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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reed-A-Cheetah Comes to the Ronald McDonald House

Reed Stevens was in 7th grade when he and three friends were killed riding home on their school bus. He was very active at school, his church, Scouts and the community. He left behind a family of his dad, mom, a brother and two sisters. This family has established the Reed Stevens Legacy Program at Avera McKennan Hospital. With this program, Kandy and Daniel, Reed's parents, provide a stuffed cheetah to siblings there who have lost a brother or sister.
We wanted to do something at the hospital where Reed died, but we didn’t know how exactly this was going to work. We had already consulted with the staff, and we knew the need existed for siblings who had lost a brother or sister,” shares Kandy.
Kandy called Bruce and Kris Shover about their Bear Factory operation in late 2009 with a strange request. Did they have any cheetahs to stuff? Shovers did have to explain that no such animal was available, but they promised as catalogs update that they would keep their eyes open. The ideas formulated of what they would do if they could ever find cheetahs. Even though Reed-A-Cheetah has a great ring to it – this program was birthed because cheetahs were Reed’s favorite animal. So much so their family had went to opening day of the cheetah exhibit at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls.
We'd always wanted to give back for all the kindnesses shown to us,” Kandy says as she further explained the injuries that two additional children had received after the accident. Their son Sawyer had a head wound, his left leg broken, his right hip dislocated, and spleen, lung and sciatic nerve injuries, and a daughter with her right side injured including the joints and ankle. The entire family was able to gather this week at the Ronald McDonald House and bring the Reed-A-Cheetah to life for the families currently staying at the house.
L to R:  Bruce, Daniel, Kandy, Sawyer, Erin, Cloie, Rachel
 Along with the Lakeview Public Schools, the Ronald McDonald House was chosen as a charity to connect with to share a commitment to the good works of the surrounding community. The Lakeview Public Schools donated gift cards to the families currently at the house and Bruce helped the children stuff an animal of their choosing. Kandy explained several of the teachers at the Lakeview Public School had either stayed at a Ronald McDonald House or knew someone who had needed it. Kandy and Daniel would have likely stayed at the Ronald McDonald House near Avera if it had existed during their family's crisis.

Kiva, a guest at the Ronald McDonald House, was able to stuff a puppy for her son in utero. She is awaiting his delivery and scheduled surgery for gastroschisis, but was excited for the special time with her family as they waited for his birth and upcoming medical care. Her brother Tristan was thirteen and was convinced to make one as well. Bruce made it a lot of fun for the kids, asking if they would “hug” it to see if it was full enough. Kandy stood by making sure all the kids had a certificate that they could use to remember when they made their stuffed animal and record a name for it. The line was brimming with excitement for their special moment.
This is something Reed would have been proud of us doing,” explains Kandy. The compassion and generosity in this act of service and joy over what was exchanged is a big something we are all proud of. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Kentucky Derby Trip Won through Ronald McDonald House Fundraiser

April has been an exciting month on our event calendar at The Ronald McDonald House of South Dakota! It began last fall when our Board of Directors decided to hold a Kentucky Derby fundraiser and raffle which all proceeds would be used to benefit the House. A committee was formed and led by Board Members Ben Graham of Bell, Inc. and Kristen Hegg Zueger of Van Buskirk Companies. Anne Hayden and Debbie Curd agreed to co-chair the event and the planning got started! 

The goal was to sell raffle tickets for $100 each and the winning ticket would receive six box seats to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. Private air transportation and ground transportation would also be provided. Our Board, committee and staff worked hard to sell tickets in support of the Ronald McDonald House Charities. 

April 18--event day--had arrived! Our ticket buyers gathered at Minnehaha Country Club where they enjoyed Derby inspired hors d’oeurves (crab cakes with cucumber, steak tips, gouda and onion quesadillas and mint julep cupcakes~courtesy of Tonna’s Cakes!). New friends were made and we caught up with old friends as well! We had a very special guest speaker, Debbie, who is currently a guest at our Avera campus Ronald McDonald House. 

She told the guests her story of Jonathan, her precious baby boy who has been at Avera Hospital since his birth. Debbie spoke of her love and appreciation for the Ronald McDonald House—a true resting and healing place for her and her family as they await their baby’s recovery. As Debbie mentioned, there are so many families in various phases of illness that a place like the Ronald McDonald House becomes home, and the other guests become family. The family unit is the most important, and a place for families to spend time, unwind, relax, sleep and take a hot shower while their sick or injured child needs care is crucial. The Ronald McDonald House is happy to be able to provide that home away from home—a safe and calm place. Without the support of the people like our Kentucky Derby ticket buyers, we wouldn’t have the resources to make that happen.

The mingling and visiting among the 90+ guests was enjoyable—but the time had come to pull our winning ticket! As the name was read, guests found that Jeff Ranum from Watertown, South Dakota was the big winner! Jeff received a call with the exciting news that night from Rick Lessnau, RHMC of South Dakota Board President. The RMHC staff called him the next morning. When asked how he was doing Jeff replied “I am doing really well, now that you have called! I just couldn’t believe I'd won when I got the phone call last night, but I guess this phone call means I really did win!?!” YES JEFF! You won! Jeff and his wife Julie have selected 4 others to attend the Derby with them, and we cannot wait to see their pictures and hear their stories!

The success of this event was fantastic and we look forward to the opportunity of holding a similar event next year! What a fun and exciting way to show support of our South Dakota Ronald McDonald Houses. If you were not involved this year but would like to be next year, we can keep you posted through this blog and Facebook. Watch for updates early next year, as we would love the opportunity to work with you on making the 2014 Derby raffle an even bigger event! For those of you who sold tickets, bought tickets, attended the event and offered support, THANK YOU!  We couldn’t have done it without you!

Monday, April 22, 2013

National Volunteer Week Spotlight for RMHC

Top 5 Ways to Volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House

#5  Assemble a clean-up crew. Call ahead to assess current clean-up needs for either of the two Ronald McDonald House locations and to inform us of your group's size. In addition to cleaning, perhaps your group members have viewed DVDs or Wii games that could be enjoyed by guests staying at the house via your donation. Collect them for your spring cleaning date and make a great impact on our atmosphere.

#4  Plan a Caring Cooks meal. Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner – a home-cooked meal will always be a welcomed way to serve the families at the Ronald McDonald House. Again, call for a reservation and for discussing menu options your group has considered. The day you come, we'll have bright red Ronald McDonald House aprons for everyone to wear while preparing this meal and buffet-style service for guests to dig in as they can.

#3  Think Pop Tabs. Perhaps you've been a part of collecting Pop Tabs through a child's school, but there are several possibilities for sites collecting tabs which could include businesses, restaurants and colleges. Wherever there is someone drinking from an aluminum can, we hope there's Pop Tab house nearby. Help us nab those tabs! Bring them in to either Ronald McDonald House, and we'll take it from there.

#2  Be trained as an office volunteer. For those individuals who have 2-4 hours two to three times a week which they could offer, it's helpful to have a friendly voice to answer phone inquiries and provide assistance to the house staff.

#1  Organize a packaged food or paper product drive. At the Ronald McDonald House Charities, we use everything from eggs to paper towels, to Windex. To donate items, you can bring them to the Ronald McDonald Houses directly. There is one close to the Avera Hospital at 808 East 24th Street, and another near Sanford Hospital at 825 S. Lake Ave. Our wish list can be found under the “How You Can Help” tab of the website or the blog link below.

Thanks in advance for making a local impact during National Volunteer Week 2013. We look forward to your participation in several of our “Top 5” Ways to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

An Internship Experience at the Ronald McDonald House

                A connection with the Ronald McDonald House was something Amanda found while exploring options for an internship with a non-profit organization. “I was and am really fond of the mission of the Ronald McDonald House,” Amanda comments, desiring to gain applicable experience that furthers her studies in Human Development and Family Studies beyond SDSU.  The time she is spending working for the Ronald McDonald House is of value to Amanda in other ways as well, as she’s considering her options as far as graduate work or future employment.  “I was looking for some ‘real life work’ to explore some of the options that I’m considering,” Amanda shares.

                The timing of Amanda’s internship need was also a great fit for the house staff at the Ronald McDonald House, as Sandy, House Manager, was planning her maternity leave and was able to train Amanda to cover some of her daily tasks.  In addition to these tasks, Amanda shadowed the house staff to understand procedures and responsibilities that are involved in that position.  “I have about a month remaining of my internship, and I’m finding that no two days have been the same.  My focus is adaptability and knowing that I’ll learn something every day,” she says of the experience.

                Amanda feels her studies in Human Development and Family Studies have helped her think critically about the needs of the families that are staying at the house.  It brings to mind some of the ways a family strengthens a child’s development, and she enjoys being a part of those efforts.  “As the families express their appreciation for our efforts, it’s rewarding to hear,” says Amanda.  Further, Amanda has a connection in her internship to coordinating volunteers that want to come in, and through community, the family unit is supported as well. 

                The Ronald McDonald House Charities utilize interns on both the house management and administrative needs.  The value of an internship includes learning the skills it takes to be successful on the job. By assessing our work environment, interns leave with an increased awareness of the skills needed for the future and develop the next step on their career path.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Creative Way to Give!

The idea of hosting a “Mom Prom” for young ladies and their escorts sounds like so much fun, especially when coupled with karaoke, tuxedo t-shirts and makeovers!  A group of friends in Ruthven, Iowa, organized an outing called “The Glitz”, choosing to support a charity that everyone wanted to support. All of the young women wanted to donate their dollars to the Ronald McDonald House Charity in Sioux Falls, and their $700 donation came in the form of an online donation.

Businesses also gathered around the girls’ idea and were happy to help support their efforts in helping towards the cause. The local Bar and Grill Bully's, helped out by donating karaoke so the couples could dance the night away, and others gave monetary donations.

Brandie, one of the participants shared, “We donated money to attend, and in turn got a free makeover and enjoyed a potluck style dinner. We wore bridesmaid dresses, prom dresses and there was even a wedding dress. Our dates were decked out in Tuxedo t-shirts.”

The event was held over the summer and had around 40 guests attending. The Ronald  McDonald House Charities are encouraged by this group of couples enjoying their special event and choosing to collect donations for their participation. We love to see people being helped by friends having fun!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Each leaf speaks hope to me, coming from the Giving Tree

The Giving Tree represents individuals, businesses and families who support the Ronald McDonald House Charity on an annual basis. The mural of a tree holds an array of leaves inscribed with names, which either can be the donor's name or someone they would like to honor on the tree. There are two murals of Giving Trees, as there are two Ronald McDonald Houses. One is located on Lake Avenue and another on east 24th Street.  When there's a Giving Tree leaf added to the mural, this signifies $1.00 donation per day or $365.00 a year, with a five-year renewal.  Because this program has a five-year renewal plan connected with it, donors receive a plaque with one gold leaf with the year they begin their pledge, followed by gold leaves inscribed with the continuing years. For example, the first leaf has a 2013 on the plaque, and the subsequent leaves read 2014 - 2017.

When Donna, a former Ronald McDonald House Charities board member, heard about the Giving Tree at its inception, she felt it was a great way to be involved.  Her husband had connections to McDonald's as a teenager and eventually was the owner of McDonald's in Sioux Falls.

Donna's memories go back to when the Ronald McDonald House Charity began. She caught the vision for what they do, and it has held to this day. She's especially involved when it comes to fundraising efforts, because she's seen how repeated events can become mundane. Donna appreciates the variety of events the Ronald McDonald House Charity offers locally. Further, Donna has served on the board for two terms, or six years, and that means she's met several of the families who have stayed at the house.  "When you talk to the people, how can you not help the charity?" Donna asks.
Randi of RKBrushworks

Randi, the painter of the mural representing the Giving Tree, also got involved with families in mind. As she spent about four days completing the large tree in the house by Sanford Hospital, and most recently the house on the Avera campu, she visited with families as they'd watch her paint. She remembers how one two-year-old really wanted to get involved. Randi brilliantly gave her a brush to let her stroke the walls, and fortunately, this completely satisfied her.  Randi's donation of her time was in honor of her brother-in-law, father of two sons, recognized on a plaque in memory of Lee Bratzel.

Randi began fourteen years ago with mural work after completing her Art degree and starting with her own family and friends. It's now been five years that her business, RKBrushworks, has been bringing her paintings, custom murals and canvases to a broader base of people. Her website features hundreds of paintings, and there is a page devoted to the murals and work Randi was a part of with the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

For more information about joining the 365 Giving Tree, please contact Cami Veire, Director of Donor and Family Relations by calling 336-6398, ext. 6 or contact her via email at

RK Brushworks also painted an ornament for Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Dakota. It's hung on the Christmas tree at the state capital in Pierre, South Dakota, perfect to wish our guests and supporters a Merry Christmas every year!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Saying "Hello" to Brandon

This past spring, Peter and Miriam were taking steps towards adopting Brandon from Children's Care Hospital and School. They were making their first trip from Ohio to meet him around the time Peter was graduating from law school.

Miriam works as a speech therapist, and considered along with her husband, to open up their adoption search for a special needs child. After seeing Brandon's photo, the light in his eyes made them curious about his personality. When they met him, they saw a child who had an eagerness to try, a desire to learn and also enjoyed music tremendously. Miriam appreciated this as one of her interests is also music, especially singing and playing the piano.

The Ronald McDonald House became involved with this family as they were looking to make Brandon's transition into a home. Miriam had a close friend in school with Cerebral Palsy, and now she would be embracing this condition as a parent. The first step was seeing how Brandon would adjust to meeting Peter and Miriam being in a new environment.

Miriam appreciated this opportunity to begin her relationship with Brandon as he transitioned to a different location, having close access to his previous care providers. She says, “This was the best thing in starting out as a new family. We had privacy with our own room. We didn't have to go out and buy groceries or meals, and we had the proximity to ask questions and adjust. We loved staying at the Ronald McDonald House – it was wonderful in every way.”

Although there were moments of feeling the gravity of their new responsibilities, overall their family is bonding wonderfully and there have been many blessings that have surfaced through their adoption. Miriam realized that she'd learned about Brandon's condition of diabetes insipidus in one of her graduate classes. 

The family continues to assess Brandon's health needs and he also has a special needs daycare through Miriam's employer. He attends a preschool class and is often heard singing over the agenda of his day. The initials of Miriam's employer are “URS,” so part of Brandon's morning song usually includes the “URS song.”

Peter and Miriam feel fortunate that they are a part of Brandon's world, and that he now has a family to call his own. They have seen him wanting to take steps, totalling eight so far, and that he's also had good vision reports. Brandon's wanting to dress himself and is excited to show Peter and Miriam all of his accomplishments. At the Ronald McDonald House, we are excited to share in their adoption journey and wish them many happy memories as a family of three.