When you come from a large family, often the holidays get a little overwhelming trying to accommodate everyone’s schedule without offending the new inlaws, travel times and general logistics. So last Thanksgiving I decided to open my home to family, friends, and in-laws the week before Thanksgiving so every one could be together without the added stress of eating two meals and rushing around. My daughter’s and I referred to it as Fakesgiving. It was one of the best we’ve had.
This freed me up to do something different on actual Thanksgiving. As I’ve done in the past, I decided it would be to make a dinner for the families staying at the local Ronald McDonald House. My daughter, Hannah works as their Development Manager and has shared hundreds of stories about the families they host. Being a parent, I couldn’t imagine having a child in the hospital and being away from home. I planned my shopping list, enlisted the help of my daughter and her friend, and we went to work the day before and got up early to prepare the dinner for 50-60. Working in someone else’s kitchen is always full of guess work but we managed to pull it off without too many glitches.
As the families started to trickle into the common area of the house, you could sense their hesitation but also read the little bit of relief on their faces as they smelled the familiar aroma of roast turkey and gravy. The first woman who I greeted was from Minnesota, and was curious to know if she could make a plate for later after she had visited her daughter. I went to get some foil for her and went about the business of greeting the other guests and refilling platters of food.
As I was refilling one of the dessert plates, I noticed a family with a small toddler and they looked as if they had been injured and were sitting away from the other guests so I went over to welcome them. I sat with their little guy Enrique while they dished up their meal. In the course of our visit, they told me that they had been in a bad car accident the evening before while traveling to their parents. Their son and daughter had both been injured in the accident and one of them had been airlifted while the other traveled by ambulance with his mom. These sweet parents hadn’t had a minute of sleep since the day before, had two seriously injured children next door in the hospital, and were trying to keep little Enrique content. The tired Momma from Minnesota returned later for her meal and I brought her a much needed cup of coffee. She asked me if I worked there, and I explained that my daughter did and that she motivated me to volunteer. She told me the story of her daughter; a seventeen year old visiting her seventh hospital because she was born without a stomach. Talk about a reality check for me.
As I was cleaning up some of my pots and dishes I had brought from home, Enrique’s mother came back into the kitchen. Grabbing my hand she thanked me and said that our dinner and welcoming atmosphere were the best thing that had happened for her family in weeks. And then I cried. Walking out to load up the car, I saw my daughter talking to the Mom from Minnesota (I’m mad I forgot her name) and she was giving her a little package with toothbrush, toothpaste, soap etc. so that she could have it with her at the hospital for her long day. And then I cried again!
What started out as a gesture of kindness, turned into one of the best Thanksgiving memories for me.
Those simple human connections are one of the best gifts I have received. Thank you Ronald McDonald House.
If you’d like to volunteer visit: http://www.rmhccv.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer
As we continue to look for ways to accommodate the many needs of our current and future families, we ask for your support and input.
If you’re a past family or have stayed at another Ronald McDonald House, we’d love to hear from you. What did you love about the way we operated? What could we improve on? What did another chapter do that made you feel taken care of? Any feedback is welcome. We can’t get better without your help! Please send us an email or call with any ideas you have.
Contact: 559.447.6793 or Info@RMHCcv.org
We’re currently experiencing the calm before the storm as we’re getting ready to roll into our busy season full of fundraising events. Your attendance and support of those events is key in their success. We’re always looking for new corporate partners and innovative ways to honor their support. If your business is looking to expand it’s community involvement, we’ve got opportunities for you and can even create something tailored to your goals.
Contact: Alicia@RMHCcv.org for more information. She’ll be happy to connect with you.
Lastly, I couldn’t wait to share the below video with you (click on the photo to watch). You probably remember the incredible story the Whitaker Family shared with us earlier. If you read it and followed them here, you know their miracle baby, Eva, came into the world weighing just over a pound. The family, from Visalia, stayed with us, for the majority of their journey and last weekend, finally got to return home. It was our pleasure and gift to be alongside The Whitaker’s the last four months and we were able to because of your support.
Thank you for allowing us to be there for The Whitaker’s and families just like them.
On August 4th Chelsee Gooler and her daughter Alyssa, head from their room here, at the Ronald McDonald House, to the hospital to hold her baby for the first time.
In January 2014, Chelsee was given news that her unborn baby was diagnosed with a Diaphragmatic Hernia (he would have a large hole is his diaphragm) as well as omphalocele (he would be born with his liver outside of his body), and was originally given a 10% chance of surviving birth. Unable to deal with these odds, she found a specialist in Fresno that was able to give her hope. On July 1st she gave birth to Parker-James Kenneth Gooler at Fresno Community Medical Center where more complications arrived. Parker-James’ lungs were so small they were almost non existent. Her baby was on a minute to minute basis. In mid-July, he needed to be transferred to Children’s Hospital Central California to receive even more specialized treatment; however, the transportation proposed big risks.
Chelsee and her family didn’t know what to do, so it was in a local hotel room that they got the call that her son had flat lined. The twenty minutes it took her to get to the hospital will never be given back. She remembers barely being able to sit still in the car for those precious minutes. As she rushed to her baby, she saw his body lifeless. As she reached out to hold his hand, her miracle baby squeezed back. For a split second, Parker-James opened his eyes to let her know he was going to be ok.
It was then; she vowed to never stay that far away from him. She camped out in the hospital waiting rooms so she could be there, available around the clock. When a social worker told her about the Ronald McDonald House next door, we were full with a waiting list; however, our Day Room was available. Our Day Room allows families to rest, shower, have a meal or nap for up to 8 hours a day. Chelsee, her 10year old daughter Alyssa, and her father Kenneth used our Day Room twice before being able to check in to a guest room.
“I was so relieved, the first night we got to stay here; I actually got to rest, and that was really helpful. There was actually food in the kitchen so we didn’t have to eat cafeteria food.”
Parker-James was born with his intestines floating up into his chest cavity, which pushed his heart over and crowded out his lung development. This created hypertension in his lungs which gave them no room to develop.
On Wednesday, July 30th, the doctors were scheduled to perform surgery to move his heart, stomach and intestines back and to seal his diaphragm. As the planned hour and a half long surgery extended to almost four, the family got worried, but when the doctors came out they gave Chelsee news that nearly brought her to her knees. They said that Parker-James was recovering and they were surprised at how well he was doing.
“After the surgery, it was so nice to come back to the House where volunteers had made dinner. We got to relax for a little while and not have to worry about where our meal was going to come from.”
After they ate together, the three of them headed back to the hospital where nurses surprised them with great news. Parker-James miraculously was wide awake after all the medication he had been given. This was a huge step forward for him.
“Parker means keeper of the park or keeper of the unit, and I really feel like he has brought my family together, and James is from my favorite section of the Bible, James 2:17, it means without action, faith is meaningless. Kenneth means warrior and that’s exactly what he is; my miracle baby.
They know they have a long road ahead, but Chelsee manages to tell her story with a smile on her face, because she knows her baby boy will continue to defy the odds. Alyssa will be starting 5th grade independent study in a few weeks and is excited to see her baby brother grow.
It’s our gift to be able to keep this family close so that Parker-James can be healed and return home. We get that incredible gift because of your support.
From the Gooler Family and from all of us, thank you.
- August 9, 2014 – Rock The Pantry
Boomers - Fresno, Ca | 10a-2p | Hosted by our ALLSTAR volunteer Arie (her second year planning the event)
She saw a need within our pantries and now each summer gets that need met. Bring your family to
Boomers with pantry items (canned food, nonperishable, cereals, snack bars, anything easy to make) and enjoy a free concert and fun! Info@RMHCcv.org for more information.
August 9, 2014 – Fig Fest
Whole Foods - Fresno, Ca | 9a-1p | Proceeds of Beer Garden Benefit RMHC Central Valley
Savor gourmet food samples, extraordinary wines and craft brew from Central California’s best chefs, food purveyors, winemakers and breweries.
For more information visit http://www.californiafigs.com/figfest14
- September 27-28, 2014 – 135 To The House Benefit Run
Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House – RMHC Central Valley | 12p | David Thull and Ultra Runners
For two years, David Thull has organized a 135 mile run from the Ronald McDonald House in Bakersfield, CA to our House in Madera, CA. Relay teams and solo runners will complete this run from Saturday – Sunday.
Join us Sunday, 9/28 for a BBQ at the finish line. For more information visit facebook.com/micasarun
- October 6, 2014 – 3rd Annual Fore the House Golf Tournament
Fort Washington Country Club -Fresno, Ca | 7:30a | Hosted by Cargill and presented by WDS.
Now one of our largest fundraisers of the year. Enjoy a VIP round of golf, $75 to the Taylormade PRO shop, local drinks and food, and the chance to spend a day networking and raising funds for our mission. Sponsorship opportunities
- October 10, 2014 – Red Stripe Crawl
Fresno’s Tower District, Downtown Visalia and Downtown Merced
STAY TUNED FOR MORE INFORMATION
- October 26, 2014 – Color Me Rad
Woodward Park – Fresno, Ca | 7a | Have you gotten rad yet? If not, you need to sign up today.
A fun 5k that leaves you looking like a piece of art. Use code: RMHRAD2014 and get 10% off of registration and automatically donate 15% to us. Register here
- November 8, 2014 – 8th Annual Red Heart Ball
Fresno Convention Center – Fresno, Ca | Hosted bar 5-6p, dinner, dancing, live auction, 6-11p. If you’ve never gone to this event, you should put it on your calendar now. Marie Wilson kept our 500 guests on the dance floor until the lights came off! Get your date, your dancing shoes, your fancy gowns, and your masks ready for an unforgettable evening. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities here.
If you’d like more information about any of the events above, contact us and we’ll get back to you as quickly as we can! Alicia@RMHCcv.org
Get ready for some big events this weekend!
Fresno, CA – Fig Fest and Rock the Pantry:
Fig Fest 2014 –
Come see me at Fig Fest this weekend! It will be at Whole Foods Market Fresno. There will be tons of amazing food, beer, wine and rockin’ music by Marie Wilson. We will also be taking food donations as well as money donations.
Fig Fest 2014 with beer and wine $15 (21 and over)
Whole Foods Market – Fig Garden Village
650 West Shaw Avenue
Fresno, CA 93704
Saturday, August 9, 2014
9AM to 1PM
Rock the Pantry –
We have teamed up with boomers for our Rock the Pantry event. Come out and join us for a day filled with music, snacks and games to support us. We encourage you to bring canned food items, dry pastas, snacks or household items like paper products, laundry soaps and cleaning supplies. Your donations are greatly appreciated!
7354 North Abby Street
Fresno, CA 93720
Saturday, August 9, 2014
10AM to 2PM
Visalia, CA – Corcoran Summer Fest 2014
You won’t want to miss the Corcoran Summer Fest. It will be a day for cook-offs, beer tasting, children activities, food and craft vendors, along with music provided by Nubreed.
General – Free
Corcoran, CA 93212
Saturday, August 9, 2014
3PM to 10PM
Turlock, CA – Recreation on Wheels
The Recreation on Wheels is a great activity for children ages 3 to 18. It will provide kids with positive activities through games, crafts and more.
850 E Main Street
Turlock, CA 95380
Friday, August 8, 2014
10AM to 12PM
Have a fantastic weekend and hopefully I see some of you at Fig Fest!
I hope you all have been enjoying your summer. It has gone by so fast.
Fresno, CA – Crafting for a Cause and Arte Americas: Nights In The Plaza Concert Series:
Crafting for a Cause -
The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is holding a Craft For A Cause. Bring the whole family and get ready for snacks and wonderful crafts.
August 2, 2014
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Habitat for Humanity Restore
1631 Railroad Avenue
Clovis, CA 93612
Arte Americas: Nights In The Plaza Summer Concert Series –
Grab the family and head out to the Arte Americas Plaza for a fun night filled with food and great music. Each week the music changes from Latin Jazz, Soul, Funk and much more.
$10 General Admission
Friday, August 1, 2014
7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Arte Americas Plaza
1630 Van Ness Avenue
Fresno, CA 93721
Food trucks will be on location
*Bring chairs and blankets
Visalia, CA – Movie in the Park:
If you’re looking to get the kids out of the house for a little while, the Riverway Sports Park is having another movie in the park. Bring a picnic dinner, chairs, blankets and bug spray.
The Lego Movie
August 2, 2014
6:45 PM to 9:00 PM
*movie at dusk (around 7:30/8:00)
Riverway Sports Park in the Special Events Promenade
3611 N Dinuba Blvd
Visalia, CA 93291
Madera, CA – 43rd Annual Indian Fair Days & Pow Wow:
The Indian Fair Days and Pow Wow is a great outing for the entire family. Get ready to learn about the Native American life while enjoying traditional dancing, food, native craft vendors and more.
$2 per person prior to event
$5 at the gate
Kids 12 and under are free
August 3, 2014
August 4, 2014
Gates open at 9
*grand entrance takes place at noon both days
North Fork Recreation Center
33507 Road 230
North Fork, CA 93669
*bring sunscreen and bug spray
Have a wonderful weekend!
I have some fantastic events coming your way for this weekend.
Madera, CA – APCAL Concert Series with Patrick Contreras
Here is an event you will not want to miss. The APCAL Concert Series is having its 2nd Charity Partnership concert with us. We are so excited for this opportunity. There will be wonderful music played by the legendary violinist Patrick Contreras along with yummy food and drinks.
$10 with half donated to Ronald McDonald House
*21 and older only
32749 Ave. 7
Madera, CA 93637
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Gates open at 6PM
Music from 7PM to 11PM
Catered by Chase’s Chop Shop
*Bring lawn chairs and a blanket.
Fresno, CA – Magician Jay and Wild Child Adventures
Magician Jay at Sierra Vista:
Head over to Sierra Vista’s Mall Community Room for some fun magic tricks with Magician Jay. Children will get to participate along with Magician Jay while learning about comedy, magic and illusions.
*First come, first serve in compliance with room capacity
Sierra Vista’s Mall Community Room
1050 Shaw Ave
Clovis, CA 93612
Friday, July 25, 2014
11AM to 12PM
Wild Child Adventures:
The Fig Garden Regional Library is holding a Wild Child Adventure. Bring the kids for some exciting magic with bubbles. I remember having an assembly in elementary school for this and loved it. It was so much fun watching fellow students get put inside a bubble. I didn’t think it was possible.
*First come, first serve with compliance of space
Fig Garden Regional Library
3071 W Bullard Ave
Fresno, CA 93711
Saturday, July 26, 2014
10:30AM to 11:30AM
Visalia, CA – Rawhide Home Game
Go out and support your local Rawhide minor league baseball team. Bring the whole family for entertainment by one of America’s greatest past time. Enjoy all the best baseball park foods while you watch the game.
Tickets range from $6 to $20 – purchase online or at the park
*Price depends on seat locations. If you get pasture tickets bring blankets and lawn chairs.
N Giddings St.
Visalia, CA 93291
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Starts at 7:00PM
* lots located around the park
Enjoy your weekend!