25 Aug Fairway Makes the Ronald McDonald House a Bit Smokier, a Lot Happier
Written by Regional Marketing Director, Kelly Yale
If there is one thing that I know about Fairway, it’s that we take our commitment to serve very seriously. Luckily, as the Marketing Director for the Charlotte area, I can always find so many incredible ways to serve the Queen City because there are wonderful, well-run charities that offer so many volunteer opportunities. One that is nearest to our heart is the Ronald McDonald House near Levine Children’s Hospital because we are always so touched by the families that we are lucky enough to feed and meet when we are there.
And so it was last Friday that our team of ten was able to meet up to cook a big dinner for the Ronald McDonald House this past Friday. We went to work making Giada’s Chicken Tetrazzini, a huge salad and delicious, chocolate brownies. Everything was going so well (well, minus the pots of water taking an hour to boil) and we were ready to put the food in the oven. I lifted the huge pan and tried to put it in, but the rack was upside down. When I tried to pull it back out, a flood of cream sauce went to the bottom of the oven.
And then there was smoke. A lot of smoke. We waved our arms, towels in vain, and the smoke alarm went off. And then THE SMOKE ALARM WENT OFF for the whole building. And we had to evacuate.
Had there been a hole to crawl into, I would have happily done that. Here we were trying to do this good deed and all these patients and their families were herded out in the heat, waiting for the all clear. Which came in the form of not ONE, but TWO fire trucks.
So we joked with them and talked with them. And they laughed and talked and made us feel better. And then my team forced me to pose in front of the fire trucks so we could remember for all time that when we volunteer, we like to make a scene. But the firemen insisted.
And then something wonderful happened- the kids were elated with the fireman and the fire truck and crawled into and took pictures and one little girl held a fireman’s hand and wouldn’t let go. What had started out as a nightmare had turned into the highlight of who knows how many days for them. And if you think that we managed to hold it together watching this, I will say that I had to step away a couple of times.
The families ate. We ate. We laughed. Most of the group took a tour of the house leaving Jenny Stoner and myself in the kitchen. It was then that we happened upon a young mother who had a child in the NICU. Since Jenny and I basically had our youngest in the NICU at the same time and gestation, we were able to reassure her, tell her our stories and answer her questions. I told Jenny that if we were there for no other reason than the relief that spread across that woman’s face to feel for a moment like she wasn’t alone, then the whole thing was worth it.
We packed up the food and even had a big casserole for them to freeze for another time. A man that I had joked with outside and then inside came up and whispered, “I don’t want to blow smoke (JOKES!) but this is the best meal I have had since I have been here. Thanks for that.”
Most days are filled with ups and downs, stresses and smiles, but Friday, there was so much perspective. It was a day where a crisis turned into a bit of a miracle. It was a time to look around at my amazing Fairway family and be so grateful for their love and friendship.
God put us in a place that night to have love and gratitude in our hearts. And who could forget the night we tried to burn down the Ronald McDonald House and got so much more in return? I am humbled to have been part of it all. Thanks to my team who made it a night to remember.
Here are some thoughts from others on the team of how volunteering last Friday touched their hearts:
Tara Atwood said, “There are so many things in life to be grateful for and it’s experiences like our volunteer night at the RMH of Charlotte- that highlight even more, the joy of sharing your time, abilities, smiles and laughter. To have so much fun while helping some families in need is something I am looking forward to participating in again and again with my Fairway family!”
BettyAnn McCloud added, “Being able to give back and help others was a very rewarding experience. Life is so precious and being able to do something as simple as preparing a home cooked meal for the families of Ronald McDonald House made me sincerely aware and grateful for my health, family and friends. Setting off the fire alarm, and having a situation of panic and embarrassment turn into something quite different. Happy children and a wonderful memory of time spent with my Fairway Family really made it all the more special”
Jenny Stoner said, “The RMH has a special place in my heart for several reasons. First, it was my sorority’s philanthropy so I got to spend a good bit of time during my college years raising money for this special place and seeing what an impact it made in the lives of families with sick children. It is also special because I had a premature son in 2005, so I know first-hand how difficult having a child in the hospital for an extended period of time can be. It’s emotionally, spiritually and physically draining and no one really knows what it’s like until you’ve been through it. Having a place like the RMH in Charlotte would have been such a HUGE blessing to my family had it been around in 2005.
One of the highlights of the night for me (other than causing the fire dept. to arrive) was the conversation Kelly & I were able to have with a young mom who had a premature son. She came to dinner exhausted, sad and hopeless; wondering if there was any chance of her son getting out of the hospital or living a normal life. Kelly & I were able to hear her story, relate to her on a level very few people could (Kelly had a premature son as well) and give her a little hope and encouragement that there is EVERY reason to believe her son can and will live a very normal life. I love when God puts you in just the right place at just the right time and turns something that was very scary for me almost 9 years ago into something that could bring hope to someone else! That’s why we serve! To make a difference in their lives!”
Melissa Rose commented, “The thing about volunteering that always blows me away is that you could be volunteering to do something you might otherwise consider mundane like cooking dinner or packing boxes but every single time, I leave with an unexpected experience. Some interaction, some story, some new connection. And it is always clear that I just spent my time doing something amazing.”
Angela Allen said, “First time at Ronald McDonald House and couldn’t be more memorable! The firemen were a major highlight, but as always the residents captured my heart. I sat and talked with a resident that was from North Myrtle Beach and obviously going through chemo. As cancer affected my family and claimed the life of my Mother, I could have sat all night with her and just let her talk. She has been to RMcDH more than one time and on this trip her Mother and Step Father accompanied her. No I didn’t know her name, nor did she mine, but it didn’t matter. We shared similarities although we didn’t discuss her condition. It was just a pleasure to spend some time with someone that although going through treatment had a wonderful outlook on life and a beaming smile.”
Ali Dubois added, “Seeing all that the Ronald McDonald House does for the families of these children was truly heartwarming. What an outstanding organization! I look forward to volunteering there again in the future.”
And finally, Carolina Meulman, who had taken pictures for some of the families had this to say from her experience, “After volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, I sent Megan (a mom we met) some pictures I took of her little girls with the firemen and fire truck. We were embarrassed to have caused the fire department to come but making that family’s day was priceless. I thought I’d share her response because you never really know how much of an impact you can have on someone’s day. I hope Karlee’s little heart heals. Here’s her response…
‘Aw, well thanks. We are actually here because of our other daughter, Karlee. Karlee is 4 months old. She was born with a heat defect that usually requires 3 open heart surgeries. She had one when she was 4 days old. She was suppose to have another one next month. I brought her to Charlotte last Friday for a heart catheterization, just as prep work for her next surgery. But when they were in there, they noticed that sometime after she was born, she had a blood clot in her neck and some of that clot went to her heart & blocked her coronary artery on her right side, which is the only ‘good’ side of her heart. Apparently her blood clots very easily, so even a heart transplant is out of the question. Karlee’s heart has already started to adapt & grow new vessels to compensate for the block artery. So basically we are just going to give her time & see if she can repair her heart enough on her own, because there is nothing the doctors can do surgically.
We actually found all of this out yesterday. So even though it was hectic, the firetruck experience was probably a good distraction for the girls! Because Mommy & Daddy had been crying pretty much all day! So it was nice for them to have some fun! Thank you so much for taking their pictures, my brain wasn’t really working yesterday & I would have hated missing that! They loved it!
Thanks again for the pictures & for dinner. Please keep Karlee in your thoughts & prayers. She’s been tough from the beginning, but now we’re praying for a miracle.’”
Please take a moment of your day to pray for Karlee and for all the families who endure so much. Please also look into volunteering your time or financial resources to helping causes like The Ronald McDonald House.