Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Writer / Ely Ayers
Photographer / Michael Durr

Four decades of altruism, innovation and dedication – that’s the Ronald McDonald House way. And after 40 years of plantingRonald McDonald House Charities seeds of hope throughout the Indianapolis community, the selfless army of supporters and volunteers have no plans to stop watering what has continued to grow decade after decade. The staff members believe that some of the best investments one can make aren’t of the financial type, but are rather investments in the human beings that have potential to be the community’s leaders of tomorrow. This is the heart of what has made Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana so successful – a community coming together to bring light to local families in some of their darkest hours.

Our House Inc., the central Indiana chapter of the Ronald McDonald House, was built upon the same model established for the House’s predecessors. Their model included a foundation of three core groups in a community – a partnering hospital, local McDonald’s restaurants and their employees (potentially including corporate support), and the community of people in the House’s location.

Dr. Steve Beering from Riley Hospital for Children is credited with securing a deal with IUPUI leadership for the land on which the inaugural Indiana House was built, in December of 1980. After the land was secured, the real work began. Building the facility debt-free was important to the board. Rigorous fundraising was needed for its initial $1.6 million (more than $4.9 million in today’s dollars) goal. Numerous fundraising efforts happened, but they mostly flew under the radar. Then, in August of 1981, 144 McDonald’s restaurants in Indiana joined forces to launch a historic fundraising event known as 25-Cent Hamburger Day. By October of 1982, the new Indiana chapter had reached its initial $1.6 million fundraising goal, which was the estimated cost to construct the facility that would become a beacon of hope for thousands of future children and their families.

Adam Lowe, marketing and communications manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana, has spent the past few years working and advocating for the House, and has spent that time witnessing the organization’s impact firsthand.

Ronald McDonald House Charities“We are that home away from home that these families have in their time of need,” Lowe says. “Our goal is to take away all of the stress and anxieties that come with having a young family member in such a fight, whether that be food, lodging, entertainment – anything that comes with that. We want to try our best to take care of it for them.”

Lowe comments on how the House has relied on the success of everyday operations, as well as sustainability, not only from the staff, but also from people of the community.

“Across the board, we have people from the community helping in a lot of ways, whether that be answering phones, providing culinary services and cooking, giving us their time, and even just donating what they can,” Lowe explains. “It’s what has made such a difference all these years.”

Mary Friend, volunteer resources manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana and 16-year staff member, comments on what the community’s vital impact over time means, not only to the short-term residents, but also to the ones who repeatedly show up to be of service.

“What brought me here was the mission, and the goal of taking care of these families and the hospitalized children,” Friend says. “I’m still here 16 years later because of the impact that this work has had on them.”

Friend says the impact goes both ways. While the staff may be the ones physically providing the aid, housing and comfort that the families need, the children and families also leave a lasting impression on the volunteers that come to serve.

“Everything changes for them, and they come to find out that working for our families, it grounds you,” Friend says. “It teaches you not to take anything for granted. They say that all of their complaints are really nothing compared to what these families are going through. They really start to feel grateful. They find out that the little things have a large impact on these families.”Ronald McDonald House Charities

Both Lowe and Friend attest that it’s the cumulative impact of everyone coming together to support each other in times of need that creates a truly meaningful experience for all involved. After 40 years, one thing is certain – the faces change, but the story remains the same. Service has been transformative for all involved with Ronald McDonald House of Charities of Central Indiana, and even people in their darkest hours can create light from deep within.

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