37 Families, One Message: A Letter in the Aftermath of 9/11

As we look back on our 40-year history, there are moments that define us and those that reaffirm the mission and vision of our founders. When speaking of the wonder of the Ronald McDonald House, founder Nancy Kirchner recently said:

“There’s no politics, there’s no religion. There’s nothing to separate you—only to bring you together as parents and as families. That’s the common bond.”

On September 10, 2001 Nancy Kirchner’s words rang true. The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, then a 37-family House, was at capacity—brimming full of parents, children and extended family, almost half of whom were from other countries. The House felt busy and alive as families, many with lengthy stays, found comfort and support in each other, cooking together in the kitchen or sitting in the garden sharing evening cups of tea as their children played. They spoke many tongues and translated for each other as best they could, proving even language was no barrier at the House. Staff and volunteers also facilitated comradery and emotional support by being there to lend an ear, serving a daily family meal, and providing activities and entertainment. One such activity was a series of workshops to help families express themselves through creative writing and journaling. The first two sessions had been very popular, and the third was scheduled for Thursday, September 13.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 the mood at the Ronald McDonald House abruptly changed, as it did for much of the world. The House became quiet and people clung to their families in clusters as they waited for information and tried to make sense of what had happened. Home seemed further away than ever, and the security felt just the evening before turned to uncertainty. As the hours passed into the next day and children still needed medical care, people went about their routines in the tense silence of shock. Staff, volunteers and families—none had ever experienced anything like this before. The silence needed to break so another kind of healing could begin. The staff and volunteers urged each family to attend Thursday’s scheduled workshop, if only to start a dialogue about the tragedy.

On September 13, 2001 the families of the Ronald McDonald House gathered and began a conversation that would be animated, lively and passionate. They discussed their sorrow and fear for the world. They talked about why they were all there, and how much their children meant to them. They spoke of how they were all parents, and that they were all afraid. They expressed that their commonalities were far more important than their differences and realized that together they had a message, and they wanted to share it with the world. They decided to collectively write and send out the following letter:

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Dear President Bush, Mayor Giuliani, Mayor White, and Friends all over the World,

We are 37 families from many countries who are living together at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. Our natural homes are in: Canada, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jordan, Kuwait, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States of America and Yemen; however our temporary home is here in Cleveland. We are here because we all have children with critical illnesses and we are seeking the best medical care that we can find for them. Each of us came here feeling and understanding great pain. The terrible events of Tuesday in New York and Washington, D.C. have amplified our pain.

The tragedy affects not only this country but the entire world. It is very, very difficult to explain in words what is in our hearts; even in our mother tongues it is difficult, but we want to try.

The terrorist acts which took place on Tuesday are unacceptable to all of us and all of our many religions. There is no God that condones the taking of innocent lives. We believe that terrorists are using religion to exploit a political agenda, and we are all united in the war against terrorism.

Here at Ronald McDonald House we feel at home. We are living together and sharing many things: feelings, our stories, and sympathy. It is a place where we eat together and have tea in the gardens. It is a place where we are able to release the sadness that is in our hearts. Here we learn that anyone who enters the house becomes our brother, or sister or our child; it is part of the covenant of being together. Here we learn that our differences are what make the world beautiful; families are families and we all love our children. Our differences should breed tolerance, not hatred. We hope and pray that the tragedies of this week do not exaggerate our differences and cause the disintegration of what we have found to be so life-giving and beautiful among us.

It is a short message common to all religions: “Love each other.”

Peace to our neighbors around the world,

The Families of Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland

The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland Pro-Am: 40 Years on the Fairway, 40 Years of Families

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the opening of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, as well the 40th Annual RMH Pro-Am, which took place on Monday, June 24th at Mayfield Country Club. Mike Clegg has been instrumental in founding and sustaining both.

Images: Pro-Am through the years


Sue, Tracy, Chris, Scotty and Mike Clegg

Sue, Tracy, Chris, Scotty and Mike Clegg

Mike Clegg got a standing ovation. He had just finished addressing attendees at the 40th Annual Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland Pro-Am, an event he helped found, along with RMH itself. He spoke about his experience as a young father whose 4-year old son had been diagnosed with acute leukemia. Mike and his wife Sue were faced with the challenges of caring for Scotty while trying to keep a sense of normalcy for their other children. He described what it was like for his family to try to remain strong for Scotty and to be among other families struggling as they slept in hospital waiting rooms and ate from vending machines to be near their sick children. “No parent should have to go through this,” Mike thought at that time, and he would spend the next forty years making sure they didn’t have to go through it alone.

Since opening in 1979, the House has been a place where families can be together and kids can be kids.

Since opening in 1979, the House has been a place where families can be together and kids can be kids.

In 1978, Mike and Sue were among a group of parents approached by Dr. Samuel Gross, pediatric oncologist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s, about bringing a Ronald McDonald House to Cleveland. That group, along with others in the community rolled up their sleeves, found a location, got the backing of McDonald’s owner/operators and secured financing. They also had media appearances (watch Mike, Sue and Dr. Gross with Fred Griffith on The Morning Exchange), held fund raisers, pitched in with cleaning and decorating, painted and did yardwork and on September 25, 1979 the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland opened its doors. The House was complete but Mike Clegg was just getting started.

Pro-Am proceeds help families celebrate important milestones together.

Pro-Am proceeds help families celebrate important milestones together.

Recognizing the need for ongoing financial support, Mike would use his love of golf and his business savvy to co-found the longest-running and most successful fundraiser in RMH history. He began by setting up a brainstorming session with Hans Kramer at IMG (for pro-golf connections), Larry Morrow of WWWE radio (for publicity), and Brian Hartzell of Young-Ligget (for PR and marketing expertise). Together they came up with the idea of an exclusive tournament in which charitably-minded business and community leaders would pay a substantial amount to play 18 holes with professional golfers. To test their idea’s viability, they sent out a teaser to an exclusive group of invitees: a mysterious box containing a golf ball with a Save-the-Date. A week later, they sent a letter requesting a $500 entry fee in exchange for the ball. More than 80% sent the money, and planning went into full gear. The tournament’s success was all but guaranteed when United Airlines agreed to send their pro-under-contract, Arnold Palmer to lead the field.

Three generations at the 2017 Pro-Am: Mike, son Chris and grandson Ben:

Three generations at the 2017 Pro-Am: Mike, son Chris and grandson Ben:

Ever since that inaugural Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland Pro-Am in 1980 Mike Clegg has worked year-round to ensure its continuing success. He served as Chairman of the Tournament until 2004, retiring from that position after 25 years, but has remained a dedicated committee member. The RMH Pro-Am has evolved with the changing business and philanthropic climates and has become known nationally as Northeast Ohio’s most prestigious charity golf event. Top pros including Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Nancy Lopez, Cory Pavin, Curtis Strange, Nick Price, Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and Palmer have all participated and many golfers, both amateur and professional, have made it an annual affair. Mike Clegg has himself been at every single tee off.

Pro-Am proceeds have helped grow the family meal program from an occasional potluck to three daily meals.

Pro-Am proceeds have helped grow the family meal program from an occasional potluck to three daily meals.

Through the years, Pro-Am proceeds have helped provide services to thousands of families. The monies have been used toward building needs, expanded programming and operating costs. The most valuable things the Pro-Am makes possible, however, are intangible: the relief of a family knowing they can stay together and near their sick child, the warmth of a lovingly prepared meal after a long day at the hospital, the understanding of other families in similar circumstances, the sense of security of a safe and supportive environment, the joy of a place where parents can be uplifted and kids can be kids. Those are the reasons Mike and others have dedicated themselves to the Ronald McDonald House, and those are the reasons we salute him and 40 years of Pro-Am participants.    

Scott (Scotty) Clegg with sister Tracy in 2005, 27 years after his battle with leukemia.

Scott (Scotty) Clegg with sister Tracy in 2005, 27 years after his battle with leukemia.

Read more about the founding of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.

View our video of RMH milestones through the years.

In this 2017 video the Pro-Am Committee, including Mike’s son Chris Clegg, shares the experience of preparing a meal for families staying at the House.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to be included in the Ronald McDonald House Pro-Am event each and every year. The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland does amazing work and the Pro-Am is one of the great charitable fundraising events of the year.”

— Frank Sullivan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, RPM International Inc.

Cleveland Pulls Together and Celebrates Life of Morgan Stock

When many people pull together for a small act of kindness, it quickly adds up to make a big impact. Such is the case with the Pull Tab Program at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. By pulling the tabs from drinks, soup, or animal food, members of the community can donate their collection of tabs to the House to support families in times of need. The House often receives the questions, “How does it work? How can such a tiny thing make any sort of meaningful impact?” When hundreds of people donate, it adds up quickly. In 2018 the community donated 15,175 lbs. of tabs generating $6,525 in recycling revenue. More important than the numbers though is that with each simple act of pulling a tab, someone is taking the time to help families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. With 1 lb. equaling 1,000 tabs, these gestures added up to more than 15 million acts of kindness in 2018 alone.

In 2016 the first Pull Tab Palooza event was held at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, welcoming pull tab donors with a day of festivities and giving the House an opportunity to say “thank you.” During that inaugural event Mike, Michele and daughter Morgan Stock of Amherst joined with family and friends to donate more than 2,400 lbs. of pull tabs. It remains the largest single donation of pull tabs in the history of the House.

Morgan was born with Mucolipidosis Type 2, an extremely rare genetic disorder that affects the heart, lungs, eyes and muscular system. She had made it her life’s mission to collect pull tabs to help children staying at the Ronald McDonald House after seeing a pull tab collection container at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital while being treated for pneumonia. To recognize Morgan’s steadfast dedication to helping others, the House created the “Morgan Stock Collect-a-Million Club.” Members of the community can sign up for the club with the goal of donating a million pull tabs (1000 lbs.). Upon reaching the goal, their name or organization name is added to the '“Morgan Stock Collect-a-Million Club” plaque that hangs in the House.

Morgan’s greatest love for a hobby that she put her whole heart into was collecting pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland. It was so much more than that though. All she wanted to do is help all the sick children, which she did by collecting over hundreds and thousands of tabs every year to raise money for the cause. Throughout her journey, she met and was known by people all over the world.
— The Stock Family

On May 9, just eight days before the 4th annual Pull Tab Palooza, Morgan passed away in her home at the age of 22. Speaking with friends from the Ronald McDonald House just weeks before, Morgan had shared her excitement about coming to the event. Following Morgan’s passing, Mike and Michele contacted the House to let them know they would still be attending, “This is what Morgan would’ve wanted. She loved to help the kids at the Ronald McDonald House,” said Mike. The following week, Michele and Mike, along with many family and friends, donated 689.2 lbs. of pull tabs and $2,900 the family had collected for the House in Morgan’s memory. Since 2016, Morgan’s donations have added up to 4,667 lbs. of pull tabs and $4,863 in total funds. Her efforts have helped cover 243 nights for families to stay at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.

This year’s Pull Tab Palooza included special memories of Morgan and her generosity over the years. More than 100 guests attended the event and 3,660 lbs. of pull tabs were collected. Final total: $5,197! Special thanks to the following volunteers for helping make the event possible: SITE Centers, Koinonia Homes, OEC, Kappus, Stark Enterprises, CoverMyMeds, Axemen – Lake Erie Chapter, Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, Cleveland Ghostbusters, RMH pet therapy partners, and the many individual volunteers who donated their time and talents.

Congratulations to following award winners:

·         Top Group Donor: Morgan Stock and Family – 689.2 lbs.

·         Top School Donor: Saint Joseph Academy – 354.2 lbs.

·         Top Scout Troop Donor: Cub Scouts Pack 105 Den 5 – 262.8 lbs.

·         Top Individual Donor: The Ogles – 273.6 lbs.

The Legacy of Willa Jones: First RMH Volunteer

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During National Volunteer Week, we express our deepest gratitude to all the dedicated individual volunteers and groups that make our House a home.

We continue our 40th Anniversary celebration by sharing the story of the first Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland volunteer, Willa Jones.

Forty years ago, Willa Pearl Jones walked into the College Motel on the corner of Cornell and Euclid. She had heard it was being transformed into a Cleveland ‘home-away-from-home’ for families of ill and injured children. Her only question: “How can I help?” 

The East Cleveland grandmother, just shy of her 65th birthday, became the first Ronald McDonald House® of Cleveland (RMH) volunteer and set the standard for unconditional caring exemplified by RMH volunteers to this day.

The Plain Dealer  profiles Willa Jones in 2004.

The Plain Dealer profiles Willa Jones in 2004.

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While 1979 was a celebratory year marking the fulfillment of the RMH vision, it was a profoundly sad year for Willa. She lost her only daughter, Janice, and she and her husband William were left with four grandchildren to raise. “Maybe my daughter’s passing had something to do with why I kept volunteering here,” Willa shared in a 2004 interview with The Plain Dealer. She paused, adding “No, I think I would have done it anyway.”

Although Willa’s pain may not have been the motivation for her long-standing commitment to the House, it may explain the gentle reassurance and quiet comfort she was able to provide to countless anxious families, and to her favorite House activity: rocking babies. 

Willa’s empathy, gracious customer service and unwavering dedication, coupled with her trust and positive support of the House staff and leadership were qualities that inspired the establishment of the Willa Jones Award during RMH’s 25th Anniversary year. The award recognizes a House volunteer who exemplifies these characteristics.

Generations of Willa’s family, from granddaughter to great-great-granddaughter, attend the annual volunteer appreciation event to help present the award.  Winners’ names are embroidered on a quilt that hangs behind the House reception desk where Willa spent thousands of volunteer hours. The fabric display was designed in lieu of a traditional plaque to better represent the softness and warmth of her spirit.  “Willa was also always chilly and liked to use a lap quilt,” recalls Joanmarie Button, Willa’s fellow volunteer and current Director of House Program Operations.

Willa Jones’ granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and great-great-granddaughters Demetria Webb, Na’Tasha Webb-Prather, and Sha’Naya Howard with 2018 Willa Jones Award Honoree, Dave Williams.

Willa Jones’ granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and great-great-granddaughters Demetria Webb, Na’Tasha Webb-Prather, and Sha’Naya Howard with 2018 Willa Jones Award Honoree, Dave Williams.

Willa volunteered for 28 years, retiring from the House at the age of 93. She continued to visit the House until she passed away two years later in 2010. Staff and volunteers wrote to Willa’s family upon her passing, “We will fondly remember Willa here at our House – but we know that she never really has left us. Her legacy lives on in every child that is comforted and every family that is given hope.”

During this hallmark 40th year of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, we celebrate Willa Jones’ contributions by remembering and thanking the hundreds of cherished volunteers who have followed in her footsteps. One of them connects us to our history in a very unique way. Demetria Webb, one of the granddaughters Willa raised, is honoring her grandmother by becoming a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald Family Room® and Hospitality Suite at MetroHealth Medical Center. Willa’s legacy truly lives on.

Willa Jones 95th Birthday Celebration at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.

Willa Jones 95th Birthday Celebration at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.


Just prior to National Volunteer Week, Joanmarie Button appeared live Wednesday, April 3 on WKYC’s Live on Lakeside to share Willa’s story and how volunteers support the RMH mission. She was also interviewed by Leon Bibb for We the People, which aired Friday, April 5.

The Shamrock Shake: Raising the Green to Launch a Legacy

February 20, 1979, from left: Joseph Benden, president of the Northeast Ohio McDonald’s Operators Association; Don Smith, McDonald’s owner/operator and VP of Children’s Oncology Services of Northeast Ohio (COSNO, RMH founding organization); Stephen Zayac, president of COSNO.

February 20, 1979, from left: Joseph Benden, president of the Northeast Ohio McDonald’s Operators Association; Don Smith, McDonald’s owner/operator and VP of Children’s Oncology Services of Northeast Ohio (COSNO, RMH founding organization); Stephen Zayac, president of COSNO.

Everyone loves a treat, and the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake doesn’t disappoint. Since its introduction in 1970 as the St. Patrick’s Day Shake, the frosty green drink has developed a cult-like following, inspiring websites, story lines in popular TV shows, and even a shake-tracking app. But aside from the pleasure of enjoying the seasonal beverage, the Shamrock Shake has helped provide comfort to thousands of families when they needed it most.

Forty years ago this week, thirty cents from the sale of each Shamrock Shake in Northeast Ohio was earmarked for the purchase and transformation of the College Motel into the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. The Northeast Ohio McDonald’s Operators Association had been approached to help fund a House in Cleveland, and embraced the idea so enthusiastically that they voted unanimously to make a $150,000, three-year pledge. The Shamrock Shake promotion was the first in a series of events to fulfill that pledge. The special ran from March 5 – 17, 1979 and with additional in-store donations raised more than $87,500, the equivalent of more than $300,000 today.

It’s the first time I’ve ever presented a budget and gotten applause.
— Stephen Zayac, president of COSNO, 1979, speaking about his budget presentation to request funds from McDonald's owner/operators.
Ray Kroc (far left), Founder and CEO of McDonald’s attending the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland ribbon cutting ceremony on September 25, 1979

Ray Kroc (far left), Founder and CEO of McDonald’s attending the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland ribbon cutting ceremony on September 25, 1979

The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland isn’t the only one to benefit from the proceeds of the minty green shake. In fact, the drink can be said to have played a role in the naming of the very first Ronald McDonald House, which opened in Philadelphia in 1974. In the early 1970’s, Philadelphia Eagles player Fred Hill’s daughter Kim developed leukemia. When Kim recovered, Fred decided he wanted to do something to help other families whose children were in the hospital. Jim Murray, General Manager of the Eagles, contacted Dr. Audrey Evans of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who told him that families of pediatric patients needed a place to stay nearby so they could be rested and better able to support their children.

Hill, Murray and Evans approached Ray Kroc, Founder and CEO of McDonald’s, who donated $25,000 seed money to the project. The local McDonald’s owner / operators and their advertising agency agreed to assist in funding the project with promotions involving the Philadelphia Eagles. McDonald’s Regional Manager Ed Rensi then agreed to donate the proceeds from the region’s upcoming Shamrock Shake promotion if the new facility was named the Ronald McDonald House.

The Ronald McDonald House will enable families to live together in a home environment, gain strengths and share experiences with other families at the home.
— Martha Towns, Chagrin Valley Times, 1979

While the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is an independent charity and is neither owned nor operated by McDonald’s, the integral role they played in its founding continues to this day. Since their initial pledge forty years ago, McDonald’s Owner/Operators of Northeast Ohio have supported the House with significant contributions to its growth, including a substantial donation in 2011 toward the expansion and renovation of the current 55-family House. For forty years, local McDonald’s franchisees and employees have also been involved as board and committee members, donors and volunteers. This vital support has enabled the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland and its programs to provide a welcoming place to stay and crucial resources and services to thousands of families, helping them remain strong to care for their children. 

This year, as we celebrate our 40-year legacy of love, we share the stories of our history and pay tribute to those whose vision made it happen. We also share our deep appreciation to those whose past and continued involvement keeps our mission thriving. To all of you, we raise a glass of Shamrock Shake. Sláinte!

Corporate Partner Majestic Steel USA Makes Majestic Impact

Corporate partner support is part of the ‘magic’ formula that has allowed the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland (RMH) vision to thrive for the past 40 years. Ongoing philanthropic and volunteer engagement from partners brings life to spaces, programs and services to help families stay strong for their children. One of our valued partners, Majestic Steel USA, opened its doors in 1979, just as we did. In honor of our shared 40th Anniversary year, we spotlight Majestic Steel USA’s Majestic Impact on RMH.


Aromas fill the air of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland (RMH), drawing families to the kitchen for a peek at what’s on the menu. After two years of volunteer groups from Majestic Steel USA cooking monthly meals, the families fondly came to know the third Monday of the month as Majestic Monday. A freshly prepared meal is one of the many caring touches they could count on because of the generosity and service of Majestic Steel USA.

Majestic has been a significant corporate supporter of RMH and its programs for the past two years. Craig Wilson, RMH Executive Director, applauds the enthusiasm and dedication of their associates and leadership. “Majestic has far surpassed what we anticipated when we forged the partnership. Their philanthropic support, from sponsorship of rooms and events, to capital improvements such as 2017’s patio and garden renovation and the refurbishing of the sun room in 2018, has made a significant difference in the quality of the family experience here. It’s not just financial support, though. Their employees have volunteered in every capacity, providing that much needed human resource and personal connection. They are the jewels in the Majestic crown.”

It’s not just financial support, though. Their employees have volunteered in every capacity, providing that much needed human resource and personal connection. They are the jewels in the Majestic crown.
— Craig Wilson, Executive Director, Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland
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Melissa Duda, director of HR for Majestic Steel USA, shared that the partnership had value for Majestic as well. “Working with the Ronald McDonald House benefits our staff in many ways. They want to help the community, and the Ronald McDonald House connects them to families and children. It’s also a great team building exercise and an opportunity to make connections within our company to people you don’t normally work with.”

According to RMH Group Partnership Manager, Scott Lovasz, the volunteer groups have not only prepared meals, but have tirelessly done indoor and outdoor chores, gardened, painted fences, and even entertained guests with a Majestic Magic Show. Being the sole sponsor of the Pull Tab Collection Program inspired Majestic volunteers to come out to the annual Pull Tab Palooza each May to weigh jars and barrels of donated tabs, serve hot dogs, play games, and create crafts with families and community members. “It was great to know we could always count on their participation, rain or shine,” shares RMH Communications Manager and coordinator of the Pull Tab Program, Nathan Enzerra.

Helping the Ronald McDonald House is very fulfilling work, It’s touching, emotional, and hits my heart. These families are going through a lot. You really don’t know what the Ronald McDonald House does until you get involved.
— Pam Elefritz, Majestic associate and volunteer

The company has been a consistent event supporter throughout both 2017 and 2018, sponsoring three RMH signature events. In true Majestic style, they became the first Presenting Sponsor of Wine Women & Shoes, one of RMH’s largest annual benefits. “We are so grateful for the ongoing support of the entire Majestic Family,” says Claire Donovan, RMH Events Manager. “Their commitment to a second year as Presenting Sponsor in 2019 is incredibly generous and I look forward to a continued partnership with their amazing team.”

Majestic Steel USA team at Wine Women & Shoes benefiting Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland in 2018.

Majestic Steel USA team at Wine Women & Shoes benefiting Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland in 2018.

Although the Majestic Monday monthly meals concluded in December 2018, Majestic’s lasting impact on the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is profound. Like the ten-foot steel tree sculpture that anchors the patio and lights the newly accessible garden paths, Majestic Steel USA has set an impressive and visible example of giving in the corporate community. The company has definitely fulfilled the mission set forth by Jonathan Leebow, executive vice president and part owner of Majestic: “Create a majestic experience for all.”

Create a majestic experience for all.
— Jonathan Leebow, executive vice president and part owner, Majestic Steel USA

Interested in how your company can play a role in supporting Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland families? Opportunities can be customized to fit your company. Contact Timothy O’Callahan, Director of Development to discuss options.

Celebrating 40 Years of Serving Families

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Forty years ago, the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland opened its doors, providing a welcoming and supportive place to stay for families whose children receive treatment at area medical centers. Since then, thousands of families have passed through those doors to find comfort and strength for their children. It was a passionate group of parents, medical professionals and friends who worked tirelessly to create this legacy of love, and with gratitude we dedicate this anniversary year to them, and to those who continue to keep their vision going strong.


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It all began in February of 1978, when pediatric oncologist Dr. Samuel Gross of Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital met with a group of parents whose children he was treating to discuss the concept of the Ronald McDonald House. By that November, those and other key parents had organized into a working nucleus and reached a preliminary agreement to purchase the College Motel near Rainbow. The group presented their project plan to McDonald’s owners in Northeast Ohio, who gave them unanimous backing and a $150,000 pledge. Shortly thereafter, the parents formally incorporated a non-profit organization, Children’s Oncology Services of Northeastern Ohio, secured a mortgage and credit line, and took title to the College Motel. Things moved quickly after that.

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The community soon realized the value of an organization that could provide care to families in a time of need and pitched in with tremendous support. Cleveland Browns player Thom Darden became the first Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland spokesman. Over the next several months fundraisers were held to benefit the organization, including a “Shamrock Shake” promotion at local McDonald’s restaurants, a Cleveland Indians ice cream promotion and a Gym-a-Thon. There was even a donkey basketball game; donkeys were brought into the Orange High School gym, and the Orange and Pepper Pike police departments played against the WGAR and Channel 43 All-Stars. The game raised $1,500, equal to about $5,100 today. Eventually more than $150,000 was raised to make the Ronald McDonald House dream a reality.

Meanwhile, work continued on the building as more than 200 parents and friends volunteered and scavenged furnishing and materials for the new House. By September 1979 the building exterior and parking lot were finished and 75 volunteers joined forces to clean the interior. Painters, wallpaper hangers, plumbers and carpet layers applied the final touches and the Ray Kroc Foundation contributed $25,000 to the project.

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On September 25, 1979, the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland opened, with rooms to host up to 25 families per night. By the early 1990s, as the Cleveland Clinic and other area hospitals grew, stays at the House were in such demand that the need to expand became apparent.

After more than ten years at the original location, an agreement was reached with the Cleveland Clinic for the purchase of a four-acre plot at the corner of Euclid Avenue and E. 105th Street, once a jumping area known as Doan’s Corners. The site had fallen into decay over the decades and the Clinic sold it to the Ronald McDonald House for $1. Funding for construction was secured with the help of Ronald McDonald House Charities, and in the spring of 1994 a new 37-family House was opened at the current location.

In 2013, again faced with lengthy waiting lists, the House was fully renovated and a new wing was added, increasing capacity to 55 families per night. Through the years, the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland has also added innovative services to help more families in times of need. These programs include Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s, Cleveland Clinic Children’s, Cleveland Clinic Fairview, and MetroHealth Medical Center. RedTreehouse.org, the Ronald McDonald Family Resource Link, connects families to important resources they need throughout the state of Ohio, and the new Ronald McDonald STAR Centers at the UH Rainbow Center for Women and Children and Cleveland Clinic Children’s Outpatient Center provide a fun and welcoming learning environment for children while family members receive focused outpatient care.

RMH Provides Online Resource for Ohio’s Families with RedTreehouse.org

Support Organizations, Events, Tools and Webinars are just a click away!

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One of the ways the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland supports families is through our online family resource link, www.RedTreehouse.org. Red Treehouse is free to use and offers a comprehensive directory of organizations, an events calendar, tools and helpful guides on a wide range of topics affecting families. All of these resources are searchable by Condition/Issue, Service Category, Location, Age Group and Key Word. An interactive map allows users to easily view what’s in their local community, and people can also submit events, organizations, suggested updates and stories. All submissions are reviewed for accuracy and relevance before posting, and site content is continually updated by our team and community partners to ensure timeliness.

We needed to learn about things like early intervention, physical and occupational therapy, government benefits, special education, long term care… All of these things families can find on Red Treehouse.
— Helen Rapp, Esq., Special Needs Parent, RTh Contributor

Red Treehouse  was originally part of the Tools for Today and Tomorrow program, which was a collaborative effort of 22 hospitals, universities and social service organizations that had come together in 2003 to help families access needed information, resources and support.  By 2006 the consortium had held numerous family focus groups and two successful conferences covering medical and educational advocacy, family relationships, financial tools and legal issues presented by experts in the fields of medicine, education, law, finance, psychology and social work. That same year, the program expanded and became a full-time program of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. In 2007 the first Tools for Today website was launched. In 2011, through a partnership with Ohio Family and Children First, the site branched out from Northeast Ohio, becoming a broader statewide resource known as Red Treehouse. Since then, the site has continued to grow and new features, original content and informational webinars have been added.

Kwame Christian, Esq., M.A. is an attorney, mediator, and author of the new book,  Nobody will Play with Me .

Kwame Christian, Esq., M.A. is an attorney, mediator, and author of the new book, Nobody will Play with Me.

Live webinars, currently made possible by a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation, are free to join and available for playback on demand. Topics are based on user suggestions and are presented by experts in their fields. The latest webinar, How to Find Confidence in Conflict, with Kwame Christian, Esq., M.A., Director of the American Negotiation Institute, garnered such interest that a follow-up podcast was recorded to discuss attendee inquiries. Red Treehouse and Mr. Christian will team up again live on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 from 12 – 1:30 pm EST to discuss Using Compassionate Curiosity to Find Confidence in Conflict, a powerful framework for handling difficult conversations in any setting. More information, registration and previous webinars are all available at www.redtreehouse.org/webinars.  

Thanks so much for making this presentation available. I will be using these principles on a regular basis both in my volunteer work and my personal life.
— Webinar Attendee

The events calendar on Red Treehouse is a great place to find local support groups, workshops, conferences and recreational activities tailored to a host of different conditions and needs. The vast majority of events listed are free to attend. In addition to webinars and events, there are over 3000 organizations in the Red Treehouse directory, and close to 1000 tools and guides. Guides provide information on topics as diverse as special education, opioid addiction and summer camps and can be browsed at www.redtreehouse.org/guides/ or easily searched for by topic or keyword. The two newest guides address the challenges of parenting children with mental illness and coping with a child’s learning disability.

The guide on 504 Plans pointed me to all the information I needed to request appropriate school accommodations for my son.
— Red Treehouse User

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Super Donation Brings Joy to Families

Up in the sky! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s 4,000 comic books making their way to the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland!

Bob Watson donates comic books to RMH and meets Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio

Bob Watson donates comic books to RMH and meets Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio

Bob Watson has been reading comic books for as long as he can remember, and began collecting them around the age of 8. Over the years, he found hope and inspiration in the journeys of the heroes he followed as they battled numerous villains and overcame personal struggles. His love of comics really began to soar during high school when his mom bought him Spider-Man #1, which at that time was already a much sought-after comic book. During the 1980s, Bob began collecting comics in quantity. From Marvel to DC, he amassed more than 4,000 comics that followed the likes of the Avengers, Batman, Wonder Woman and Star Wars.

As the years went by, Bob’s efforts collecting comic books slowed as he started a family and worked as a letter carrier. Never far away though were the comic books and the tales of heroes from around the galaxy. As Bob’s daughter, Sarah, grew, so too did her love for comic books. What was once just Bob’s passion turned into a bonding experience between father and daughter. Sarah has since turned her passion for comics into professional works as she’s honed her skills drawing everything from animals at the zoo to entering an art contest in 2007’s Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL.

As the nation’s interest in comics began to explode in the early 2000s with movies like X-Men and Spider-Man, so too did the desire for people to want to meet these heroes in person. Bob eventually would go on to dress up as Lex Luther, Superman’s arch nemesis, and even as Superman himself. Various other super hero groups began to emerge, one of them being Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, a nonprofit whose mission is to spread good will through simple acts of kindness and recognize individuals who’ve battled through adversity, all while being dressed as the most iconic super heroes. The group has since become partners with the Ronald McDonald House in 2016, hosting super visits and activities for our families once a month, annually sponsoring guest room 218, attending events like Pull Tab Palooza in 2017 and 2018, and raising awareness, funds and countless smiles and laughter for the House.

With Bob’s collection of comic books totaling more than 4,000, he and his family realized that it was becoming increasingly difficult to move so many books. Looking for a home where he could donate his comics so that others could get as much joy out of them as he and Sarah did, Bob found the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, who then invited their amazing friends from Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio to welcome Bob and his donation of comic books.

I wanted to make sure kids would get to read these books and the Ronald McDonald House was a great fit. When I learned Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio was involved it was fantastic! They also received some comics and I’m so happy they’ll be distributed to kids far and wide!
— Bob Watson
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Since Bob’s generous donation, Ronald McDonald House and Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio have given many of his books to families and kids who are embarking in their own journeys of adversity. Within the books they are able to find examples of strength and hope that help them in their own battles. Please join us in thanking Bob and Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio for their generosity, support and for being super inspirations for our very own heroes of the House! Excelsior!

A Second Chance at Life: Katie’s Story

I want people to know how beautiful life is, how wonderful life is.
— Katie Stubblefield
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When Katie Stubblefield arrived in Cleveland in 2014, her survival was anything but certain. Just 18 years old and with a bright future ahead, Katie had suffered a gunshot wound that left most of her face destroyed but miraculously missed her brain. Trauma doctors in Memphis said the injuries were the worst they had seen and the only way to help Katie was something her family had never heard of: a face transplant. First, Katie needed to live and her best chance was in Cleveland.

In an instant, Robb and Alesia Stubblefield found themselves doing what any parent would, but few can even imagine. “Alesia and I simply gave up everything to do what we could to aid Katie on this arduous, yet necessary path. From Oxford to Memphis to Cleveland we went” says Robb, and on August 17, 2014 they checked into the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, their home ever since.

We are beyond grateful to the Ronald McDonald House. Without their support this would not have been possible. It’s more than just a place to sleep and get food, but a place to lock arms with other people.
— Robb Stubblefield, Katie's father
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Over the next two and a half years Katie endured 22 surgeries and worked through countless therapies to regain strength, mobility and speech. Her parents were constantly by her side, kept strong by their faith and the community they found in staff, volunteers and families at the Ronald McDonald House. During outpatient periods, Katie came “home” to the House and Robb and Alesia tended to her round-the-clock. Katie’s sunny personality shined through her injured exterior and she was buoyed by the lasting friendships she formed with other guests.

After three years of hard work and hope, the moment finally arrived. On May 4, 2017, Katie underwent a 31-hour operation to receive her new face. Three months later, she came home with her parents to the Ronald McDonald House, their journey far from over. The next year brought three more major surgeries to improve Katie’s function, along with over 20 rehab sessions and appointments per week. Managing her daily medications was a job in itself and Alesia performed it vigilantly. Gradually, the nerves and muscles in Katie’s new face began responding, improving her ability to eat, speak and become more self-sufficient. Her family and medical team are thrilled with her progress. Katie poignantly says “I feel whole again.”

“If you’re a mom, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your children.” -Alesia Stubblefield, Katie’s mother

“If you’re a mom, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your children.” -Alesia Stubblefield, Katie’s mother

Despite more surgeries and hard work ahead, Katie, Robb and Alesia are thriving and once again face a bright future. The study of Katie’s face will aid in the development of improved treatments for injured soldiers.

She plans to attend college, looking forward to a career helping others. The family has already begun sharing their story to inspire others and to thank all who have given Katie, as she says, “a second chance at life.”

Without your generosity, your gift, your kindness and expression of love and giving, we would not be able to know the miraculous turn of events that our daughter has known and our family has been able to experience.
— Robb Stubblefield, Katie's father

Please give today to help us support all Ronald McDonald House families on their journeys of healing.

As Robb says, “Thank you in advance for your generosity. Because of people like you, the Ronald McDonald House fulfills its call and is able to help us, we’re able to help our daughter… and we’re just one of many, many families.”

Evan’s Bears Leave Lasting Legacy

Many bears. One message of love, kindness and compassion.

This was the message that Evan Burgess brought to the world each day. Whether it was through an interaction with a stranger, or with a friend he’d known for years, Evan always carried a sense of optimism and happiness with him no matter the circumstance or situation.

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Evan was born on September 4, 1994 with a heart condition that caused only a portion of his heart to function properly. With the outlook grim, doctors gave Evan only two years to live. Evan’s father Chris and his mother Bonnie brought him home from the hospital knowing the challenge ahead, yet unwavering in their optimism that Evan would grow up to lead a fulfilling life. Two years turned into four, four into eight, eight into sixteen, and eventually Evan became a young man beaming with passion and love for life. However, Evan’s heart condition was always looming and led to many medical challenges and long rides to and from hospitals for lab tests. While his heart condition didn’t slow him down, it gave Evan and his family the perspective that life is precious and every moment is one to be savored.

His physical heart had always been fragile, but despite its weakness, it was a force of light driving him forward; it was a heart of gold. And this heart was running with love alone.
— Bonnie Perkovic, Evan’s Mother

Always moving forward in life, Evan lived in London, Vancouver and Cleveland. Everywhere Evan went he developed close friendships that became like family and helped others see the best in themselves. In one instance, when a friend of Evan’s told him that she was considering committing suicide, Evan provided solace by saying “If you’ve had the worst day of your life, the day is going to end, and it will be tomorrow soon. It doesn’t stop what happened, but each day puts some distance between you and that really awful day, it becomes easier.” In the words of his friend, “Evan made me feel loved, not alone or as broken. I can’t express how much that meant to me.” In the short time he was in Cleveland, he fell in love with the city and decided to make it his home. He went on to work at Becky’s Bar, where he met his girlfriend, Liz, and made many friends.

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Sadly, on the morning of October 17, 2018, Evan passed away from his heart condition. He had just turned 24. During his life, Evan touched the hearts of many children and adults alike, leaving a special mark. He cared deeply for others, including his younger brother, Graham, and his cousins who idolized him.

In search of a way to honor Evan’s memory, his family and friends started Evan’s Bears with the purpose of spreading his love and kindness to children dealing with medical issues. When searching for a place to donate bears to help cement Evan’s legacy of love, the family found a welcome home in the arms of children and their families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.

It is fitting that teddy bears should bring love and joy to all of the children in the comfort of the Ronald McDonald House who are facing their own medical challenges.
— Bonnie

More than 100 bears were collected at Evan’s funeral in Cleveland. His family from around the world visited the Ronald McDonald House to donate Evan’s Bears to families, proving that even without past connection to the House, a donation of kindness and comfort is always welcome. After their initial donation, bears continued to arrive at the House from people honoring Evan’s memory. Evan’s family aims to provide an annual donation of Evan’s Bears to the Ronald McDonald Houses in Vancouver, London and Cleveland, ensuring that his legacy of love and compassion lives on. Please join us in giving thanks to Evan and his family for spreading joy and happiness to hundreds of children and their families.

Giving Thanks for Our Volunteers

Nearly 200 volunteers of the Ronald McDonald House, Family Rooms and programs were recognized for their contributions at the Annual Volunteer Appreciation Brunch on November 3. Guests gathered for a delicious meal and award ceremony at Stillwater Place, followed by strolls through the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Recognition of volunteers by years of service, from one to thirty, was followed by presentations for Volunteers of Merit and the Willa Jones Award.

Volunteers are unpaid not because they are worthless,
but because they are Priceless.
— Anonymous

THE WILLA JONES AWARD

Willa Jones’ granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and great-great-granddaughters Demetria Webb, Na’Tasha Webb-Prather, and Sha’Naya Howard with 2018 Honoree, Dave Williams.

Willa Jones’ granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and great-great-granddaughters Demetria Webb, Na’Tasha Webb-Prather, and Sha’Naya Howard with 2018 Honoree, Dave Williams.

The Willa Jones Award recognizes a House volunteer who, like Willa, is steady and unwavering in commitment to our mission. Willa offered her services before the 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.

A Willa Jones Award recipient exemplifies Willa’s salt-of-the-earth manner of caring for families – without condition – with a soft and caring conviction. The honoree is someone who is positive about all that takes place, always trusting that staff and Board are making good decisions, and always willing to be retrained when changes take place. This person is quieter and doesn’t do big, bold, noticeable things, but is nonetheless the core of what makes the House so welcoming and effective.

2018 WILLA JONES AWARD WINNER, DAVE WILLIAMS

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Dave Williams joined our team as a maintenance volunteer in December 2014 and transitioned to become a front desk volunteer in 2015. In less than four years, he has accumulated nearly 1,100 volunteer service hours, which doesn’t count his many shifts at special events, including Night at the Races and selling 50/50 raffle tickets at Bridgestone.

Dave often covers additional weekend and evening shifts, arrives early or stays late to fill unexpected needs, and apologizes if he is not able to cover extra shifts. Dave was honored as a Volunteer of Merit in 2016, and continues to provide excellent service to families, in a quiet and caring manner. He is reliable and capable, and truly epitomizes Willa’s quiet, steadfast commitment to our mission.


2018 VOLUNTEERS OF MERIT



OUR POND Stories Revisited: A Legacy of Love

We are re-running this blog post from December 6, 2016 in memory of a dear friend of the House, Fred Close, who passed away on September 17, 2018.

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
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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.

Markley Family Finds Home Away from Home

The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is honored to be called "home" by many of our guests. Below is note of gratitude from Sarah Markley, who stayed at the House with her daughter, Emma, as she went through a pain management program at a local hospital. 


"Hello, my name is Sarah Markley. For the past three weeks I have been staying here at the Ronald McDonald House with my oldest daughter, Emma. Almost a year and a half ago, Emma  began with a headache that has never gone away. We live in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and are very fortunate to live near many outstanding hospitals. Emma was seen at DuPont Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). She turned 18 and was then able to be seen at Jefferson University Hospital. Despite the amazing care, Emma’s headache refused to go away. She was diagnosed with a chronic headache disorder called New Daily Persistent Headache, one that is untreatable and results in a  lifelong condition of daily chronic pain. 

It was on the one year anniversary of Emma’s headache that my husband, John, and I began to realize that we could not let our sweet daughter continue to allow this headache to rob from her life. It was then that I read about the IMATCH program, a pain program specifically for chronic headaches, at the Cleveland Clinic. In May, John, Emma and I drove close to seven hours to meet the doctors and learn more about the program. It was during the drive home, we realized that this was the exact thing that Emma needed. She needed to learn how to live again despite daily, constant 7 out of 10 pain. The problem would be "How we were going to afford to live three weeks in Cleveland to get Emma that help?"  Emma, you see is the oldest of our four children and over the past year and a half, she has had ER visits, two hospitalizations, and an extensive amount of doctor visits and many new medicines to try. All of this already weighed heavy on our wallet.

When I shared all of this with the receptionist at IMATCH, she immediately suggested that we take a look at the Ronald McDonald House. Pricing out hotels even with a Cleveland Clinic discount, our stay would have been well over $3,000. Then add meals on top of that. We all agreed that the only way that we could get Emma the help she needed was if we were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. The day before we were to leave, we got the call that told us there would be a room in which we could stay. The next morning at 6AM, Emma and I set off to Cleveland,Ohio. 

... the only way that we could get Emma the help she needed was if we were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. 
— Sarah Markley
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Our time here has been an absolute blessing and we have taken nothing for granted. While Emma spends her days learning ways to cope and live again, I am busy writing thank you cards with sincere gratitude for everyone involved at the Ronald McDonald House, from the milk donation, to the washer and dryer company. We are most grateful to everyone involved both past, present and future at the House. It has been a wonderful home away from home. You have enabled us the chance to give Emma tools for survival, ones she will be taking with her in two weeks when she leaves for college to study psychology and hopefully someday help children who also live with chronic pain. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts." - Sarah Markley


Without donors, Ronald McDonald Houses cannot help families be near their children during unsettling times. You ensure that the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is ready and able to help these families during their time of greatest need…no matter where they are from. Help us continue to serve our families. 

The National Sports Collectors Convention Teams Up with RMH

The National Sports Collectors Convention (NSCC), the premier showcase event of the sports collectible industry, has chosen Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland (RMH) as the charity partner for their 39th Annual show! The convention runs August 1st through 5th at the Cleveland IX Center.

Highlighting NSCC’s support is the donation of a Once in a Lifetime VIP Experience for one lucky RMH family. The VIP prize includes a personal behind-the‑scenes tour of the show, meet and greets and photo-ops with superstar athletes and entertainers, limited edition trading cards, free autographs and a personal $3,500 shopping spree to purchase some great signed memorabilia and trading cards from exhibitors on the floor of the NSCC, thanks to The Industry Summit, Beckett Media and HandBid Auctions.

Update! Photos from the NSCC VIP Experience winners, the Fritz Family. See more here.

We’re thrilled to be able to offer a family this special VIP Experience. To broaden their support, NSCC has generously invited additional RMH families to attend the show as their guests and will be conducting an online auction, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting our mission.
— Craig Wilson, RMH Executive Director

HandBid, a mobile app auction platform, is donating their services for the online auction of sports memorabilia. The NSCC Auction is now LIVE and is scheduled to close Saturday night, August 4th at 9 pm E.T.  Items will continue to be added throughout the convention. Anyone may bid on auction items, and need not be present to win. RMH and HandBid will also be on-site, at the show, sharing exhibitor booths #963 and #1063 in the NSCC corporate area. 

The opportunity to give back to the community and make a difference in a child’s life is extremely rewarding for the NSCC, our exhibitors and show attendees.
— John Broggi, NSCC Show Promoter

And that’s not all! RMH families will be guests of NSCC and the IX Center at Friday’s Cleveland Indians game. One family will be on the field with NSCC and RMH representatives for the check presentation prior to the game.

For more information about the show, visit www.NSCCShow.com. Stay tuned to RMH social media for live streams, photos of the winning families and more from the NSCC!

Food Bloggers and Melt RISE & Dine Together

From left to right: Matt Fish (Founder,   Melt  ), Melvin Reyes (top,   @cravetheland  ), Tricia Chaves (top,   @ptaomdotcom  ), Ben and Julie Kowalczyk (  @beardandbroad  ), Jen Rome (  @whycle  ), Heena and Kushal Mistry (  @KushFood  ), Michelle (  @clevelandfoodiegirl  ) and John Koehn, Neil Sanchez (Director of Operations, Melt)

From left to right: Matt Fish (Founder, Melt), Melvin Reyes (top, @cravetheland), Tricia Chaves (top, @ptaomdotcom), Ben and Julie Kowalczyk (@beardandbroad), Jen Rome (@whycle), Heena and Kushal Mistry (@KushFood), Michelle (@clevelandfoodiegirl) and John Koehn, Neil Sanchez (Director of Operations, Melt)

Cleveland is a foodie town, and in the past decade the food scene has exploded. Thanks to social media, so has blogging about the best treats and eats in town. We often turn to these social media gurus to point us in the direction of where to eat and what to order, as they showcase the best eateries around.

The RISE & Dine meal program, which pairs Cleveland Chefs with volunteer groups, is relatively new but has already made a significant impact not only in the lives of the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, but in the community as well. Chefs volunteer their time to serve incredible food that offers variety and comfort to the families. The volunteers not only get to spend the afternoon learning from Cleveland’s top chefs, but they also get to help feed the families at the House.

On July 10th, prominent Cleveland food bloggers volunteered their time, and social media skills, to the House by participating in a RISE & Dine experience with Melt Bar & Grilled founder, Matt Fish, and Director of Operations, Neil Sanchez. Under the guidance of Melt, the bloggers worked at five different stations to help prepare the evening’s meal. Given the summer season, the dinner was BBQ inspired and consisted of Melt’s famous Backyard BBQ Grilled Cheese sandwich (a vegan version was also prepared), potato salad, and watermelon salad.

It was such a gratifying and eye opening experience to serve the families at the Cleveland Ronald McDonald House RISE & Dine Event.
— Michelle Koehn, @clevelandfoodiegirl

Following dinner, the group toured the House to learn more about the impact of their volunteerism. The RISE & Dine program is a unique experience, and the bloggers were able to combine their passion for food and Cleveland pride to raise awareness for the Ronald McDonald House and the program. Their involvement helped to make this extraordinary event memorable. “It was a fun and rewarding experience and [we] are looking forward to doing this again sometime in the future.” said Heena and Kushal Mistry of @KushFood.

 

Know a group who would be interested in participating in a RISE & Dine experience to help feed families staying at the Ronald McDonald House? Click the button below and submit a Group Volunteer Form today!

Ronald McDonald Hospitality Suite at MetroHealth Medical Center Opens with Ribbon-Cutting

Keith Strauss , President of Sales Concepts and President of the Ronald McDonald House® of Cleveland, Inc. (RMH) Board of Trustees;  Dr. David Roberts , Director of Pediatric Hospitalists, MetroHealth;  Craig Richmond , SVP and CFO of the MetroHealth System and Member of the RMH Board of Trustees;  Rebecca Bartnicki , Nurse Manager, PICU & Inpatient Pediatrics;  Connie Eggleston , Nurse Manager, Neonatal ICU;  Jessica Chupnick , Manager, Child Life and Education;  Lydia Bert , Center Director, Women’s and Children;  Alisa Powell-Stovall , Director of Community Program Operations at RMH;  Craig Wilson , Executive Director of RMH;  Bria Heifetz , MetroHealth Hospitality Suite Coordinator (not pictured). 

Keith Strauss, President of Sales Concepts and President of the Ronald McDonald House® of Cleveland, Inc. (RMH) Board of Trustees; Dr. David Roberts, Director of Pediatric Hospitalists, MetroHealth; Craig Richmond, SVP and CFO of the MetroHealth System and Member of the RMH Board of Trustees; Rebecca Bartnicki, Nurse Manager, PICU & Inpatient Pediatrics; Connie Eggleston, Nurse Manager, Neonatal ICU; Jessica Chupnick, Manager, Child Life and Education; Lydia Bert, Center Director, Women’s and Children; Alisa Powell-Stovall, Director of Community Program Operations at RMH; Craig Wilson, Executive Director of RMH; Bria Heifetz, MetroHealth Hospitality Suite Coordinator (not pictured). 

In many cases, families of pediatric patients are simply unable to leave the hospital, sometimes for days at a time. The newly-opened Ronald McDonald Hospitality Suite at MetroHealth Medical Center provides crucial overnight respite for families of the most vulnerable patients, just steps from their child’s treatment room. Located directly across from the PICU, the Suite features four private rooms spacious enough to accommodate up to three guests. Each is equipped with a bed, recliner, writing desk and mini-fridge. Guests are provided with a keepsake quilt and welcome basket filled with snacks, water, writing tablet, tissues and resource information. The rooms share a quiet lounge area with a TV, comfortable La-Z-Boy furniture, vending machines, private restroom and shower stocked with fresh towels and toiletry items.

The Hospitality Suite opened on June 19 with a Ribbon-Cutting ceremony and tour. Speakers included RMH Cleveland Executive Director Craig Wilson, Board President Keith Strauss, Dr. David Roberts, MetroHealth Director of Pediatric Hospitalists, and MetroHealth President and CEO Dr. Akram Boutros. Mr. Strauss spoke of his personal connection to the Ronald McDonald House, which began years ago when he was a guest of RMH St. Louis following the premature birth of his son. Dr. Boutros talked about the growth and focus of the MetroHealth System and stressed the importance of supporting families as an integral part of caring for children undergoing medical treatment. Dr. Roberts echoed this, citing evidence that reducing barriers to parents’ active participation in their child’s care is a medical necessity. Attendees from room sponsors Quicken Loans and RSM, along with 45 other guests enjoyed cake and snacks, while learning how their generous contributions support the Ronald McDonald House mission of Keeping Families Close®. 

The Ronald McDonald Hospitality Suite at MetroHealth is the first in Ohio, and is expected to serve hundreds of people per year, free of charge. Just down the hall from the Hospitality Suite is the Ronald McDonald Family Room, which has hosted over 96,000 visitors since opening in 2010. Open from 9am – 9pm daily, the Family Room is equipped with a lounge area, full kitchenette stocked with snacks and beverages, children’s play area, computer with internet access, and other things that bring comfort to families so they can remain strong for their children.

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The impact of these programs is best described by families who have used them. One parent whose child underwent heart surgery wrote to us “I truly don't know what we would have done without this Family Room. I never left the hospital for 5 days and visited this room 3x a day, even to just step away for 10 minutes to breath...I am so grateful.” 

The Family Room was such a wonderful place when we needed a quiet moment, a quick snack or a place to visit with family and friends. We cannot express how grateful we were…the room was truly a respite during a physically and emotionally exhausting time for our family.
— Parent of child undergoing treatment at MetroHealth

In addition to the Hospitality Suite and Family Room at Metro, Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland provides a home-like environment and essential resources and services for up to 55 families per night at our University Circle guesthouse and operates Family Rooms at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital and Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital. All Hospitality Suite and Family Room Services are offered to families free of charge. For a room at the House, we ask for just a $20/night donation, but never turn away a family for inability to pay. With the help of our generous donors and dedicated volunteer force, we were able to serve over 109,000 individuals in 2017. For more information about our services or how you can become involved, visit our website at http://www.rmhcleveland.org or call us at 216-229-5757.

 

Bringing Families Together and Keeping Them Close

The illness of a child can often tear a family apart; the stress for some being too difficult to bear, but for Cory Poling and Lori Irwin, it only brought their family closer together. When their daughter, Collins Poling, was two years old, Cory and Lori separated. Eventually, Cory moved up to Toledo, Ohio and Collins split her time living there with her father and in Decatur, Indiana with her mother. In late July 2016, Collins suffered her first grand mal seizure and was taken to a hospital in Toledo. She stayed at the hospital for 11 days while the doctors tried to figure out how to stop the seizures. When the seizures stopped, she was sent back to Decatur with her mother, while continuing to see a neurologist in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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For almost a year and a half, things seemed to be getting back to normal; while the doctors were unsure of the cause of Collins’ seizures, she hadn’t suffered any recent attacks. However, that changed on December 22, 2017 when Collins had her second grand mal seizure. She was taken to the hospital in Fort Wayne and was tested to try to find the cause of her attack. After an extensive 24 hour EEG, the seizures continued but their cause was still unknown. The family was eventually referred to the Cleveland Clinic.

It was a trying situation for Cory and Lori, having to come up to Cleveland to try to help their daughter, while not having any real information about the situation. When they contacted the Cleveland Clinic to make their appointments, they were also looking for a place to stay, and were referred to the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. Cory and Lori arrived at the Ronald McDonald House in mid-March and stayed for 12 days. While their daughter was benefiting from the care at the Cleveland Clinic, Cory and Lori benefited from the support system they had at the House. They were able to talk to volunteers, employees, and other families that had a child going through similar situations.

It is a support to hear their story, to know that they’re going through the same things, it helps a lot.
— Lori Irwin

Collins, along with her parents and grandparents, Barry and Judy Poling, returned to the House twice after that, once in May and again in June. On May 4th, it was discovered that Collins had a lesion in one of the grooves (sulci) of her brain, on a part that had not properly formed while she was in the womb. When they returned in June, Collins had the operation to remove the lesion.

The Polings said that staying at the Ronald McDonald House put their minds at ease; from Grandpa Barry taking naps in the comfort of one of the Family Rooms in the hospital, to Cory, Lori, and Collins attending Cavs games, to meals provided to families by volunteers, the House was a major source of support. The House offered the whole family a way to relax and deal with their situation together. While this was a difficult situation for all involved, Collins’ family obviously grew closer. “Through all this, we’ve [Lori and I] reunited,” said Cory Poling. As a family, Collins, Cory, and Lori are moving on from one chapter in their life to a much happier one.

Would you like to help make a difference in the lives of the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House? Just $20 helps to cover the cost for a family to stay the night at the House. Click the button below to donate today.

Delavegas Stay Close to Ryan during Life-enhancing Surgery

My hope is no parents have to use a Ronald McDonald House, but when they do, they will see just how wonderful your work is. The Ronald McDonald House made a very anxious time reasonable.
— Chris Delavega
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Chris and his wife, Amie, knew something wasn’t quite right with Ryan. At age one, he was not developing at the same pace that his big sister, Sadie, had. He wasn’t reaching typical milestones like crawling and pulling himself up. Ryan’s physical therapist suspected he may have Cerebral Palsy, which his doctors later confirmed.

Despite intensive physical therapy, Ryan’s physical progress plateaued, and he began to regress. The Delavegas learned of a doctor in St. Louis who performed a special surgery that might help Ryan. Without the surgery 5-year-old Ryan, who can walk short distances with the assistance of a walker, would eventually be wheelchair-bound.

After Ryan was approved for surgery, Chris and Amie made plans to stay in St. Louis for the five days Ryan would be at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The hotel they found was not ideal; they would be required to drive back and forth each day. When their friend, who works at the Cleveland Ronald McDonald House, found out about their situation, she told them about the Ronald McDonald House in St. Louis, which is a short walk to the hospital. With a little help from Cleveland, the Delavegas received an apartment at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of St. Louis.

I really can’t say enough great things about our St. Louis Ronald McDonald House experience. The ability to leave the hospital for a shower in peace, sit and relax, and grab a meal was priceless. The community meals were a great place to vent, learn, and understand from other parents just how challenging and fortunate some have it. You know, I can’t remember what I ate yesterday, but I still remember those dinners and the conversations.
— Chris Delavega

And the best news! Since his December surgery, Ryan has made remarkable progress. His muscles and joints are more elastic. He is able to stand on his own and has been taking his first unassisted steps. Despite a long journey ahead of them—four years of physical therapy 10 hours a week—the Delavegas are excited and encouraged that Ryan will someday be walking and jumping.

Chris and Amie are looking forward to helping Ronald McDonald House families in Cleveland. “We so admire what you do for families and appreciate the support the Ronald McDonald House network has given to our family.” They are already signed up to volunteer their gift of time to RMH.

Without donors, Ronald McDonald Houses cannot help families be near their children during unsettling times. You ensure that the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is ready and able to help these families during their time of greatest need…no matter where they are from. Help us continue to serve our families.