When my daughter was born, we were faced with an unexpected emergency.  Even though she was born full term, her lungs would not work on their own as they are supposed to.  Instead of getting to hold my new daughter, she was whisked away to the NICU for emergency efforts to save her life and then life-flighted from the hospital she was born at to Cleveland Clinic.

At the time, we lived about an hour from the Cleveland Clinic, but my husband and I wanted to spend every moment we could at the hospital.  On top of this, we also had our 3 year old son to care for.

This is when we learned about the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.   (RMH).  I have to admit that while I had heard of the RMH before and seen the donation boxes at the McDonalds fast food chains, I really didn’t know anything about this wonderful organization.

“The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland offers a place to call home at little or no cost so families can access the best health care, regardless of their location.  (They) allow families to stay together, which can help their children heal faster and cope better.” (Read more about them here.)

When we first applied to stay there, all the rooms were filled but a room opened up the very next day and that is where we stayed for two weeks while my daughter recovered.  Thankfully, my daughter made a full recovery and my husband and I have always been so grateful for this wonderful facility for making it possible to be so close to her during that difficult time.  Its a charity we have wholeheartedly supported ever since.

Last year, I was able to learn about some other ways to support the Ronald McDonald House.  One way is by getting involved with their Family Meal Program.  (Click on the link to find out three ways to do this.)

One of the goals at the Ronald McDonald House is “to provide all the comforts of home for families, including nutritious meals donated by volunteers. Having regular meals provided helps our families in many ways. It eliminates the burden of making time to prepare food, thus allowing families to spend more time with their hospitalized child. It also removes the financial hardship of purchasing groceries or eating out and offers healthy options for families.”

Many people who know even a little bit about the Ronald McDonald House are under the misconception that the RMH is financially supported fully or at least heavily by McDonalds corporation.  However, the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is neither owned nor fully funded by McDonalds.  

Instead, Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland relies on donors to operate the large facility.  On average it costs over $75 per day to allow a family to stay with them to be close to their child in the hospital – however they only ask families to make a $20 nightly donation to stay with them and they never turn a family away due to inability to pay.

Last year, I had the privilege and wonderful experience of  working with RMH’s Laura Doyle to organize a volunteer meal for the Cleveland Ronald McDonald House along with several other Cleveland area bloggers who participated by either donating food and/or helping prepare the meal in the RMH Kitchen.

Photo Courtesy Karin McKenna KarinMcKenna.com
Photo Courtesy Karin McKenna KarinMcKenna.com

We created a meal of homemade panko crusted chicken strips, homemade mac and cheese, fruit salad, veggie crudites and cupcakes.  (We prepared the cupcakes in house and provided frosting and fun toppings for the guests to have fun decorating themselves.)

While the guests surely appreciate all meals provided for them, we wanted to make something a little different than the typical spaghetti or cookout food.  I give a lot of credit to my fellow volunteers because making homemade breaded chicken strips for 100 people is quite the ambitious task, but thanks to all the hard work and awesome cooperation, the meal was served hot and right on time.  As a bonus, we had so much fun doing it!

Photo Credit KarinMcKenna.com

IMG_20140721_153258 (1) IMG_20140721_153309 IMG_20140721_174015

Photo Credit KarinMcKenna.com
Photo Credit KarinMcKenna.com

We received many thanks and expressions of appreciation from all who enjoyed the meal.


My fellow bloggers and journalists each had their own interesting and unique perspectives of this event.  Please read about them in the following links:


Trust me!!!  If I can organize a volunteer meal for 100 people, you can too!

When I first committed to doing this, I felt overwhelmed but now that I have experienced it, I cannot wait to volunteer again!

I can’t even tell you how rewarding and fun it is.  It’s something you have to experience for yourself to really understand!  You may also feel that it is too overwhelming to plan a meal for such a large group but believe me, there is a lot of help and support by  the staff and regular volunteers at the RMH who will make it seem almost effortless.

If you are interested in organizing your own volunteer group for the Cleveland RMH, you will find the most help by checking out Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland’s website which has everything you need to know.  Also the staff is incredible!  They appreciate all volunteers and are available for you to contact with any questions.

Also be sure to get social with the Cleveland Ronald McDonald House.  They even have a new Pinterest page with meal and activity ideas:

Cleveland Ronald McDonald House on Twitter

Cleveland Ronald McDonald House on Facebook

Cleveland Ronald McDonald House on Instagram

Cleveland Ronald McDonald House on Pinterest


2 thoughts on “Volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland – a Fun and Rewarding Experience!

  1. wow, what an awesome experience. With baby #3 on the way, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes well. I’ve actually only needed to go to Rainbow Babies with my little girl last year when she had a bad MRSA infection. We weren’t there long, but it was a a horribly stressful situation. Kudos to you for sharing your time and talents on this project!

    1. Lisa, thank you for reading and congratulations on your pregnancy. I’m so sorry you had to experience the stress of your daughter having MRSA! It is such a helpless feeling when your child is sick even if it’s something as common as the flu or teething.

      As far as helping out at the RMH, I’m so glad I learned about the volunteering opportunities and I just wanted to let others know about it in case they weren’t aware and I’m really looking forward to doing it again.

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