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Happy National Women History Month!

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If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll know the story of two very influential women who had a hand in Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley (RMHCRRV)If you don’t follow us on Facebook, click here! We highlighted both Dr. Evans and Bev McAllister who shared a dream of keeping parents close to their critically ill child and focused on making sure their stresses were alleviated with a “home away from home.” Their dreams came to fruition in 1974 with the first RMHC and in 1982 with the first RMHCRRV.  

After 38 years and thousands of families, RMHCRRV needed to expand to accommodate the growing medical facilities and those families. In May of 2018, we closed the previous houses and opened our doors to the brand-new Ronald McDonald House, so everything is under one roof.  Inside the offices is the RMHC staff – a small staff compared to the large mission they all pursue every day. We’d like to introduce you to our all-woman staff as they are all huge components and work hard every single day to keep families together. Although we can’t be together right now due to coronavirus, we are still so thankful for each other! j

Get to know everyone and their favorite part of the job!

Jill Christopher – Jill has been leading as Executive Director for almost 10 years. Through her career, she has been leading the way on three houses, opened a Ronald McDonald Family Room, and has been championing RMHC along the way. She was drawn to RMHC because of a personal connection; her favorite part of her job is helping ease the burden and making some else’s situation with their sick child less stressful.  

Erica Johnsrud – Development Director, Erica has worked hand in hand with Jill for the fundraising needs of RMHC including raising over 5 million dollars to build the new House. In her role, she builds relationships with donors and sponsors, plans events like the Sweetheart Ball, and is the funny voice behind most of our tweets!  

In my position, I get the opportunity to connect the community with the mission of RMHC’s “home away from home” – aligning passion with purpose. At the same time, I get to see firsthand the gratefulness and the relief that the families have when they have a space they can call “home”. 

Ashley Peterson – To house over 400 families a year, we need to ensure everything is running smoothly. Ashley, Director of Operations, is the mastermind that keeps everything from the elevator to the air conditioning running. She is also our volunteer coordinator, welcoming more than 1000 volunteers a year.  

Working with people who care deeply about our mission and making families feel like they are at home when they stay at the House or are visiting the Family Room. 

Kelly Binfet – Assisting Ashley is our Operations Assistant Kelly who has been with RMHC for 5 years. She ensures the house is spotless for families, directs volunteers, and participates in community outreach by going into the school to teach kids about our pop tab program!  

I love that our strengths are always encouragedWe are supported, listened to, and we laugh a lot together. As a small-sized staff, we do just as many amazing things as a company with many people! Our part-time family services staff and volunteers are SO helpful to our families and making our families feel at home.  Our staff has so many talents; The ability to use people’s gifts and get them in the right positions and encourage them to grow and change and learn has always been important to our team. 

Lane Pereboom – Lane, Director of Family Services, joined the team in June and has been an amazing addition to the team. Her office is the first-place families stop when they are checking in. She oversees our part-time staff and interns and ensures families have the support and resources they need to get through their hospital stays.  

Our families come to us at some of the scariest, most stressful and uncertain times, and we meet them with support, encouragement, and resources. We provide fun spaces and activities to normalize the hospital and medical experience. Our staff all provides “the little things” that make RMHC feel like home.   

Alex Kizima – Our newest staff member started in July and assists Erica as the Development Coordinator. She is the one who writes social medianewsletters, and this blog you are reading right now! Together, Erica and Alex plan the Sweetheart Ball and coordinate on Giving Hearts Day and the Golf Tournament.  

The support we receive from our community is truly humbling. When we ask for wish list items, people deliver. It makes my heart do a happy dance. I love being able to surprise families when we say we have the thing they are asking for. My hope is that all parents have support as they provide the best care for their child in the hospital.  

A BOO-tiful Day For Halloween!

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Tonight, we are amongst the many neighborhoods in the country that are stocking up on goodies and debuting their costumes. We aim to provide a home away from home which includes providing a sense of normalcy in our family’s lives – and since today is Halloween, we are hoping to provide a memorable holiday! 

The office was decorated and had signs welcoming families so they knew to trick-or-treat through the offices in the House. Each person got a bag for treats and the celebration started at 9 am and people could trick-or-treat until midnight.

Trick-or-treat welcome

Even our Heart Warmers were dressed up for the occasion as they passed out some goodies. Kids faces lit up as they received different goodies from each office! Some received play-doh, crafts, or slime. 

  

Our staff as the true princesses they are: Ashley as Cinderella, Erica as Ariel, Jill as Snow White, Alex as Merida, Lane as Belle 

 

Party City generously donated costumes for kids staying in the house and NICU held a costume decorating class for parents. It was so fun to have Luigi stop in, doesn’t his mustache look great?  

 

With donated pumpkins, families were able to help us decorate for the weeks approaching Halloween. It was so fun to see the painted pumpkins – We always have some artists under the roof.

 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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Have you ever wondered why the Childhood Cancer Awareness ribbon is gold? In 1997, a group of parents picked gold as the official color because it symbolizes how precious and resilient children are.   

As we move into September, we prepare for change: changing from tank tops to sweaters, changing grades in school, and the upcoming change of seasons. For some parents, their life changes with the words, “Your child has cancer.”   

Unfortunately, childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children in the US. In our own House, 14% of the families we serve are here based on a cancer diagnosis. To come together and acknowledge the thousands of families affected by a cancer diagnosis, September is designated as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.   

If the emotional toll and heartache on a parent aren’t enough during this time, the financial burden may come in second. At the Ronald McDonald House of the Red River Valley, we are focused on the simple idea that nothing else should matter while a family is healing their child. These parents are changing and evolving their new “normal” and we are here to provide unwavering support.  

With the help of our donors, we were able to provide the Stehley family a “home away from home. They stayed with us for 38 nights while their young son Mason received cancer treatments. The House was a much-needed getaway from the hospital, nurses, and machines. “It’s just nice that you can come here and not think about hospital and nurses and machines and you come here and they’re always positive. You go in and they’re always happy and talking to you. “  

Childhood cancers often have treatment protocols that can take up to two years while they work towards remission. During this time, parents may have to be absent from work and travel long distances for health care. We hope they can find a new normal during these changing times.  

If you are looking for a way to help change a family’s life, you are in luck. We have some great suggestions:   

  • Monetary donation – We ask that families pay $20 per night for their room, but no one is turned away for their inability to pay.   
  • Time donation – We have so many volunteer opportunities for everyone from baking to cleaning  
  • Pop tab donation – These small items make a huge impact when they are recycled   
  • Item donation – Our House is home to roughly 400 families a year which means we go through quite a bit of stuff. Items like laundry detergent, coffee, and toilet paper. We also have an arts & craft room as well as a playroom for families.   
  • Talk about childhood cancer  – Advocate for those affected by cancer. Sometimes bringing light to a topic is the best way to help.

If you’re interested more in the Stehley family, click here

Say “Hi” to Sharon Miller

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We are thankful for our Board Members who help guide us through this wild mission of keeping families close. They are who we turn to when we need advice on finances, marketing, or hospital dynamics. On our board, we have Sharon Miller. She recently retired from her career in Human Resources in the Information and

Technology industry. After spending 20 years in Fargo, she has made great relationships and cares deeply for her community. We sat down with her to ask her why she does what she does.

What drew you to volunteer on the Board with RMHC? 

I have been on the Sweetheart Ball Committee for over 10 years and I always hoped to serve on the Board when I had more time and/or retired.  With my recent retirement in 2018, it was a great time to serve yet keep my seat on the Sweetheart Ball Committee as well.  The organization has always been dear to my heart and helping families in need is a privilege.

What do you wish more people knew about RMHC? 

I am always talking about RMHC and the mission.  The key message is an affordable “home away from home” for families focused on healthcare for their children.  The personal approach by the staff and volunteers create a warm and welcoming place to recharge and relax. 

What are 3 words you would use to describe RMHC? 

Caring. Committed. Compassionate.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a part of RMHC? 

The opportunity to “give back” when I have had a life of many blessings.  I have 3 healthy children and 3 healthy grandchildren.  I can’t imagine the pain and heartache for parents faced with healthcare challenges with their lovely children.  I am in awe of their strength and unconditional love. 

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering with RMHC? 

I recently retired and will continue to do consulting gigs at times, especially in HR Training.  I also serve on the Hope Blooms Board.  Volunteering is a passion for me.  Of course, spending time with my grandchildren in the Minneapolis area is a big part of my life.  My last child is going to college in the fall so an empty nest is in my future!

What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the Fargo community? 

I have had an amazing career in the F-M area which has lead to strong personal and professional relationships.  I live on a farm by Mapleton, ND where my husband is a 4th generation farmer.  I have been able to work, volunteer and live with great opportunities.  The F-M area is committed to non-profits, and I have seen it first-hand from my 6 years with CCRI, 17 years as a scorekeeper with the Roger Maris Golf Tournament, 10 years + with RMHC and now as a newly appointed Hope Blooms board member.  

What is your favorite season and why? 

My favorite season of the year is SUMMER.  I love flip flops and summer dresses!  The farm is always beautiful with the crops growing around the farmstead.  I am all about sunshine and warm weather.  In the winter, I can’t wait for the annual March trips to beachy locations– aww! 

If you could do one thing on your bucket list this year, what would it be? 

To take a long weekend with my husband to Las Vegas and see a show! 

Is there anything else you would like to share? 

I am grateful for the opportunity to help RMHC move their mission forward.