Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is a nonprofit organization. It supports families whose children receive treatment at area medical centers by providing a home-like environment and essential resources and services. It is recognized for excellence in providing essential services with compassion to diverse families whose children are facing medical challenges.
It’s the intangibles of comradery, warmth and support that often lead to very tangible outcomes. When twins Christopher and Michael were separated for several weeks shortly after birth, a single photo showed us the true healing power of togetherness.
“This was such a special moment. It was an experience I will never, ever forget.”
-Jennifer Tacbas, photographer
Philip Lindler was hundreds of miles away when his twin sons were born. The active duty U.S. Marine was stationed in North Carolina, and his wife Brittney had traveled to her hometown of Cleveland to be with her mother, Kriss Coventry, during pregnancy. The couple had been apart for three months when Brittney went into labor. On June 21, 2014 Christopher and Michael were born, eight weeks before their due date.
Brittney and Michael by Jennifer Tacbas
Despite their prematurity, the twins seemed healthy. They were admitted to the NICU for care until they could grow large enough to go home. Philip, unable to leave base, looked forward to the day he could meet his sons. However, at ten days old, a routine ultrasound showed bleeding in Christopher’s brain. Two days later, the bleed had progressed dramatically and Christopher was transferred to a larger Cleveland hospital for specialized care. Insurance guidelines prevented a transfer for Michael, so Brittney was left with two infants in intensive care, in two different hospitals. It would take the Ronald McDonald House and Family Rooms to keep her and Kriss near both boys during this crucial phase of their development.
You have that connection to sit down and have a meal with someone you don’t even know. It’s those little connections that build relationships and give you a support system that you thought you would never have.
— Brittney Lindler
“Mornings I would go to Christopher, afternoons go see Michael, then evenings back to Christopher,” Brittney recalls. “I would stop at the Ronald McDonald House to sleep and Mom made sure I ate.” The women spent their days crossing paths, taking turns with each baby so neither was alone for long. During the day, they relied on the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms inside the hospitals for comfort and support, a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. At night they slept at the House, gaining strength from good meals and other families. At a month old, Michael was able to come home to RMH. Brittney and Kriss could nurture him in the home-like atmosphere of the House and travel just minutes to see Christopher.
After 6 weeks apart, Michael and Christopher immediately snuggle into each other. Photo: Jennifer Tacbas
At two months, Christopher’s condition had worsened and doctors expected him to remain in the hospital for months longer. When a photographer volunteered services to RMH, they gave special permission to allow Michael into the NICU for a portrait with his brother. “Getting the pictures was even more important because they hadn’t seen each other since they were two weeks old,” explains Brittney. When the brothers were placed together “they immediately snuggled into each other. Once Christopher saw Michael all of a sudden something happened; things just turned around and within that week he came home.”
It was very emotional and exciting all at once. He had to meet one boy at a time. He held Michael for the first time right there in the Ronald McDonald House parking lot.
— Brittney Lindler
Philip meets Michael at RMH
Philip meets Christopher at the hospital
Philip holds his sons together for the first time
The Lindler family comes home to RMH
Michael and Christopher’s first night together at RMH
Brittney and the boys on a return visit
Christopher and Michael today
Just days after the photograph, dad Philip was finally able to come to Cleveland, meeting Michael for the first time at RMH and Christopher at the hospital. He and Brittney had been apart for five months. When Christopher was discharged, the new family came home together for the first time--to the Ronald McDonald House. Philip has since finished active duty. The Lindlers have returned to RMH twice for Christopher’s follow-up care, and Kriss always looks forward to seeing her grandsons. At four years old, Christopher and Michael are happy children who enjoy being together more than anything.
Photos courtesy of Brittney Lindler
For forty years, the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland has been keeping families together when it matters most. Your continued generosity is a vital part of this story. Please give today for the families that will need us tomorrow.
During National Volunteer Week, we express our deepest gratitude to all the dedicated individual volunteers and groups that make our House a home.
We continue our 40th Anniversary celebration by sharing the story of the first Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland volunteer, Willa Jones.
Forty years ago, Willa Pearl Jones walked into the College Motel on the corner of Cornell and Euclid. She had heard it was being transformed into a Cleveland ‘home-away-from-home’ for families of ill and injured children. Her only question: “How can I help?”
The East Cleveland grandmother, just shy of her 65th birthday, became the first Ronald McDonald House® of Cleveland (RMH) volunteer and set the standard for unconditional caring exemplified by RMH volunteers to this day.
The Plain Dealer profiles Willa Jones in 2004.
While 1979 was a celebratory year marking the fulfillment of the RMH vision, it was a profoundly sad year for Willa. She lost her only daughter, Janice, and she and her husband William were left with four grandchildren to raise. “Maybe my daughter’s passing had something to do with why I kept volunteering here,” Willa shared in a 2004 interview with The Plain Dealer. She paused, adding “No, I think I would have done it anyway.”
Although Willa’s pain may not have been the motivation for her long-standing commitment to the House, it may explain the gentle reassurance and quiet comfort she was able to provide to countless anxious families, and to her favorite House activity: rocking babies.
Willa’s empathy, gracious customer service and unwavering dedication, coupled with her trust and positive support of the House staff and leadership were qualities that inspired the establishment of the Willa Jones Award during RMH’s 25th Anniversary year. The award recognizes a House volunteer who exemplifies these characteristics.
Generations of Willa’s family, from granddaughter to great-great-granddaughter, attend the annual volunteer appreciation event to help present the award. Winners’ names are embroidered on a quilt that hangs behind the House reception desk where Willa spent thousands of volunteer hours. The fabric display was designed in lieu of a traditional plaque to better represent the softness and warmth of her spirit. “Willa was also always chilly and liked to use a lap quilt,” recalls Joanmarie Button, Willa’s fellow volunteer and current Director of House Program Operations.
Willa Jones’ granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and great-great-granddaughters Demetria Webb, Na’Tasha Webb-Prather, and Sha’Naya Howard with 2018 Willa Jones Award Honoree, Dave Williams.
Willa volunteered for 28 years, retiring from the House at the age of 93. She continued to visit the House until she passed away two years later in 2010. Staff and volunteers wrote to Willa’s family upon her passing, “We will fondly remember Willa here at our House – but we know that she never really has left us. Her legacy lives on in every child that is comforted and every family that is given hope.”
During this hallmark 40th year of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, we celebrate Willa Jones’ contributions by remembering and thanking the hundreds of cherished volunteers who have followed in her footsteps. One of them connects us to our history in a very unique way. Demetria Webb, one of the granddaughters Willa raised, is honoring her grandmother by becoming a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald Family Room® and Hospitality Suite at MetroHealth Medical Center. Willa’s legacy truly lives on.
Willa Jones 95th Birthday Celebration at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.
Just prior to National Volunteer Week, Joanmarie Button appeared live Wednesday, April 3 on WKYC’s Live on Lakeside to share Willa’s story and how volunteers support the RMH mission. She was also interviewed by Leon Bibb for We the People, which aired Friday, April 5.
February 20, 1979, from left: Joseph Benden, president of the Northeast Ohio McDonald’s Operators Association; Don Smith, McDonald’s owner/operator and VP of Children’s Oncology Services of Northeast Ohio (COSNO, RMH founding organization); Stephen Zayac, president of COSNO.
Everyone loves a treat, and the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake doesn’t disappoint. Since its introduction in 1970 as the St. Patrick’s Day Shake, the frosty green drink has developed a cult-like following, inspiring websites, story lines in popular TV shows, and even a shake-tracking app. But aside from the pleasure of enjoying the seasonal beverage, the Shamrock Shake has helped provide comfort to thousands of families when they needed it most.
Forty years ago this week, thirty cents from the sale of each Shamrock Shake in Northeast Ohio was earmarked for the purchase and transformation of the College Motel into the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. The Northeast Ohio McDonald’s Operators Association had been approached to help fund a House in Cleveland, and embraced the idea so enthusiastically that they voted unanimously to make a $150,000, three-year pledge. The Shamrock Shake promotion was the first in a series of events to fulfill that pledge. The special ran from March 5 – 17, 1979 and with additional in-store donations raised more than $87,500, the equivalent of more than $300,000 today.
It’s the first time I’ve ever presented a budget and gotten applause.
— Stephen Zayac, president of COSNO, 1979, speaking about his budget presentation to request funds from McDonald's owner/operators.
Ray Kroc (far left), Founder and CEO of McDonald’s attending the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland ribbon cutting ceremony on September 25, 1979
The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland isn’t the only one to benefit from the proceeds of the minty green shake. In fact, the drink can be said to have played a role in the naming of the very first Ronald McDonald House, which opened in Philadelphia in 1974. In the early 1970’s, Philadelphia Eagles player Fred Hill’s daughter Kim developed leukemia. When Kim recovered, Fred decided he wanted to do something to help other families whose children were in the hospital. Jim Murray, General Manager of the Eagles, contacted Dr. Audrey Evans of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who told him that families of pediatric patients needed a place to stay nearby so they could be rested and better able to support their children.
Hill, Murray and Evans approached Ray Kroc, Founder and CEO of McDonald’s, who donated $25,000 seed money to the project. The local McDonald’s owner / operators and their advertising agency agreed to assist in funding the project with promotions involving the Philadelphia Eagles. McDonald’s Regional Manager Ed Rensi then agreed to donate the proceeds from the region’s upcoming Shamrock Shake promotion if the new facility was named the Ronald McDonald House.
The Ronald McDonald House will enable families to live together in a home environment, gain strengths and share experiences with other families at the home.
— Martha Towns, Chagrin Valley Times, 1979
While the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is an independent charity and is neither owned nor operated by McDonald’s, the integral role they played in its founding continues to this day. Since their initial pledge forty years ago, McDonald’s Owner/Operators of Northeast Ohio have supported the House with significant contributions to its growth, including a substantial donation in 2011 toward the expansion and renovation of the current 55-family House. For forty years, local McDonald’s franchisees and employees have also been involved as board and committee members, donors and volunteers. This vital support has enabled the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland and its programs to provide a welcoming place to stay and crucial resources and services to thousands of families, helping them remain strong to care for their children.
This year, as we celebrate our 40-year legacy of love, we share the stories of our history and pay tribute to those whose vision made it happen. We also share our deep appreciation to those whose past and continued involvement keeps our mission thriving. To all of you, we raise a glass of Shamrock Shake. Sláinte!
Corporate partner support is part of the ‘magic’ formula that has allowed the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland (RMH) vision to thrive for the past 40 years. Ongoing philanthropic and volunteer engagement from partners brings life to spaces, programs and services to help families stay strong for their children. One of our valued partners, Majestic Steel USA, opened its doors in 1979, just as we did. In honor of our shared 40th Anniversary year, we spotlight Majestic Steel USA’s Majestic Impact on RMH.
Aromas fill the air of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland (RMH), drawing families to the kitchen for a peek at what’s on the menu. After two years of volunteer groups from Majestic Steel USA cooking monthly meals, the families fondly came to know the third Monday of the month as Majestic Monday. A freshly prepared meal is one of the many caring touches they could count on because of the generosity and service of Majestic Steel USA.
Majestic has been a significant corporate supporter of RMH and its programs for the past two years. Craig Wilson, RMH Executive Director, applauds the enthusiasm and dedication of their associates and leadership. “Majestic has far surpassed what we anticipated when we forged the partnership. Their philanthropic support, from sponsorship of rooms and events, to capital improvements such as 2017’s patio and garden renovation and the refurbishing of the sun room in 2018, has made a significant difference in the quality of the family experience here. It’s not just financial support, though. Their employees have volunteered in every capacity, providing that much needed human resource and personal connection. They are the jewels in the Majestic crown.”
It’s not just financial support, though. Their employees have volunteered in every capacity, providing that much needed human resource and personal connection. They are the jewels in the Majestic crown.
— Craig Wilson, Executive Director, Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland
According to RMH Group Partnership Manager, Scott Lovasz, the volunteer groups have not only prepared meals, but have tirelessly done indoor and outdoor chores, gardened, painted fences, and even entertained guests with a Majestic Magic Show. Being the sole sponsor of the Pull Tab Collection Program inspired Majestic volunteers to come out to the annual Pull Tab Palooza each May to weigh jars and barrels of donated tabs, serve hot dogs, play games, and create crafts with families and community members. “It was great to know we could always count on their participation, rain or shine,” shares RMH Communications Manager and coordinator of the Pull Tab Program, Nathan Enzerra.
The company has been a consistent event supporter throughout both 2017 and 2018, sponsoring three RMH signature events. In true Majestic style, they became the first Presenting Sponsor of Wine Women & Shoes, one of RMH’s largest annual benefits. “We are so grateful for the ongoing support of the entire Majestic Family,” says Claire Donovan, RMH Events Manager. “Their commitment to a second year as Presenting Sponsor in 2019 is incredibly generous and I look forward to a continued partnership with their amazing team.”
Majestic Steel USA team at Wine Women & Shoes benefiting Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland in 2018.
Although the Majestic Monday monthly meals concluded in December 2018, Majestic’s lasting impact on the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is profound. Like the ten-foot steel tree sculpture that anchors the patio and lights the newly accessible garden paths, Majestic Steel USA has set an impressive and visible example of giving in the corporate community. The company has definitely fulfilled the mission set forth by Jonathan Libo, executive vice president and part owner of Majestic: “Create a majestic experience for all.”
Create a majestic experience for all.
— Jonathan Libo, executive vice president and part owner, Majestic Steel USA
Interested in how your company can play a role in supporting Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland families? Opportunities can be customized to fit your company. Contact Kelly Kleinschmidt, Director of Development to discuss options.
Forty years ago, the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland opened its doors, providing a welcoming and supportive place to stay for families whose children receive treatment at area medical centers. Since then, thousands of families have passed through those doors to find comfort and strength for their children. It was a passionate group of parents, medical professionals and friends who worked tirelessly to create this legacy of love, and with gratitude we dedicate this anniversary year to them, and to those who continue to keep their vision going strong.
It all began in February of 1978, when pediatric oncologist Dr. Samuel Gross of Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital met with a group of parents whose children he was treating to discuss the concept of the Ronald McDonald House. By that November, those and other key parents had organized into a working nucleus and reached a preliminary agreement to purchase the College Motel near Rainbow. The group presented their project plan to McDonald’s owners in Northeast Ohio, who gave them unanimous backing and a $150,000 pledge. Shortly thereafter, the parents formally incorporated a non-profit organization, Children’s Oncology Services of Northeastern Ohio, secured a mortgage and credit line, and took title to the College Motel. Things moved quickly after that.
The community soon realized the value of an organization that could provide care to families in a time of need and pitched in with tremendous support. Cleveland Browns player Thom Darden became the first Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland spokesman. Over the next several months fundraisers were held to benefit the organization, including a “Shamrock Shake” promotion at local McDonald’s restaurants, a Cleveland Indians ice cream promotion and a Gym-a-Thon. There was even a donkey basketball game; donkeys were brought into the Orange High School gym, and the Orange and Pepper Pike police departments played against the WGAR and Channel 43 All-Stars. The game raised $1,500, equal to about $5,100 today. Eventually more than $150,000 was raised to make the Ronald McDonald House dream a reality.
Meanwhile, work continued on the building as more than 200 parents and friends volunteered and scavenged furnishing and materials for the new House. By September 1979 the building exterior and parking lot were finished and 75 volunteers joined forces to clean the interior. Painters, wallpaper hangers, plumbers and carpet layers applied the final touches and the Ray Kroc Foundation contributed $25,000 to the project.
On September 25, 1979, the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland opened, with rooms to host up to 25 families per night. By the early 1990s, as the Cleveland Clinic and other area hospitals grew, stays at the House were in such demand that the need to expand became apparent.
After more than ten years at the original location, an agreement was reached with the Cleveland Clinic for the purchase of a four-acre plot at the corner of Euclid Avenue and E. 105th Street, once a jumping area known as Doan’s Corners. The site had fallen into decay over the decades and the Clinic sold it to the Ronald McDonald House for $1. Funding for construction was secured with the help of Ronald McDonald House Charities, and in the spring of 1994 a new 37-family House was opened at the current location.
Ronald McDonald House in 1994
Ronald McDonald House in 2013
Ronald McDonald House in 2018
Ronald McDonald House (back) in 2018
In 2013, again faced with lengthy waiting lists, the House was fully renovated and a new wing was added, increasing capacity to 55 families per night. Through the years, the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland has also added innovative services to help more families in times of need. These programs include Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s, Cleveland Clinic Children’s, Cleveland Clinic Fairview, and MetroHealth Medical Center. RedTreehouse.org, the Ronald McDonald Family Resource Link, connects families to important resources they need throughout the state of Ohio, and the new Ronald McDonald STAR Centers at the UH Rainbow Center for Women and Children and Cleveland Clinic Children’s Outpatient Center provide a fun and welcoming learning environment for children while family members receive focused outpatient care.
Support Organizations, Events, Tools and Webinars are just a click away!
One of the ways the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland supports families is through our online family resource link, www.RedTreehouse.org. Red Treehouse is free to use and offers a comprehensive directory of organizations, an events calendar, tools and helpful guides on a wide range of topics affecting families. All of these resources are searchable by Condition/Issue, Service Category, Location, Age Group and Key Word. An interactive map allows users to easily view what’s in their local community, and people can also submit events, organizations, suggested updates and stories. All submissions are reviewed for accuracy and relevance before posting, and site content is continually updated by our team and community partners to ensure timeliness.
We needed to learn about things like early intervention, physical and occupational therapy, government benefits, special education, long term care… All of these things families can find on Red Treehouse.
— Helen Rapp, Esq., Special Needs Parent, RTh Contributor
Red Treehouse was originally part of the Tools for Today and Tomorrow program, which was a collaborative effort of 22 hospitals, universities and social service organizations that had come together in 2003 to help families access needed information, resources and support. By 2006 the consortium had held numerous family focus groups and two successful conferences covering medical and educational advocacy, family relationships, financial tools and legal issues presented by experts in the fields of medicine, education, law, finance, psychology and social work. That same year, the program expanded and became a full-time program of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. In 2007 the first Tools for Today website was launched. In 2011, through a partnership with Ohio Family and Children First, the site branched out from Northeast Ohio, becoming a broader statewide resource known as Red Treehouse. Since then, the site has continued to grow and new features, original content and informational webinars have been added.
Kwame Christian, Esq., M.A. is an attorney, mediator, and author of the new book, Nobody will Play with Me.
Live webinars, currently made possible by a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation, are free to join and available for playback on demand. Topics are based on user suggestions and are presented by experts in their fields. The latest webinar, How to Find Confidence in Conflict, with Kwame Christian, Esq., M.A., Director of the American Negotiation Institute, garnered such interest that a follow-up podcast was recorded to discuss attendee inquiries. Red Treehouse and Mr. Christian will team up again live on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 from 12 – 1:30 pm EST to discuss Using Compassionate Curiosity to Find Confidence in Conflict, a powerful framework for handling difficult conversations in any setting. More information, registration and previous webinars are all available at www.redtreehouse.org/webinars.
Thanks so much for making this presentation available. I will be using these principles on a regular basis both in my volunteer work and my personal life.
The guide on 504 Plans pointed me to all the information I needed to request appropriate school accommodations for my son.
— Red Treehouse User
Red Treehouse listings are unpaid; sales pitches, fundraisers, unproven medical claims and advertorials are not accepted. This helps ensure that information found on the site is accurate and unbiased. A user account is not required, but those who sign up are able to save their search criteria and subscribe to our free monthly newsletter. We encourage organizations to submit profiles and events for inclusion in our directory and welcome user feedback. We also post updates and information on our Facebook and Twitter pages at @RedTreehouseOH.
Up in the sky! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s 4,000 comic books making their way to the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland!
Bob Watson donates comic books to RMH and meets Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio
Bob Watson has been reading comic books for as long as he can remember, and began collecting them around the age of 8. Over the years, he found hope and inspiration in the journeys of the heroes he followed as they battled numerous villains and overcame personal struggles. His love of comics really began to soar during high school when his mom bought him Spider-Man #1, which at that time was already a much sought-after comic book. During the 1980s, Bob began collecting comics in quantity. From Marvel to DC, he amassed more than 4,000 comics that followed the likes of the Avengers, Batman, Wonder Woman and Star Wars.
Bob (left) with comic book legend and famous Superman artist, Murphy Anderson (right)
Sarah’s entry in the 2007 Superman Celebration art contest in Metropolis, IL
2008 Superman Celebration with 122 fans dressed as Superman to set World Record. Bob was the only BALD Superman!
Bob (left) in retro-Lex Luthor costume at 2010 Superman Celebration
Bob’s daughter, Sarah, focuses in sketching flamingos at the zoo
As the years went by, Bob’s efforts collecting comic books slowed as he started a family and worked as a letter carrier. Never far away though were the comic books and the tales of heroes from around the galaxy. As Bob’s daughter, Sarah, grew, so too did her love for comic books. What was once just Bob’s passion turned into a bonding experience between father and daughter. Sarah has since turned her passion for comics into professional works as she’s honed her skills drawing everything from animals at the zoo to entering an art contest in 2007’s Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL.
As the nation’s interest in comics began to explode in the early 2000s with movies like X-Men and Spider-Man, so too did the desire for people to want to meet these heroes in person. Bob eventually would go on to dress up as Lex Luther, Superman’s arch nemesis, and even as Superman himself. Various other super hero groups began to emerge, one of them being Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, a nonprofit whose mission is to spread good will through simple acts of kindness and recognize individuals who’ve battled through adversity, all while being dressed as the most iconic super heroes. The group has since become partners with the Ronald McDonald House in 2016, hosting super visits and activities for our families once a month, annually sponsoring guest room 218, attending events like Pull Tab Palooza in 2017 and 2018, and raising awareness, funds and countless smiles and laughter for the House.
With Bob’s collection of comic books totaling more than 4,000, he and his family realized that it was becoming increasingly difficult to move so many books. Looking for a home where he could donate his comics so that others could get as much joy out of them as he and Sarah did, Bob found the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, who then invited their amazing friends from Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio to welcome Bob and his donation of comic books.
I wanted to make sure kids would get to read these books and the Ronald McDonald House was a great fit. When I learned Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio was involved it was fantastic! They also received some comics and I’m so happy they’ll be distributed to kids far and wide!
— Bob Watson
Since Bob’s generous donation, Ronald McDonald House and Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio have given many of his books to families and kids who are embarking in their own journeys of adversity. Within the books they are able to find examples of strength and hope that help them in their own battles. Please join us in thanking Bob and Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio for their generosity, support and for being super inspirations for our very own heroes of the House! Excelsior!
I want people to know how beautiful life is, how wonderful life is.
— Katie Stubblefield
When Katie Stubblefield arrived in Cleveland in 2014, her survival was anything but certain. Just 18 years old and with a bright future ahead, Katie had suffered a gunshot wound that left most of her face destroyed but miraculously missed her brain. Trauma doctors in Memphis said the injuries were the worst they had seen and the only way to help Katie was something her family had never heard of: a face transplant. First, Katie needed to live and her best chance was in Cleveland.
In an instant, Robb and Alesia Stubblefield found themselves doing what any parent would, but few can even imagine. “Alesia and I simply gave up everything to do what we could to aid Katie on this arduous, yet necessary path. From Oxford to Memphis to Cleveland we went” says Robb, and on August 17, 2014 they checked into the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, their home ever since.
We are beyond grateful to the Ronald McDonald House. Without their support this would not have been possible. It’s more than just a place to sleep and get food, but a place to lock arms with other people.
— Robb Stubblefield, Katie's father
Over the next two and a half years Katie endured 22 surgeries and worked through countless therapies to regain strength, mobility and speech. Her parents were constantly by her side, kept strong by their faith and the community they found in staff, volunteers and families at the Ronald McDonald House. During outpatient periods, Katie came “home” to the House and Robb and Alesia tended to her round-the-clock. Katie’s sunny personality shined through her injured exterior and she was buoyed by the lasting friendships she formed with other guests.
After three years of hard work and hope, the moment finally arrived. On May 4, 2017, Katie underwent a 31-hour operation to receive her new face. Three months later, she came home with her parents to the Ronald McDonald House, their journey far from over. The next year brought three more major surgeries to improve Katie’s function, along with over 20 rehab sessions and appointments per week. Managing her daily medications was a job in itself and Alesia performed it vigilantly. Gradually, the nerves and muscles in Katie’s new face began responding, improving her ability to eat, speak and become more self-sufficient. Her family and medical team are thrilled with her progress. Katie poignantly says “I feel whole again.”
“If you’re a mom, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your children.” -Alesia Stubblefield, Katie’s mother
Despite more surgeries and hard work ahead, Katie, Robb and Alesia are thriving and once again face a bright future. The study of Katie’s face will aid in the development of improved treatments for injured soldiers.
She plans to attend college, looking forward to a career helping others. The family has already begun sharing their story to inspire others and to thank all who have given Katie, as she says, “a second chance at life.”
Without your generosity, your gift, your kindness and expression of love and giving, we would not be able to know the miraculous turn of events that our daughter has known and our family has been able to experience.
— Robb Stubblefield, Katie's father
Please give today to help us support all Ronald McDonald House families on their journeys of healing.
As Robb says, “Thank you in advance for your generosity. Because of people like you, the Ronald McDonald House fulfills its call and is able to help us, we’re able to help our daughter… and we’re just one of many, many families.”
Many bears. One message of love, kindness and compassion.
This was the message that Evan Burgess brought to the world each day. Whether it was through an interaction with a stranger, or with a friend he’d known for years, Evan always carried a sense of optimism and happiness with him no matter the circumstance or situation.
Evan was born on September 4, 1994 with a heart condition that caused only a portion of his heart to function properly. With the outlook grim, doctors gave Evan only two years to live. Evan’s father and his mother Bonnie brought him home from the hospital knowing the challenge ahead, yet unwavering in their optimism that Evan would grow up to lead a fulfilling life. Two years turned into four, four into eight, eight into sixteen, and eventually Evan became a young man beaming with passion and love for life. However, Evan’s heart condition was always looming and led to many medical challenges and long rides to and from hospitals for lab tests. While his heart condition didn’t slow him down, it gave Evan and his family the perspective that life is precious and every moment is one to be savored.
His physical heart had always been fragile, but despite its weakness, it was a force of light driving him forward; it was a heart of gold. And this heart was running with love alone.
— Bonnie Perkovic, Evan’s Mother
Always moving forward in life, Evan lived in London, Vancouver and Cleveland. Everywhere Evan went he developed close friendships that became like family and helped others see the best in themselves. In one instance, when a friend of Evan’s told him that she was considering committing suicide, Evan provided solace by saying “If you’ve had the worst day of your life, the day is going to end, and it will be tomorrow soon. It doesn’t stop what happened, but each day puts some distance between you and that really awful day, it becomes easier.” In the words of his friend, “Evan made me feel loved, not alone or as broken. I can’t express how much that meant to me.” In the short time he was in Cleveland, he fell in love with the city and decided to make it his home. He went on to work at Becky’s Bar, where he met his girlfriend, Liz, and made many friends.
Sadly, on the morning of October 17, 2018, Evan passed away from his heart condition. He had just turned 24. During his life, Evan touched the hearts of many children and adults alike, leaving a special mark. He cared deeply for others, including his younger brother, Graham, and his cousins who idolized him.
In search of a way to honor Evan’s memory, his family and friends started Evan’s Bears with the purpose of spreading his love and kindness to children dealing with medical issues. When searching for a place to donate bears to help cement Evan’s legacy of love, the family found a welcome home in the arms of children and their families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
It is fitting that teddy bears should bring love and joy to all of the children in the comfort of the Ronald McDonald House who are facing their own medical challenges.
More than 100 bears were collected at Evan’s funeral in Cleveland. His family from around the world visited the Ronald McDonald House to donate Evan’s Bears to families, proving that even without past connection to the House, a donation of kindness and comfort is always welcome. After their initial donation, bears continued to arrive at the House from people honoring Evan’s memory. Evan’s family aims to provide an annual donation of Evan’s Bears to the Ronald McDonald Houses in Vancouver, London and Cleveland, ensuring that his legacy of love and compassion lives on. Please join us in giving thanks to Evan and his family for spreading joy and happiness to hundreds of children and their families.
Nearly 200 volunteers of the Ronald McDonald House, Family Rooms and programs were recognized for their contributions at the Annual Volunteer Appreciation Brunch on November 3. Guests gathered for a delicious meal and award ceremony at Stillwater Place, followed by strolls through the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Recognition of volunteers by years of service, from one to thirty, was followed by presentations for Volunteers of Merit and the Willa Jones Award.
Volunteers are unpaid not because they are worthless, but because they are Priceless.
THE WILLA JONES AWARD
Willa Jones’ granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and great-great-granddaughters Demetria Webb, Na’Tasha Webb-Prather, and Sha’Naya Howard with 2018 Honoree, Dave Williams.
The Willa Jones Award recognizes a House volunteer who, like Willa, is steady and unwavering in commitment to our mission. Willa offered her services before the original House officially opened. Willa volunteered from that time forward, with absences only because of her health or when a family member was in need. She “retired” from the House at age 93, after serving for 28 years.
A Willa Jones Award recipient exemplifies Willa’s salt-of-the-earth manner of caring for families – without condition – with a soft and caring conviction. The honoree is someone who is positive about all that takes place, always trusting that staff and Board are making good decisions, and always willing to be retrained when changes take place. This person is quieter and doesn’t do big, bold, noticeable things, but is nonetheless the core of what makes the House so welcoming and effective.
2018 WILLA JONES AWARD WINNER, DAVE WILLIAMS
Dave Williams joined our team as a maintenance volunteer in December 2014 and transitioned to become a front desk volunteer in 2015. In less than four years, he has accumulated nearly 1,100 volunteer service hours, which doesn’t count his many shifts at special events, including Night at the Races and selling 50/50 raffle tickets at Bridgestone.
Dave often covers additional weekend and evening shifts, arrives early or stays late to fill unexpected needs, and apologizes if he is not able to cover extra shifts. Dave was honored as a Volunteer of Merit in 2016, and continues to provide excellent service to families, in a quiet and caring manner. He is reliable and capable, and truly epitomizes Willa’s quiet, steadfast commitment to our mission.