Spreading Love and Care, One Allergy-Friendly Donation at a Time

Spreading Love and Care, One Allergy-Friendly Donation at a Time

(from left to right) Wendy Bejaige, Laura Edgell, and Olivia Edgell

Fifteen million Americans have a food allergy, a serious medical condition. The disease is becoming more common, with 1 in 13 children affected. But a local community leader is doing her part in educating and collecting donations for allergy-friendly foods at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Northwest Ohio.

At four months old, Olivia Edgell suffered an allergy attack, including her eyes swelling shut and her inability to breathe. Olivia’s mom, Laura Edgell, said, “I remember that first year being so terrifying. I had no idea how to deal with all the allergies and the severe reactions. I just knew I had to figure it out. And keep my little girl protected.” That’s precisely what she has done, but in the process, she has also supported families staying at RMHC of Northwest Ohio by starting an allergy-friendly donation drive.

The Edgell family began collecting allergy-friendly donations three years ago. “I was volunteering at RMHC, making lunch for the families staying there. When I received a tour of the House, I realized the pantry did not have many quick snack/food options that were allergy-friendly brands,” says Laura Edgell. The donation drive begins in the second week of May, for Allergy Awareness Week, and lasts all of May, Allergy Awareness Month.

After the Edgell family’s first year of doing a donation drive, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio created an allergy-friendly portion of its pantry. Something Laura Edgell is proud of. “Our mission is to fill that allergy-friendly pantry yearly. And to give those families a few safe options while they stay there….and a little peace of mind,” says Laura Edgell. This year, Laura says they received over 50 boxes of donations in the first three days of the donation drive.

The Edgell family estimated that they received over 50 boxes of donations in the first three days of their campaign.

The Edgell family’s support to the community and Ronald McDonald House Charities is a breath of fresh air.

“It’s refreshing to have Laura and Olivia part of our community. Laura has made a lasting impact in the food sensitivity world and increased awareness and donations for something that is greatly needed,” says Wendy Bejaige, Director of Operations for RMHC of NW Ohio. “Our families don’t always tell us all of our needs. They may not tell us about food sensitivity and make accommodations on their own. Having food allergy-friendly items makes RMHC more inclusive and sensitive to their needs.”

Olivia Edgell is now a healthy, strong seven-year-old who loves to give back. “We are going to help so many families,” says Olivia. Her favorite allergen-friendly snacks include chocolate, cookies, and brownie from the popular Enjoy Life brand.

Olivia Edgell with all of the allergy-friendly donations supporting families at RMHC of Northwest Ohio.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio always needs pantry items to support families during their stay. Items needed can be found via our wish list or Amazon list at rmhctoledo.org/get-involved. For more information on pantry needs, please get in touch with Wendy Bejaige, Director of Operations, via email at wendy@rmhctoledo.org.

Balliett Family – 25 nights at RMHC of NW Ohio

Balliett Family – 25 nights at RMHC of NW Ohio

Like most parents, Angela and Dusten expected to take newborn Willow home. However, after delivery, baby Willow was experiencing issues with feeding and could not keep food up. Angela and Dusten live in Van Wert, Ohio, and were transported to the NICU at the Ebeid Children’s Hospital for further testing.

“Living hours away and having your baby transferred to a NICU hits you hard,” says Angela. “It’s a very stressful and scary situation seeing hospital staff transport your baby. I just want to know what is wrong with my child.”

Upon arrival at Ebeid Children’s Hospital and after multiple tests, doctors found the cause of the issue to be Hirschsprung’s disease, which affects the large intestine at birth. The treatment for this disease requires surgery.

Living 2 hours away from where baby Willow will be undergoing surgery, Angela leaned on her family for advice.

“I have stayed at RMHC of Central Ohio before for my daughter, and my sister mentioned to me that there is a Ronald McDonald House in Toledo,” says Angela. That is where Angela and Dusten’s journey begins with RMHC of Northwest Ohio.

For 25 nights, Angela, Dusten, and other family members would call Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio home. “This place has been amazing to us. It gave us peace of mind knowing we were that close to her without having to sleep in the hospital,” says Dusten. “The meals were amazing, and it helped relieve a lot of stress and anxiety that we would have had if we drove back and forth each day.”

After surgery, baby Willow has been doing much better. She has been healing, and post-op appointments have indicated she’s heading in the right direction!

Studies show that families in a Ronald McDonald House report more positive hospital experiences and a greater ability to participate in their child’s care. “The Ronald McDonald House helped us feel like we were at home. It was our home away from home for over a month,” Dusten thankfully explains.

Consider donating to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio to support families traveling to Toledo for their child’s medical crisis. Click HERE to support RMHC of Northwest Ohio.

BGSU and UT team up to support Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio

BGSU and UT team up to support Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio

Throughout the 2022-23 athletic season, fans of the Bowling Green State University Falcons and University of Toledo Rockets collected aluminum pull tabs for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio. RMHC uses aluminum pull tabs to offset the cost of the food pantry for families staying at RMHC.

Bowling Green State University fans donated tabs throughout the football, basketball, volleyball, and hockey seasons at the Doyt L. Perry Stadium, Stroh Center, and Slater Family Ice Arena.

University of Toledo fans donated tabs throughout the football, basketball, and volleyball seasons at the Glass Bowl and John F. Savage Arena.

“Northwest Ohio is an extraordinary community that passionately supports children and families. The Bowling Green State University and University of Toledo students, fans, and supporters have made a profound impact on the mission of RMHC, enriching the lives of children and families in remarkable ways.”
– Chad Bringman, Executive Director, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio

“Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio provides a great service to our communities and their families in the moment of greatest need. I have family members who benefited directly from these services during moments of great crises,” said Director of Athletics and Recreation Derek van der Merwe. “It is an honor to partner with RMHC to not only generate awareness and understanding of this program but also to assist in generating revenue.”
– Derek van der Merwe, Director of Athletics and Recreation, Bowling Green State University

“Ronald McDonald House Charities provides a great service to the Northwest Ohio community and their families. We are happy to lock arms as Team Toledo and support our community members in need.”
– Bryan Blair, Vice President and Director of Athletics, University of Toledo

“BGSU Athletics is proud to partner with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio and support the mission to create, find, and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families. This past year our fan base jumped in with both feet by donating their tabs at all of our venues. We even had fans bring bags of tabs from home to help support this amazing cause. We are honored to be part of the tab partnership with RMHC of Northwest Ohio and look forward to supporting this cause for many more years to come”.
– David Anderson, General Manager, Falcon Sports Properties

“UT Athletics is honored to partner with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio, an amazing organization that supports so many families in our community each year. We look forward to continuing to share RMHC’s powerful story to Rocket Nation for many years to come!”.
– Rob Rice, General Manager, Rocket Sports Properties

Volunteer Month – Melissa Regalado, Family, and Friends

Volunteer Month – Melissa Regalado, Family, and Friends

Ronald McDonald House Charities volunteers make all the difference in the lives of families – cooking, hosting, nurturing, or simply being there to help in any way they can. Volunteers make a big difference, helping to offset costs that can be put back into programs and services for sick children and their families.

One volunteer who provides meals for families staying at RMHC is Melissa Regalado. Melissa began volunteering at RMHC of NW Ohio in 2016, but Melissa and her family have been connected to RMHC for much longer.

“My cousin’s kidneys shut down, and she was life-flighted to RMHC Ann Arbor,” says Melissa. “They (RMHC Ann Arbor) took care of my cousin and family, and ever since, we knew we wanted to give back to RMHC.” Melissa’s family has stayed true to that. “My mom taught us the importance of giving back. She has been cooking meals on Christmas Eve for over 15 years,” says Melissa.

Volunteers who provide meals for our families are integral in making our House a home away from home during their children’s treatment and recovery process.

“I started doing it once a month, but I just could not get enough. Now I cook meals twice a week,” mentions Melissa. Rarely is Melissa alone in the process. Melissa works as an Independent Provider, providing services to clients with disabilities. Melissa is also occasionally joined by her daughter, Melicia, and client, David.

“I like to help my mom cook and bake here. I like getting meals ready and giving back to the people because God wants me to do that,” said Melicia.

Melicia Regalado, daughter of Melissa

David has been volunteering at RMHC for five years. He enjoys cleaning and preparing meals for families.

David, volunteer at RMHC of NW Ohio

What’s the secret to Melissa’s amazing meals? Comfort.

“Homecooked meals mean a lot to the families staying here,” mentions Melissa. “I love to make chicken fajitas, baked spaghetti, soups, salads, or anything else comforting.”

One of the amazing meals the Regalado family made for dinner.

If you are considering becoming a volunteer, Melissa has some advice. “Just do it! It’s great to help others, and it’s gratifying and humbling. This is a wonderful organization. When families stay here, they do not need to worry about anything except caring for their loved ones.”

Volunteers are crucial to the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio. If you are interested in volunteering individually or as a group, please get in touch with Wendy Bejaige at wendy@rmhctoledo.org or call 419-471-HOME (4663).

Spring Intern Leaves A Mark On RMHC

Spring Intern Leaves A Mark On RMHC

Lucy Greig is a Family Services and Operations Intern with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Northwest Ohio. Lucy will graduate from Bowling Green State University in May with a major in Human Development and Family Studies.

While interning at RMHC, Lucy focused on services that impact families, volunteers, and operations.

The Hospitality Suite at Ebeid Children’s Hospital was maintained by Lucy and others, providing coffee and snacks to families and staff while educating families and staff about resources offered by RMHC. Lucy increased communications with families by creating a resource manual and a weekly newsletter, communicating upcoming events, programs, and other happenings around RMHC. Additionally, Lucy contributed to the new wellness rooms in RMHC to create a space for families and staff to practice self-care throughout their stay. Lucy had an impact on volunteers as well, prioritizing their tasks and introducing them to RMHC.

Lucy Greig at the Hospitality Suite at Ebeid Children’s Hospital

As a student intern, learning and growing is the primary outcome of their experience.

“I gained a better understanding of working and interacting with families in stressful situations,” said Lucy. “I learned the importance of active listening and creating a space for families to share their stories. Having a child in the hospital is difficult, and many families want to be heard and validated in their experiences. My internship also taught me about professional organizations and non-profit agencies. I have grown in my confidence and skills as a professional.”

As Lucy finishes her internship, we asked Lucy what Ronald McDonald House Charities means to her.

“RMHC means kindness to me,” said Lucy. “Every individual I worked with throughout my internship has welcomed me and taught me more than I could have hoped for.” Lucy continues, “I have seen the staff’s kindness toward the families we serve and their determination to ease the stress of healthcare experiences. The individuals at RMHC greatly impacted me, and I will take this experience with me throughout my life.”

“This opportunity of interning with the RMHC of Northwest Ohio was a great way for me to give back and learn about my future career field. I am grateful for this opportunity to work with Wendy, the Family Services Managers, volunteers, families, and the RMHC team.”

What’s the next chapter for Lucy now that she is graduating from BGSU?

Lucy will complete a Child Life Internship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital this summer. At Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, she hopes to become certified as a child life specialist and help children and families cope with their healthcare experiences.