After the month of April when we encouraged our Team Members to “Shower” their favorite charities with support, we decided to continue our Year of Giving by spending the month of May volunteering with one of True’s very favorite organizations, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI).
We have been fortunate enough to partner with RMHC-CNI many times in the past, from participating in 5K races to hosting stair climbing challenges, to collecting cleaning supplies, and are always trying to think up new ways to show our support.
Being that we are almost halfway through our Year of Giving campaign, we wanted to plan something really special for our group. We came up with “True Take-Over Week” – an entire week dedicated to supporting RMHC-CNI. During this week our goal was to visit each of the five Chicagoland Ronald McDonald houses to cook dinner, organize an activity, and to meet the families staying at the house.
Since this was a large undertaking, we asked for volunteers to serve as “Meal Captains” for each location. These captains were in charge of planning menus, grocery shopping, creating an activity for the kids at each house and organizing the other volunteers when it came time to cook. It was great to have the help and support of our captains who made sure that everything went as smoothly as possible each night!
Once our captains had decided on the menus for each night, we opened up the floor for the rest of the volunteers. Since we were cooking 5 nights in a row, we knew we would need a lot of support, and were so happy when the volunteers started signing up! In no time at all we had people signed up to cook each night. And, several people who weren’t able to make it to one of the houses due to schedule conflicts were still kind enough to bring in side dishes and desserts to complete the meals.
With all of the planning complete, we were ready to kick off “True Take-Over Week” at the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s Hospital. Our theme for the night was “A Day at the Ballpark”, and we featured some stadium classics like hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and soft pretzels. Our group of about 15 prepared food for around 70 family members staying at the house that night and had a blast!
A couple of our Team Members who had never been to the house were even able to take a tour of the house. We met amazing new friends and played a couple of rounds of “Baseball Bingo” with some of the kids. We left the house feeling ready to take on the rest of the week!
Tuesday found some of our team at the Ronald McDonald House near Loyola, where we were treated to a very special tour led by one of the kids staying there. Our personal tour guide had stayed at the house several times in the past, so he showed us all of his favorite spots including the toy closet, tree house room full of giant stuffed animals, and the attic with every game you could ever imagine.
On Wednesday, the group of Team Members headed over to the Ronald McDonald House near Comer Children’s Hospital to cook another baseball themed meal for the families. Despite rainy weather, our indoor cook-out made the house feel as sunny as ever.
Thursday’s group had a very special treat for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House near Central DuPage Hospital, which is also the newest house. They cooked a Thanksgiving meal complete with all of the sides and homemade Pumpkin pie. They also had an entire table of arts and crafts for the kids to enjoy.
By Friday, after an amazing week, it was time to wrap up the week at the Ronald McDonald House near Advocate Christ Hospital. Our final volunteer group planned a BBQ style dinner complete with special desserts for the kids: Pudding “Dirt” cups, and Jell-O “Beach” cups.
One of the best parts of the week was hearing everyone tell us all about their visit the next day and ask when they can go back. Since we have worked with RMHC-CNI in the past, our group is familiar with their mission. It is safe to say, however, that this week really brought the message and mission ‘home’ for many. This was the first trip to one of the houses for most of our volunteers, so for them this was truly a case of “seeing is believing.”
Taking tours and learning about the features and history of each house, meeting the families, and talking to the volunteers and people working at each house really inspired our group. We started to more fully understand the value of what Ronald McDonald House Charities does for these families. They believe in the healing power of “keeping families close,” and during our week of visits, we saw this time and time again. For us, cooking a meal seemed like a very simple way to help. For the families, this small gesture meant they could spend more time with their kids and not have to worry about grocery shopping or figuring out what’s for dinner.
Thinking back on the week, our group really has a lot to be proud of. In total, we had about 50 people volunteer in some way. We were able to introduce Ronald McDonald House Charities to new people who can’t wait to volunteer again. We can’t wait to “take over” again soon!