Tuesday, May 31, 2016

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Ronald McDonald House Taste of Hope

I was recently invited to visit the Ronald McDonald House in Clifton to learn about their new Taste of Hope program. If you're not familiar Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home to families whose children are hospitalized at Cincinnati Children's. 

The first thing I love about Ronald McDonald House is the fact that you're smack dab in the middle of the city - but there's a really nice courtyard that makes you feel like you're tucked away at a peaceful oasis!

Before we learned about the Taste of Hope program we got to meet this little guy. That face! Here's the thing - there are 78 stories like his - kids with serious medical issues and families that need help. It's amazing what they do here.  They just posted on Monday about a family that has been there from Turkey for 354 days and is FINALLY going home.

Take a minute to imagine if that was you - that had a child with major medical issues and you had to spend a year halfway around the world to save your child. Would you be able to afford it? That is exactly why Ronald McDonald House exists.

They have started a new Taste of Hope program which I'll tell you all about in just a minute. Previously volunteer groups would come in and make meals for the families. The thing is though - these groups weren't all planning things together. So what would happen is that 3-4 nights/week - the groups would make pasta. I mean - if you had to cook for 100+ people - what would you make? Then think about allergens and how healthy meals are and 100 more things that pop into your mind. It's a bit chaotic!

So they made a big decision and hired a chef. Chef Greg has worked at a variety of places in Cincinnati including a country club - so he's used to preparing meals for large groups. Now - Chef Greg plans the meals and gets great deals on supplies and so much more.

Now - the residents get variety in their meals, they can find out exactly what's in anything and plan ahead. The folks at RMH told us that so many more people are eating the meals, there are fewer leftovers and the comments are great!

They have an amazing kitchen area with multiple stations and refrigerators as well as a grill, cooktop, etc. Most of these are available to the residents if they would like to make something of their own. But - these great areas for prep and working have also made it even better for volunteering.

And that's where Taste of Hope comes in!!!

Now - volunteer groups can come in - hands free - and basically have a fun cooking class and team building experience. There is a donation cost for the group - but it's super affordable!!! For lunch, your team donates $250 and for dinner/weekend brunch it's $400.

Let's think about that - for just $250 - they can feed 100 people!!! They like to have groups of 4-12 people (minimum: 14 years old) - so even if you got a group of friends - for $20 you could have a cooking class and do something great for charity!
On my visit - I got to make salmon cakes with Chef Greg. They're basically like crab cakes but made with salmon. My Dad used to make salmon patties with canned salmon - and he wouldn't pick out the vertebrae - ew. Chef Greg used FRESH salmon and premium ingredients and they were delicious! I didn't have breakfast before I got there and might have eaten three of them before I went back to work. :-)

After my salmon cake breakfast - I went on a tour of the facility. They have so many fun things to help the families feel at home. In many cases, it's more than just the actual patients - it's their brothers and sisters that come too. They have an arts and crafts room, a library for adults & children, a beautiful and comfortable foyer as well as a children's theatre area where they do performances and have visitors from various groups like the Cincinnati Bengals!

The families are also encouraged to decorate their doors - it helps the residents and volunteers get to know each other and find out about progress along the way.

Lynn is the most amazing volunteer - she showed us around and is so knowledgeable. This pic is my favorite because of the awesome art behind her. They also have a lot of art in the House that was done by residents.

One thing Lynn shared with us is about those pop tabs that they collect - they bring in $25,000 every year - IN POP TABS! Every little bit helps!

One room we visited was the Meditation Room. This room is available for parent when they need some peace and quiet and also when the stories of residents don't have a happy ending.  The lamp you see in the corner is left on for 24 hours after someone passes. Thankfully the light wasn't on the day we visited.

They also have a light on top of the building that can be seen from the windows of Children's Hospital. This gives the kids that are staying at the hospital comfort because they know their loved ones are close by.

We also got to see a room - it's much like a hotel room and is completely private. It's basically a mini apartment for residents during their stay. They house 78 families every night of the year - there is always a wait list.

There's also fun artwork around the facility. It's all got a sense of whimsy which really helps for the kids.

So after this great visit - I had to sign up and volunteer! Luckily my office has exactly 12 people - so it was the perfect size for the Taste of Hope program.

 Here we are - what a great looking group! 

First we watched a quick video about these two adorable kids with the same condition that met at RMH and have become a great support system for each other.

We got to cooking and prepping - and I learned a trick. Push a hard boiled egg through a metal cooling grate and you've got the perfect salad bar egg prep! Way quicker than slicing and dicing!
Big Boss Man was on grill duty but then it was his turn for the tour so I finished up the grill duty. We started the chicken on the grill to get the sear on the outside and then finishing them in the oven.
We split up and did all sorts of duties around the kitchen. Audrey was prepping these delicious pretzels from Servaatis.

Tim manned the cooktop and prepped the walleye - wooooo it was HOT! He was an excellent chef.

I started grilling asparagus but the heat from the grill was kicking my butt so Eric volunteered to jump in and show me up in 3...2...1. Fancy old asparagus flipping!

You might also be wondering about the time commitment - for lunch it goes from 10-2, dinner is 4-8 and brunch is 8-12. After you prepare and serve lunch, you get to eat it as well. We were very happy because Graeters was on the menu for dessert! #WINNING

Then we topped the grilled walleye with water chestnuts, red peppers and a lemon rosemary butter sauce.

And here are our final dishes - grilled chicken with peppers...

Grilled walleye with a lemon rosemary butter sauce...

and grilled asparagus. I mean - fancy right? Way better than having spaghetti 4 nights a week!

Here was our favorite moment of the day when our host was checking someone in and we looked down and noticed they had matching shoes. Like exactly matching! It was a fun moment to bond with one of the patients!

There are still plenty of options in June to volunteer (scroll to the bottom to see the calendar) - so I urge you - dare I say CHALLENGE you to create a team and help out Ronald McDonald House. Work at a small company? Tell your boss it's a really affordable and fun team building opportunity for just $250! Work at a big company? Submit a proposal for your team to do it! (Every big company has teams - right?!) Have a group of friends? Ask them if they want to get some good mojo and have a fun lunch or dinner and do some good!

Ronald McDonald House does amazing work and they need you to keep doing that amazing work. It's a really fun experience - I hope you'll join in!
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