In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio was one of many organizations aided by The Columbus Foundation, whose Emergency Response Fund received a $500,000 donation from Columbus Crew SC Investor-Operators Dee and Jimmy Haslam through the Haslam 3 Foundation and on behalf of the Haslam Family.
Alex, a native Serbian now living in Marietta, Ohio, had been a resident at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio (RMHC) for four months following the birth of his child, Milan, last summer.
Milan, who was born in June, suffers from a heart defect with an unknown cause and was born at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, just across the street from the RMHC.
One of the goals of the RMHC is to provide essential services to families whose children are facing medical challenges.
Ryan Wilkins, the senior director of communication & facilities at the RMHC of Columbus, said that by being a volunteer-driven organization, the stay-at-home order threw a wrench in things logistically, but that the staff has stepped up immensely to ensure the continuation of services.
“I’m really proud of how our staff has stepped up to keep the services going. We have continued to provide services here at the Ronald McDonald House,” he explained. “We had to scale back what we are able to provide, but we are still serving families, just like Alex’s, and helping them go through the situation that they are going through with having a child in the hospital.”
In Alex’s instance, the RMHC provided a home-base for him and his wife while Milan underwent procedures at Nationwide Children's Hospital to address his heart defect.
“There is no way we could have afforded to stay in a hotel … so everything we need is basically here,” Alex said. “They offer us free meals … we have our own room … basically they take care of everything that we need and allow us to take care of our babies. Everything that they are doing is to make us feel as at home as possible.”
Milan will have to undergo periodic procedures for his heart defect as he continues to grow, but Alex, who mentioned how quickly Milan has shown he can heal from his surgical procedures, said he and his wife were able to take their son home to Marietta last week.
Wilkins said the donation from the Haslam Family through the Columbus Foundation has helped with two things in particular – providing meals and ensuring proper sanitization throughout the 120,000 square-foot house, which holds 137 guest rooms.
“By providing those really quality meals that are healthy for our guests, we are not only providing sustenance, but we are also taking away stress so they can focus on the health and well-being of their child,” Wilkins said. “And then also from a cleanliness standpoint, [the donation] has helped us to make sure that we are keeping the place sanitized properly.”
A longtime partner with the Crew, the RMHC serves more than 4,500 families each year and is currently the largest in the world.
Throughout the years, Crew players, coaches, and staff have been able to volunteer their time and, along with other groups, have helped RMHC save over $3 million each year in labor costs.
“We sincerely appreciate the way that everyone at the Columbus Crew has been so supportive of the Ronald McDonald House for so long,” Wilkins said. “It feels great to have a partner like the Crew … This gift was extremely generous, and we really are proud of our partnership with [the Crew]."