On Friday, Nov 10th, my daughters (ages 4 and 7) and I took advantage of a day off from school and transported your Halloween candy donations to the Ronald McDonald House of Danville (RMHD), PA. The Mountain Valley students and community were so incredibly generous with their candy donations that we had approximately 70 pounds of candy to share! I can't express my gratitude and appreciation for everyone who participated in the candy donation drive this year.
As we drove to Danville, I talked to my children about why were making this trip and who we were helping, but they couldn't quite grasp the gravity of the situation. That's understandable since their spongy, young brains couldn't connect any prior memories to this new experience. This was the first time they had ever done anything like this.
For those who don't know, the Ronald McDonald House provides a home-away-from-home for children under the care of a pediatrician (under the age of 21) and their families. These children are receiving outpatient care and are referred by the pediatric department at Geisinger. The House "[keeps] families with sick children together."
Upon our arrival, I was immediately struck by the beautiful, peaceful, calm and welcoming exterior of the house. I'm not sure what I was expecting (Maybe a lot of red and yellow?). The building was secure so we had to ring the receptionist to let us in. She was very welcoming & kind and helped show us where we could take the candy donations. Ginnetta Reed, Director of Development and Communications, offered to give us a tour of the facility and I gladly accepted, hoping it would help my kids get a better understanding of all the good things this facility does for children and their families.
When you enter this house, you enter into a comfortable living room with a TV, coffee table, & leather recliners. Across the hallway is a beautiful, and in my opinion, state-of-the-art playroom for younger kids (complete with one TV for movies and one for gaming). There's a beautiful fish tank and plenty of books and toys for the kids to play with. The playroom was renovated in memory of a young girl named Nikki who tragically lost her life. What an amazing legacy this young lady has left behind! How happy she must be to see children enjoying this space that was created in her memory.
Just down the hallway is a kitchen and eating area for the families who are staying there. They can make their own meals if they choose but often there are people or organizations who volunteer to make dinner for the residents. Around the corner from the kitchen is a very clean and modern laundry room for the residents to do any laundering. Their bed clothes are taken to Geisinger and cleaned for them. I was told that this ensures any children under care won't have a reaction to new or frangranced detergents.
Just off the living room is a very peaceful sunroom which looks out on an incredibly fun and safe playground, complete with a water feature and fenced-in yard.
They have 17 regular rooms and 2 efficiency apartments. The apartments are equipped with kitchenettes and TVs and they are specifically for children who are being seen by the Oncology department. The apartment setting allows them to spend time with their families while receiving cancer treatment. There are not TVs in the regular rooms because the Ronald McDonald House wants families to talk about what they're experiencing and deal with all of the emotions they are feeling. Quality family time is a high priority there, and I love that.
The Ronald McDonald House has been seeing an increased need for their services over the past several months and due to that increase, all the rooms have been filled (they even have a waiting list sometimes!), so we didn't get to see the upstairs.
So what did my kids get out of it? My 4-year old was smitten with Nikki's Playroom and I'm not really sure she understood anything else. My 7-year old, however, was so excited about all the good things RMHD does. As a fundraiser, the house collects tabs (from soda, canned goods or pet food) and then recycles them. My 7-year old is all about getting as many tabs as she can so she can give them to RMHD. She's even considering starting a program to collect tabs at her school. And THIS is why we get our kids involved in community service projects. To inspire them. To teach them. To help them understand that we need to help others when and where we can.
Ginnetta, wherever you are, thank you for inspiring me and my children! We hope to see you again in the spring!