary Anne Brej, Stacy Cloutier, Lynn Hoffman, Karen Horowitz, Barb Kolezynski, Kathleen McGinness, Marilyn Millet, Linda Peters, Constance Ridenour, Gladys Rodriguez, Susie Schneider, Lori Sullivan, Judy Svrga, Sandy Varrone. Every other Wednesday the Lovely Lunch Ladies, who started cooking at the House in 2001, make a delicious and nutritious lunch for families staying at the House. The Willa Jones Award recognizes a volunteer who, like Willa, is steady and unwavering in his/her commitment to our mission. Willa showed up to offer her services before our original House officially opened. Willa volunteered from that time forward, with absences only because of her health or when a family member was in need. She “retired” from the House at age 93, after serving for 28 years. 

Several volunteers received Volunteers of Merit Awards.

Join this amazing group of volunteers. Sign up to be a volunteer today!

Words of Gratitude

I am the mom of Greta Wolf and wife of Bill Wolf. We stayed with you in July and August 2016 while Greta received treatment at the Walker Clinic in the Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program and were so deeply appreciative of our stay there. I was inspired to write and share this poem of thanks! 

Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland - Loving It!
By Liz Davenport

Near Cleveland Clinic's main campus
Ronald McDonald House, a true gift for us
Unexpected, wonderful in every way
Making affordable our one-month stay

Gated and safe each night and day
55 families had come to stay
From the world over and all walks of life
Cared for and loved to ease the strife

Background checks meant peace of mind
Staff and volunteers so helpful and kind
House provided good food every meal
Gave our family time together to heal

We made friends with others in similar need
Or escaped to our cozy room for TV or to read
Or walked on garden trails within the gates
Or found rooms to play in or just stay up late

We cannot thank you enough for our care
And know others love you as much while there
For all that you do, "we are so grateful for you!"
May you succeed everlasting and be ever anew

Donors to the Ronald McDonald House ensure that families like the Wolf-Davenports have a comfortable and safe place to stay when their children are receiving medical treatment. 

 

WKYC Makes a Difference

More than 20 WKYC-TV employees, family members, and friends spent Saturday morning at the Ronald McDonald House for Make a Difference Day. Make A Difference Day is one of the largest annual single-days of service nationwide. Since 1992, volunteers and communities have come together on Make A Difference Day with a single purpose: to improve the lives of others. 

Volunteers decorated 50 bags and stuffed them with fun activities. These "boredom bags" will stock three Happy Wheels carts that distribute gifts and snacks to children staying at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Children's, and Fairview Hospital. 

They also made 120 bagged meals for families who use Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at the hospitals. Each bag contained a healthy balanced meal of a sandwich, pasta salad, fruit, and a treat. These meals allow family members to stay close to their hospitalized children and give them energy to face stressful situations.

A lively band of bakers produced tray after tray of brownies and marshmallow treats for the Family Rooms and guests staying at the House. They went through four dozen eggs! A gallery of the day is posted on our Facebook page.

Thank you to WKYC and to all the groups who pull together every day to help our families. Want to make a difference? Grab your family, friends, coworkers, or your neighbors, and spend a few hours volunteering at our House.

Wine Women & Shoes Dazzles in Cleveland

Great wines and great times, what more could a lady ask for?! For the second consecutive year, women in the Cleveland community rallied together in support of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland at Wine Women & Shoes. While those in attendance wined, dined, and bid on various ‘Keys to the Closet’ gift packages and shopped the latest in designer fashion, Shoe Guys pampered guests with fine wines and big smiles. Betsy Kling, WKYC Chief Meteorologist, emceed the event and kicked the day off with a rousing fashion show that would have made even Tim Gunn proud.

While the glitz and glamour of the fashion show razzled and dazzled the audience (there was even a salute to our armed forces!), the event didn’t end there. Diana Donnarumma, a guest of RMH, gave a touching tribute to the importance of the Ronald McDonald House. She recounted how the organization has helped keep her and her family close as she deals with various medical challenges that have brought her to Cleveland to seek treatment. After leaving the audience teary eyed, Diana revealed the true special kindness of Clevelanders as guests donated money in droves in support of keeping families close.  

As the event drew to a close, the Keys to Closet were announced. The Shoe Guys strutted across the stage and were recognized for raising nearly $58,000, the most raised by any Shoe Guy group in the country! Yet ANOTHER Cleveland championship!

Thank you again to all who attended in support of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. Special thanks to our event sponsors: Cleveland Clinic Children’s, HMT, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Ultimate Software, Inc., Alpha Delta Pi at Ashland University, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio, Inc., Exact Crane & Equipment, Adams Reserve Cheddar Cheese, The WineBuzz Magazine, and our Fashion Partner, Toni in Style!

Keep an eye on our website for updates on next year’s Wine Women & Shoes! Spread the word to your friends! Be there, be fabulous! 

Cousins Come Back to Give Back

The best things in life come in twos. With Mohammed Alarjani and Yahya Asirsi, it’s never been more true. Each brings a unique and valuable perspective to their volunteer efforts with the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. Mohammed was introduced to RMH when he was a yearlong guest while recuperating from extensive surgeries. His cousin Yahya accompanied and assisted Mohammed who was limited to a wheelchair. Over the course of their stay the cousins befriended the staff at the House and vowed to volunteer once Mohammed made a full recovery.

Staying true to their word, Mohammed and Yayha returned to visit their friends and volunteer. Together, the duo helps our Middle Eastern families by translating Arabic into English, providing comfort for many. Thank you for your more than two years of service!
 

Mohammed at Pull Tab Palooza

Mohammed at Pull Tab Palooza

Yahya stayed with his cousin at the House for a year.

Yahya stayed with his cousin at the House for a year.