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.
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.
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.