Webster's Dictionary defines a hero as "one that is much admired or shows great courage." My definition of a hero is an everyday person who does for others without asking for anything in return. To me, anyone who gives from the heart is a hero. Ronald McDonald Houses across the world have many heroes -- volunteers, board members, staff, donors, families and most importantly, the children who fight for their lives every day. The Ronald McDonald House of Memphis has many heroes as well, but three groups in particular come to mind.
Volunteers who give freely of their time and talents are heroes to the families they serve. At Ronald McDonald House of Memphis we have a great group of dedicated volunteers. These volunteers help us staff our home by answering the phones while performing any other tasks that we need completed. Volunteers also help keep our pantries stocked. Most of our families arrive within 24 hours of their child being diagnosed with cancer. Sometimes they are given just a few hours to run home and pack a bag. The supplies that our volunteers donate for our pantries help these families when they arrive shell shocked, thinking of nothing other than getting their child the best treatment possible. Thanks to our volunteers, once these families are settled in, they know that we are here to take care of them to the best of our ability.
Another group of heroes is all of our wonderful donors. A donor can be someone who donates their time and talents, items that are needed or who makes a monetary donation. Without our donors, we would not be able to sustain our organization and families would be forced to stay in hotels at their expense. Being able to relieve the financial and emotional burden of having to find and pay for a place to stay for our families (who have enough to worry about) is due in large part to the donations we receive from our generous community. When I came to work this morning, a bag of pennies was sitting on my desk from a child who had emptied their piggy bank to help someone in need. That's heroic.
Finally, the biggest heroes of all are all the children who fight for their lives daily while trying to hold onto being kids. Here at the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis, we house over 600 children every year. Each of these children is in a battle for their lives. Some of these children know nothing else but the world of hospitals, painful treatments and being far from home. I have met children from all over the world who come to Memphis for treatment. The amazing thing about these children is that while they know they are sick, they just want to be kids. They run up and down the hallways, ride bicycles, and play in the play areas -- just like other kids. The teenagers that are battling understand what they are battling and what the possible outcomes might be, yet they are role models to the younger children and always maintain a positive attitude. It is a well known fact that children who reside in a Ronald McDonald House heal faster and feel better, because they are surrounded by peers who are going through the same thing as they. They are not isolated in a hotel room and have friends who look just like them. It's no longer weird to be bald, have scars, or have missing limbs.
If you have never visited a Ronald McDonald House, then I would encourage you to do so. I can assure you that your life will be changed for the better. You will see hope, love, courage and faith in a place where heroes live.
To find your local Ronald McDonald House, click here.