An Ambassador for Life

For many of us, we first learn about Ronald McDonald House Charities for the first time during Philanthropy Round during recruitment. This is not always the case. For some women, their first experience with RMHC happens at a much younger age. Whichever route takes you to RMHC, there is no reason to stop your journey when you graduate from college. With hundreds of houses worldwide, you can remain involved whether you live in Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Bordeaux, Birmingham or Boise.

Rachel Rodriguez-Schwab, Delta Omega – Northern Illinois University shares how RMHC impacted her life from an early age, and what she has done to ensure they remain part of her life, even as a working professional and mother of two.

Rachel and LaurenOnce upon a time, I was your average only child with a schedule full of activities and excitement for the sibling on the way.  The next moment, I remember a missed ballet class and my dad frantically on the phone while, throwing together uncoordinated outfits into a suitcase.  There was a long period of confusion as all the adults sheltered what information was filtered down to me.  My sister, Lauren Rodriguez was born with a hole in her heart and a slew of other birth defects.  She had to be airlifted four hours to Chicago and was baptized shortly thereafter for fear that she would not live long.  I remember many months of not seeing so much as a smile on my parents faces.

The Ronald McDonald House provided my family with a new sense of normalcy, perspective that our situation was “not as bad as what others were facing” and refuge from the hospital.  Just like many other families, my sister’s story has woven many tales of hospital visits, intensive surgeries and uncertainty but, each and every time RMH was an option and welcome relief.   Now as an adult, I am a full-time working mother of two healthy daughters and I have a newfound appreciation and amazement for the obstacles my parents had to overcome.  Frankly, I’m not sure how they did it.

Although my sister is and will always be physically weak, she exudes strength and bravery that is unmatched by anyone I know.  I was dealt a good hand in life: I’m healthy, I have loving parents and a great support network.  For every step, every opportunity I get in life, my sister is often left behind or will never experience what I have.  Despite everything, she moves forward and makes the best of it.   She keeps me grounded and helped me get a sense of obligation to give back where I can, when I can, because I can.

Alpha Delta Pi immediately stood out as the ideal sorority for me with RMHC as the national philanthropy and being the first sorority brought in the ultimate cool factor.   By joining, I had an opportunity to help other women in the house truly understand more about the lives of the families they would be impacting.  After college, I moved to Minnesota as a new home with a new job.  Although dismayed to find there was not a functioning Alumnae Association, I was not disheartened.  Back then, I snail mailed out as many area Alumnae from Pride Online as I could to show their sorority pride and help me re-charter the Twin Cities Alumnae Association.  13 years later, one of those women, Abby Martinek Blumhardt, Pi Chapter – Iowa State University is still by my side.

Rachel and RonaldThrough the years, we built a strong relationship with the Ronald McDonald House of Upper Midwest (Minneapolis) by engagement through a variety of different activities including: Mother’s Day craft, annually volunteering at the Fam Glam gala & golf tournament, participating in the RMHC Fun Run activities and Cooks For Kids program.

Wishes DeliveredRMHC was a part of my personal & sorority life but, I knew that I could do more.  My employer, UPS ran a program called the “Wishes Delivered” campaign and I entered – my wish was to deliver a UPS motorized mini-truck to the RMHC house for all the children living there to enjoy.  Much to my surprise, my wish was granted!  When I looked at the joy on the kids’ faces during the reveal, I understood.  For those few moments, they were able to forget and be a kid again.  When your family is going through a tough situation and you’re a kid, you feel almost guilty about being happy but, I could see they were.  My passion for RMHC is on behalf of my sorority, the families I have met at the house like mine and most of all my sister Lauren.  When you find that personal connection to a philanthropy, there is a whole new meaning and you become an ambassador for life.   For me, RMHC is truly “the house that love built”.

 

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