March Volunteer of the Month

This month’s Volunteer of the Month is Susan Guzetta! Susan has been with us as a volunteer for about 2 years, and has assisted RMHC families and staff in various forms. From helping the marketing department gear up for a big fundraising event, to driving families back and forth from the hospital so they can spend quality time with their sick little ones, susan does it all. Thank you so much for all you do for our staff and families Susan, you are a tremendous help!

Get to know Susan a little more in depth below!

1. Your name and a little bit about yourself.
I’m Susan Guzzetta and I’ve been volunteering for the past two years. I’m married and have two grown sons, one is studying to be a medical scientist at the University of Chicago and the other is a college student majoring in English. I worked as an English language teacher, and spent several years living and working in North Africa and Europe. I spent the remainder of my career in Fresno as a resource teacher and citizenship grant manager at Fresno Adult School.

2. How did you start volunteering with our House?
My sons spent time at Valley Children’s when they were young, and I decided when I retired I wanted to give something back to the families of children who were ill.

3. What type of things have you done while volunteering?
I work at the front desk, shuttle people back and forth to the hospital in the golf cart and spend quite a bit of time addressing envelopes for fundraisers. I love helping family members and staff.

4. What is your favorite part of our House?
My favorite part of the house is the give-away table in the front hallway. I love watching the faces of children light up when they get to choose a toy or a book to keep for themselves.

5. What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the House?
I love being part of an organization that provides support for families who have children in the hospital. Providing a place to stay, food and comfort for family members is a wonderful service.

6. Tell us something fun about you that we don’t know. Hidden talent, funny story, favorite pastime, etc.
I speak French and Swedish, which doesn’t do me much good in California where Spanish would be a lot more useful! I am also an artist and have been painting on and off for most of my life.

February’s Volunteer of the Month

Our Volunteer of the Month for the month of February is one of our front desk volunteers Crystal Bohm!   Crystal celebrated her one-year “VOLUNversary” with our organization last month, and has contributed so much of her spare time to greeting those entering our front doors with her warm smile and willingness to provide a helping hand.  You are such a joy to have around Crystal, thank you for all you do!  We could not #KeepFamiliesClose without gracious volunteers like you.

Here is some more information about Crystal!

  1. Your name and a little bit about yourself.

My name is Crystal Bohm.  For now, I am a stay-at-home mom who is in what I call the “taxi cab” stage of my life.  I’m busy driving my sons to and from school, church activities, music, and sports practices.  I also enjoy spending time with and caring for the elderly, and when my boys get older, I would like to become a CNA or Home Health Aide.

  1. How did you start volunteering with our House?

I was looking for a way to reach out and get to know people in the community better when I found the opportunity to volunteer at Ronald McDonald House on a volunteer website.

  1. What type of things have you done while volunteering?

I feel like almost every time I volunteer, I have the opportunity to learn and do something new.  I drive and visit with families on the shuttle to and from the hospital, answer the phone, accept and thank people for their donations and after much experience I’ve become really good at stuffing, stamping and addressing envelopes.  My favorite volunteer experience would be the quiet afternoon I spent making pizzas for the families from ingredients that someone had donated for lunch.  That opportunity meant so much to me because while my younger brother spent some time in a children’s hospital, my parents did not have the extra money for my mom to spend at the cafeteria for meals.  That always broke my heart and I was so grateful to be able to help provide a warm meal for others who might be in the same situation.

  1. What is your favorite part of our House?

My favorite part of the House are those welcoming front doors, which open to so much relief and comfort for the hundreds of families that need RMHC every year.  Through those doors I have also seen so many people from the community walk through to give generously of their time, talents and donations.

  1. What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the House?

I always tell people that Ronald McDonald House is the “Heart of the Central Valley.”  My favorite part about volunteering is how I have learned from the genuinely caring and kind staff and others who volunteer or donate. I always leave wanting to be a more kind, caring and compassionate person.

  1. Tell us something fun about you that we don’t know. Hidden talent, funny story, favorite pastime, etc.

I love writing, reading and collecting poetry. I am also a huge Elvis Presley fan.

January Volunteers of the Month

“I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else.” -Pablo Picasso

It all started with an idea. To our January Volunteers of the Month, Tom and Charlene Hoisington, this statement rings very true. Years ago, Tom, as part of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, had an idea to host a “Fill the Boat” Toy Drive when he was still living in Florida. Because it was such a success, he decided to bring his idea with him when he moved to the Central Valley. In 2015, he hosted the annual event to benefit the families staying at our House for the first time. With the efforts of him and his right hand lady, Charlene, they were able to raise 618 toys! It’s important to point out that during the event him and Charlene play and important role as Mr. and Mrs. Claus for the day. When he saw the impact it made on our families staying here and the cheer it brought them during the holiday season, he decided to hold the 2016 “Fill the Boat” Toy Drive in our honor again. Despite the rainy day, the event was still a great success and they were able to beat last year’s total with 625 toys and $500 raised in monetary donations. We thank you Tom and Charlene for giving our families a reason to celebrate during Christmas and congratulations on being our January Volunteers of the Month!

1. Your name and a little bit about yourself.

My name is Tom Hoisington (Hoy-Zing-Ton)

From Muskegon, Michigan. Graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Have served in the US Army and Coast Guard from 84 to 09. I have held many jobs in the military such as Raidoman, Cook, Tank Crewman, Military Police, Aircrew, and Recruiter. I have been stationed in many post throughout the US, and Germany and Korea. And have seen action in Iraq.

I am a current member of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. I joined the auxiliary in Orlando, FL in 2011. I am now a part of the auxiliary in Modesto. 

I am a limousine driver, Married to a wonderful lady. Father of 5. Oldest is 31, Youngest is 20.

I am also the Co-founder of the Coast Guard Auxiliary “Fill the Boat” toy drive / Public Affairs event.

2. How did you start volunteering with our House?

Once I had gotten to California from Florida, I had the hosted the first Coast Guard Auxiliary “Fill the Boat” toy drive in the Central Valley. We hosted this for another children’s hospital. At first, they were very gracious for what we had done for them, The following year, they didn’t respond on timely bases which meant that time was not on our side. In spite of several attempts, the paperwork that was needed to move this forward seemed to be getting delayed.  This put me in a position of having to find another deserving organisation for the toys. I came across the RMHC. After an email and a couple of phone calls, the RMHC joined us for our toy drive in Modesto. 

3. What type of things have you done while volunteering?

I work at getting the Fill the Boat toy drive lined up. I usually start getting organizations and people lined up starting in mid August. This requires a lot of time doing face to face meetings. I have met with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office, Modesto Fire Department, iHeart media, Coca-Cola, US Coast Guard and Auxiliary,Walmart, and of course the RMHC. 

There is a lot of time and effort that goes into planning a 1 day only event. But, when the public shows up and you see the smiles on their faces once they know were their donated toys or money are going. It’s all worth it.  

4. What is your favorite part of our House?

The toy room of course. LOL , And the caring staff such as Mia, Marisa, Sam, and Sven.

5. What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the House?

This is hard question to answer since I live a ways away from the House.  I guess for me, I get a thrill hearing stories about were the toys have gone, and how families who thought that Christmas would be just another day can now celebrate Christmas. Stories like this warms my heart and tell me that it’s all worth it. 

6. Tell us something fun about you that we don’t know. Hidden talent, funny story, favorite pastime, etc.

I play Santa and my wife plays Mrs Claus for the toy drive. I am a kid at heart as well. I collect toy planes. I enjoy building model planes for fun. I enjoy music from the 60’s,70’s and 80’s and a few from the 90’s.

I am not very computer savvy. To me, technology peeked with frozen pizza’s.

Hidden fact, I used to be a field sales rep for Ringling Brothers Circus. 

I hope to win a red vet. Santa needs a new sleigh. 

December Volunteer of the Month

“What is the essence of life? To serve others and do good”-Aristotle

lisa-hallMeet our December Volunteer of the Month, Lisa Hall. Lisa recently moved to the Central Valley a few years ago after being a Bay area native. She first got connected with our House through her now daughter-in-law who was doing service hours as a student for Fresno State at the time. She has since supported our House through many different volunteer opportunities such as a regular Front Desk volunteer, at our annual fundraising events, and most recently, the Red Heart Ball planning committee. We look forward to seeing her bright smile and friendly personality every week and want to congratulate Lisa on being December’s Volunteer of the Month!

1. Your name and a little bit about yourself.

Married for 33 years, with one son who is 27 and recently married to his high school sweetheart. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree on that one.  Born and raised in the S.F. Bay area and recently moved to Madera.  Spent many years working in Silicon Valley and now works at a Non-profit out of S.F. from home and enjoying the opportunity to have a better work-life balance.

2. How did you start volunteering with our House?

Our now daughter-in-law was a student at Fresno State and was fulfilling volunteer hours with Ronald McDonald House Charities and asked if I wanted to get involved.  We held a movie night with pizza and snacks and I was hooked after that. There is nothing better than bringing some joy to families during a difficult time.

3. What type of things have you done while volunteering?

I work at the front desk two times a month, where I get to help the staff by answering phones, assist families, give tours, shuttle families back and forth to the hospital and many other tasks that help keep the house running.  I have volunteered at the annual “Fore the House” golf tournament a couple of time and currently on the Red Heart Ball planning committee.  I’ve even run in the Color Me Rad 5K at Woodward Park.

4. What is your favorite part of our House?

The encounters I have with the families.

5. What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the House?

This is not a thankless opportunity.  Everyone from the families to the staff say thank you at every encounter.  While that might seem like a common word used by all, it is very apparent at the House how thankful people are for the time you spend making things ever so better.

6. Tell us something fun about you that we don’t know. Hidden talent, funny story, favorite pastime, etc.

First of all, I’m a terrible baker.  It’s always so obvious during the Holidays. So I stick to planning dinners and buying presents.  I love spending time with family and friends and giving back to the community.

2nd Annual Wish List Run 2016

On December 3rd, a long-time supporter of RMHC, Runner Moe, organized the 2nd Annual Wish List Run to benefit our House! Runner Moe has participated in our 135 TO THE HOUSE race, a run that begins at the Bakersfield RMHC and ends at the Central Valley RMHC; a 135 mile run.  Runner Moe has completed the run not just once, but twice, and remains the only woman to ever do so. Moe wanted to create a fun run where the community could come together for a good cause. With last year being such a success, Moe jumped at the opportunity to host the Wish List Run again this year!

All Fresno runners were invited  to come out and support RMHC on Saturday morning.  There was no fee to register for the event, Runner Moe only asked that all participants bring items that are on our Wish List to run over to the House and drop off mid-run. Runners decorated wagons and strollers as sleighs, and wheeled all of their donated items over to our House!

We had a great turn out this year, welcoming over 100 runners to RMHC that chilly Saturday morning, as they all ran with a great cause at heart. We found ourselves struggling to keep up with organizing all of the items we were receiving from the runners, and had volunteers scrambling to keep up with transporting wish list items from the running arch to our conference room!

We are so glad that our participating runners had a fun morning, filled with smiles and holiday cheer! We are also very excited to announce how many donated items came from that morning!

A whopping 5,105 Wish List items were donated to our families to use this holiday season.

We are so blessed to have such amazing community supporters and members that continue to amaze us with their gracious acts and kind hearts.  Without them, we could not provide for our families during their time of need. A huge THANK YOU goes out to all who participated and donated on Saturday, and an even bigger Thank You goes to Runner Moe.  We are so lucky to have your continued support. You bring joy and light to our families every year, and that is a gift that is priceless.

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October and November Volunteers of the Month

steve-mueller-2“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill

Meet our Volunteers of the Month, Steve Mueller and John Goss. These two have played a pivotal role in the launch of a new program we have implemented to serve more families, our Happy Wheels Cart. Steve was approached by one of our board members, Brad Kirk, to construct a hospitality cart for the Happy Wheels program. Together, they went up to the Stanford Ronald john-gossMcDonald House to use their Happy Wheels cart as a model to replicate. With a plan set in place, Steve (owner of Closet Creations)  approached his neighbor John Goss (owner of Storage Systems), who happens to be in the same industry to join forces all for the sake of supporting families going through a difficult time.

The Happy Wheels cart was created to be able to serve more families in lieu of staying overnight due to room availability . This cart will go around the hospital a few times a week, where volunteers will distribute snacks, books, fun activities and toys to provide a little comfort as it travels the hospital hallways. This program would not have been possible without the new cart that was built by Steve and John and we wanted to show our recognition to them by naming them our October and November Volunteers of the Month. Thank you Steve and John for all of your hard work and congratulations on this award!

1. Your name and a little about yourself.

SM: I am a General Contractor. I have lived in Fresno all my life and married to Nancy and we have 3 children. I graduated from Bullard High School.

JG: I have lived in Fresno 66 years and have four children and four grandchildren. My 8 year old is hydrocephalic and has had numerous surgeries here at Children’s Hospital.

2. How did you start volunteering with our House?

SM: Through our church and  just wanting to give back to the community.

JG: A friend (Steve) told me about a project that he needed help with.

3. What types of things have you done while volunteering?

SM: Planning and preparing meals for the families. I built the Happy Wheels Cart and am on a committee for Christmas bags for the families.

JG: Happy Wheels cart construction

4. What is your favorite part of our House? 

SM: It is all great!

5. What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the House? 

SM: Just knowing that in some small way that you might have put a smile back on someone.

 

 

 

The Garcia Family Story

The Garcia Family was excited and preparing to welcome two beautiful twin girls into their family on September 15, 2016.  When mom Cendy went into labor in June, the Garcia family had to shift all of their focus and energy on getting two extremely premature twin girls healthy and strong enough to leave the hospital.  At just 28 weeks gestational, Baby Abigail weighed 520 grams at birth, and sister Sophia weighed 1250, so both of these little angels had quite the fight ahead of them to stay alive. “They are our miracle babies by the grace of God,” mom Cendy says, and “God has remained faithful, surrounding us with so many caring and loving people.”

When both babies were initially discharged from the hospital, all was well until Baby Abigail started to take a turn for the worst.  She fell extremely ill and has since been re-admitted into Valley Children’s Hospital.  Abigail has been diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease and is on continual oxygen support, and has also undergone Heart Surgery.  Due to being on continual life support after Heart Surgery, Abigail slipped into Cardiac Arrest and was luckily revived.

With such a sick little one, and being away from Baby Sophia and two older brothers Josian and Giovanni, it has been extremely hard for Cendy to cope with all that is happening without her family by her side.  Cendy states, “It has been a difficult time for our family, but I thank God for Ronald McDonald House’s staff and volunteers because every day we get words of encouragement and support, and we have also gained support and hope from families staying at RMHC that are in similar situations as well.  I believe that being a NICU mom is hard and to leave our baby’s site is difficult, but RMHC makes it possible to be closer to our precious princess Abby (as we live in Turlock, about an hour and thirty minutes away).  We are uncertain to when [Abby’s] discharge will be, but as of today God has remained faithful to us and a beautiful little girl.”

Families like the Garcia’s are in extreme need of support during these difficult times, and providing a comfortable place to stay is the least we can do.  Together, we keep families like The Garcia’s close.  Together, they can help their little ones heal.

#KeepingFamiliesClose

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The Oden Family Story

“Our son Austin was born at 31 weeks. He was transferred to Valley Children’s Hospital. We live in the City of Madera, so we were just 20 minutes away, but I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from my little one; it broke my heart. Thanks to Ronald McDonald House, I was able to be close to my son. Ronald McDonald House is a HOME. I felt like I was at HOME. The people here were so kind to me and my family. We are truly grateful to have been able to stay here with these fantastic people.”
-Michael & Miriam Oden

The Oden family welcomed their fourth member much earlier than anticipated. Mom Miriam went into labor and delivered Baby Boy Austin at just 31 weeks. Austin weighed a tiny 3 pounds and 1 ounce when he was welcomed into the world, and needed help gaining weight and learning how to breath on his own.
The family from Madera, CA checked into their room at Ronald McDonald House on September 15, 2016. Along with parents Miriam and Michael, Baby Austin’s older brother, 6-year-old AJ, also came along to remain close to his little brother. With having a child in grade school, and only having access to one gas guzzling truck, commuting between hospital and home was simply no option for the Oden’s.

Having a room in Ronald McDonald House allowed for mom Miriam to spend quality time with her baby boy, and allowed for Brother AJ and Dad Michael to have a comfortable place to stay between visits to Baby Austin’s bedside and grade school. The NICU only allows siblings of the patients to visit for 20 minutes a day, so AJ definitely appreciated all of the fun activities we offer for all of the siblings staying in our House during all of their downtime. AJ played in our newly renovated playroom, played with the PlayStation, got his face painted from a volunteer group, played in the backyard, and became great friends with all of the staff! (He was our little buddy!)

Mom Miriam is typically very shy and closed off, but found it very easy to open up to the staff and other checked in families during her stay at Ronald McDonald House. “The fact that there were other people in the same situation, or an even more challenging situation, made it extremely comforting to open up and talk to the other people and families staying at the House” says Miriam. Since the family has checked out, Miriam has remained in contact with two other moms.

Baby Austin began to defy all of the odds against him and was released one whole month early! When given the opportunity to be so close to their baby boy, Miriam and Michael were able to do a lot of “Skin-To-Skin” bonding with Austin. Skin-to-Skin Bonding is proven to help babies grower stronger faster and assist in the healing process! Miriam states that “Without Ronald McDonald House, we wouldn’t be able to see [Austin] nearly as much, and would not be able to do the skin to skin bonding that helped make him stronger.”

The Oden Family’s experience with Ronald McDonald House is just one of thousands that we see every year. Whether families are able to take their child home, happy and healthy, or unfortunately are not given that opportunity, RMHC allows families to be near their child during their time of greatest need; and that is a gift that is irreplaceable. Lessening the financial burden on families during these hard times is the least we can do, and keeping them close is what we strive to do.

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The Ronald McDonald House is like a hotel.

Dear RMHC,

I went to a hospital to go see my baby boy. He’s really sick. I came with all 9 of my siblings to see Seames. After that, we said good bye to him. I stayed here in Fresno. I’m staying at Ronald McDonald House. Everyday I’ll see him sleeping. now dad says we’re staying until he comes home with us 🙂 The Ronald McDonald House is like a hotel.

Love, Marceline

Pull Together to help #keepfamiliesclose

pop-tabIt’s not just an urban myth. The Ronald McDonald House really does collect the aluminum pop tabs from cans. We are able to generate thousands of dollars from our pop tab collection program every year. That would be impossible without the amazing support of children and adults who faithfully collect the tabs. It’s an easy way to do something good and make a difference in the life of a seriously ill child. Why not get your school, workplace or community organization to collect them with you?

Jordan Reich has been collecting Pull Tabs for our families for the last 5 years with his family, friends, and school.

“I started collecting these soon after my niece Kyndall was hospitalized at Valley Children’s Hospital with RSV. They did not stay at the Ronald McDonald House during this visit, but not long after, Kyndall was having more medical issues that required surgeries. It was hard for my sister and her family to drive Oakdale to Madera for surgeries that were at 3:00am. so they were fortunate enough to get a room at the Ronald McDonald House. 

Later on, Kyndall’s older sister needed to have a procedure so they once again got to stay at the House. Today, my nephew Kayson, their little brother will be having a surgery and they will have once again been blessed to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. The help of the Ronald McDonald House has been tremendous and bother their family and ours can’t thank you all enough for what you have done. 

I wanted to start collecting the pop tabs because i saw the way you helped families in need,” Jordan Reich. 

Pull together to help #keepfamiliesclose!

Pull tabs can be delivered to the Ronald McDonald House at 9161 Randall Way, Madera, CA 93636.