A recent donation from a local church exemplifies the giving spirit of the Ronald McDonald House according to Chief Executive Officer of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama Katherine Estes Billmeier.
“These are the ones that mean the most,” she said of the nearly $151 donation from 24 vacation bible school members of Elba’s Asbury Methodist Church. “These are kids that are learning at a very early age what the world philanthropy actually means. For them to see and know they’re making a difference at that young age -- it gives me chills.”
Billmeier was at the Enterprise McDonald’s Thursday morning to receive the check from a church representative, Wanza Mills. The funds will go toward assisting RMHC.
At the presentation, the restaurant also unveiled a new way for people to donate electronically, known as Round-Up for RMHC, according to Murphy Family Restaurants Marketing and Community Outreach Director Eddie Byrd.
“When a customer is checking out at the counter or drive-thru, they can ask to round-up for RMHC and their transaction will be rounded up to the nearest dollar,” Byrd said.
The Enterprise McDonald’s is one of 30 restaurants owned and operated by Murphy Family Restaurants, and the program will be available at all of them. Locations with kiosks will have the option, as well.
As of now, the program can only roundup to the nearest dollar -- but those wanting to donate additional money to RMHC can do so online.
It began implantation in June across all Murphy Family Restaurants and has raised thousands.
Byrd said it is an extension of the usual donation box already available at the counter, and he said this is a way to bring in more necessary funds to RMHC as people have been willing to donate in the past.
“Last year, we donated $13,500 from our Penny Per Happy Meal Program, $26,000 from our Donation Box Program and $10,000 from tickets sales for the Peanut Festival,” said Byrd. “We also hosted 2 pop tab parties, which allows customers and schools to come meet the staff and drop off pop tabs for the Pop Tab Pandemonium Contest. We are proud to continue to support our community and give back to the Ronald McDonald House, since we have so many families stay there when traveling to Birmingham for medical care.”
According to Billmeier, Ronald McDonald House families tend to have children who need extra medical care and those families have traveled far for that care. The families have various backgrounds and situations.
“The Rigsbee family, for example, is from the Wiregrass area and have been at the House for about seven months while their son, Oakley, grows strong,” Billmeier said. “After serious pregnancy complications, Oakley was born prematurely weighing only one pound, 10 ounces. Mom and Dad tell us that they’ve seen a positive difference in Oakley because they can be with him. Not to mention they have two other young kiddos they can stay together with at the House. It’s all about keeping families together and giving them as much normalcy as possible, even in a tough medical situation.”
The Ronald McDonald House provides a supportive atmosphere for families and their children who are receiving medical treatment at Children’s of Alabama, UAB, or other area hospitals.
Billmeier said 1,699 families stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham last year, and 180 of those stays were from the Wiregrass area.
“There is no room fee to stay at the House and families have the amenities of home including laundry, WiFi and a private room to rest in,” said Billmeier. “Volunteers provide hot meals and fun activities each night, children can play on the playground and families benefit from being with others who understand what they’re going through.”
On Friday, Oct. 18, the House is celebrating Day of Change commemorating the opening of the very first Ronald McDonald House.
“To celebrate we rally around the donation boxes and now we can include Round-Up for RMHC,” Billmeier said. “It’s because of our founding mission partner, McDonald’s, that our organization was created and to this day they help us to continue to keep families together when their child needs medical care.”
To learn more, follow the Ronald McDonald House on social media or visit its website at RMHCA.org.