Monday, June 13, 2011

Why the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House?

When I started to get semi-serious about running I promised myself I'd only run for me. No running clubs, no teams, no fundraising. Just me. If I happened to make a friend or two, or a husband (we went for an 8-miler on our second date) along the way, fine, but heading out for miles on the road or on the trails was something just for me.

No sharing. ALL FOR ME!

Except I lied to myself, apparently. A few months ago the social worker at the Ronald McDonald House on the grounds of the children's hospital kind enough to employ me called to say that the house had been chosen as an official charity for this year's 2011 Philadelphia Marathon.

Here's how the conversation went:
Me: Ok, thanks for sharing that.
Her: Well,I know that you run.
Me: Yes, I do.
Her: And I know that you've run marathons.
Me: Not, like, every day or anything.
Her: Want to join the team? You only have to raise $900** and it will be fun. And the fundraising is for this specific house, not all of them.
Me: You mean you don't have to share the money with any of the other houses?

My interest was piqued. My hospital (like I own it) serves all sorts of kids from all sorts of places and all sorts of socioeconomic backgrounds. The Ronald McDonald House, as you probably know already, houses families who have to come from a distance of at least 25 miles in order to have their child receive necessary medical care.

Some babies in my unit remain inpatients for a year, if not longer. The RMH asks for a fee of $15 a night per family but never turns away anyone who is unable to pay. Some families pay $10, some $5, some nothing--whatever they can afford. All are given a giant private room, bathroom, meals and a beautiful house with a small staff of professionals and volunteers equipped to familes through what is likely the hardest time of their life.

I work specifically in the NICU. The average length of stay in our unit is more than a month -- we've even had first birthday parties for kids who have been too sick to ever leave the hospital. The RMH gives familes the opportunity to be with their kid every day, to not have to worry about housing, or food. These expenses add up, even for families who were financially stable before welcoming a sick little one into their family.

Take one family, for example (I am sort of changing some of the stuff because I like my job and don't want to lose it in fear of violating HIPAA). Mom and Dad couldn't wait to welcome their first child into the family. His nursery was ready, pregnancy, labor and delivery were as boring as could be, apparently. But as soon as the little guy tried to take his first breath, well, he couldn't. He was scooped up and brought to the NICU where I work when he was just a few hours old.

His parents stayed behind, choosing to come to the NICU to meet their son for the first time together as soon as Mom was released. The Ronald McDonald House immediately made room for them and Mom and Dad were able to spend hours and hours every day with their little guy. Mom and Dad got to know us, we got to know them and their kid.

One morning I came to work and the first person I saw was Dad crying in the hallway. His son had just died after two months in the hospital. I spent most of the morning with him and Mom. All they kept saying was that they were glad they got to spend so much time with their son, thanks to the Ronald McDonald House. Mom and Dad had cut back drastically on their work hours in order to be at their baby's bedside. Dad soon began to worry how he was going to pay for his son's funeral.

The RMH paid for everything.  

If this was the only family the RMH ever helped, I'd still run as part of their team. In 2010 the house assisted more than 535 families, all coping with caring for a seriously ill or critically ill child.

So what the hell, I finally figured. If so many families are helped by the RMH, how can I not suck it up, raise a few bucks and run 26.2 miles to help ensure that this help remains available?

If I get less lazy than I currently am I hope to have families who have stayed at the house write guests posts about the help and support they received. I probably won't get any less lazy or any less creative though so I will probably just sporadically post the link to the fundraising page I will eventually create in case anyone has extra dollaz that they don't know what to do with.

** Everyone on the team had to pay $100 to join. The Philly Marathon has donated 25 entries to the RMH team with the caveat that team members pay the entry fee as a donation to the house. I dig this because I like to run ... why should other people's donations pay for something I'd be doing anyway? The money raised by the team goes directly to the RMH.


Lia said...

Amazing. Awesome. Beautiful.

Mallory said...

Everyone can make a difference. I love it. Let me know when you start fundraising. I'll throw some $ your way.

Joy said...

Good job, Laur!

Anonymous said...

For a person who usually doesn't like children in real life (to my defense they don't like me either right back!) I am weirdly touched by all sorts of initiatives and charities that benefit children. This is an admirable and worthy cause. I'll make sure to help a little bit! :-)

Johann said...

I really like this. I've been asked by a charity to join their team as well and still need to decide if this is the one I want to join. I think it is fantastic if we can give by doing what we love. Good for you!

Julie said...

As you know, my cousin's sweet baby girl has been in nicu for 3 months now. She went home this weekend weighing over 5 pounds and doing remarkably well.
This is such a great cause - Good for you!!

Laurie said...

Julie, I am so happy to hear that your cousin's daughter is home an doing well! Preemies are some of the strongest people out there, I swear.