Throughout my life, I have been the patient and the volunteer. I was born the patient. As a very early preemie and as a child with a hemangioma, my family was tasked with organizing my medical needs from infancy. My family and I were navigating staring parents, name calling children, and a flight to Calgary for facial surgery – all this before I was 5. I learned early and will never forget, that people who are different, in any regard, should always be met with the same respect and dignity as everyone else. The Ronald McDonald House (RMH) Calgary saved us. It gave my parents the answers to all their logistical problems. More than that, I felt for the first time in my life that I was normal. That I belonged. My experiences at RMH motivated me to bring this sense of community to others and to ensure that other kids and families like mine would experience the acceptance that comes with unconditional love and compassion.
To become an active part of this community, my mother, sister and I became volunteers for RMH Southwestern Ontario. We trucked in every week for 14 years, a dedicated mother with her 8 and 7-year-old in tow, ready to do laundry, bake, answer phones, chit chat with families, and everything else to make RMHSWO feel like home for families. But, as we all know, everything is not always sunshine and rainbows at home. One Friday during our “lock down volunteer weekend”, we encountered two families. The first was that of a teenage boy caught in a firearm accident, who was never expected to recover. The other had a premature baby, whose months-long stay in the NICU appeared to be over and would soon be going home. By the time Sunday rolled around, the boy was miraculously recovering, and the baby had died early that morning. I remember watching intently as my mother gave both of these families the care and compassion that they needed when arriving back from the hospital. It was these moments, these unpredictable conflations of sadness and wonder that made my volunteer experience so precious. These times taught me to be patient, kind, compassionate and loving. These moments taught me to listen and to be mindful of what families need in each passing minute, because in one minute everything could and does change for families who call Ronald McDonald House London, their Home away from home!
My journey with RMHSWO taught me that this Home away from home is not just a temporary residence, but a transformative place. RMH locations provide people like me and my family with a community that understands them, accepts their struggles and supports them in building connections that they need to move forward in life. RMHSWO will forever influence the way I live my life, and for that, I remain a grateful contributor!
Learn more about Ronald McDonald House Charities Southwestern Ontario