A Family Gives Back

Ilana and Dan stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Loma Linda, California when their son David was born. David spent the first two weeks of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit before his parents could bring him home to Pittsburgh. Their stay at the Ronald McDonald House made all the difference in their lives during that time and they have never forgotten it.

“It was an environment where everyone cared,” said Ilana. “We were always with people who understood what we were going through.”

As the new parents arrived home with their son, their hearts were filled with gratitude for the kindness that was extended to them while far from home. Kindness that they would one day return to others facing the same situation as they did.

“We have a tremendous amount of gratitude. The Ronald McDonald House was there for us during a very difficult time,” said Ilana.

In their hometown of Pittsburgh, Ilana and Dan gathered their friends and began making meals for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in their city. Ilana calls their meals “Love Food” because she knows first-hand the love a warm meal brings to these families.

In addition, Ilana created a family spinner game to help her son communicate. The spinner has conversation prompts such as share a highlight, a challenge, or a lowlight to get kids talking.

“It presents a safe space for kids and families to talk and get closer,” said Ilana.

Knowing how this game could also help children who are receiving medical care, Ilana donated spinners to families at the House.

“It gets kids who are in the hospital to talk with their parents, nurses, doctors, psychologists about things that may be painful to them,” said Ilana.

Today, David is 12. He enjoys music, playing football and video games and being with his friends. And though the pandemic has temporarily suspended the opportunity to make meals in-house, both Ilana and Dan look forward to the day when they can get back to the Ronald McDonald House kitchen to provide their “Love Food” to those needing the same comfort and support that they found more than a decade ago.

Apron Angels

When Toni, Marsha, Jeannie and Terry were on their way home from a girl’s trip, they talked about what they could do together to help others. Their children were now grown and they wanted to use their time to do something fulfilling. After much discussion, they came up with an idea that led them to Ronald McDonald House Morgantown.

For five years now, this group has been coming to RMH Morgantown on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month to prepare dinner for the families who stay there. They are known to everyone around the House as Apron Angels.

“I still remember serving that first meal, we smiled the whole way home. It was so rewarding,” said Toni.

Since then, the original group of four has grown. Other family and friends have joined them in helping make the home-cooked meals. It takes the group 3.5 hours to prepare each buffet style meal. Their menu is always different and includes a variety of meats, side dishes and desserts. In addition to preparing a hot dinner, they also prepare ready-to-cook meals which include soups and crockpot recipes to be heated up for enjoyment when there are no scheduled volunteer meal groups.

Throughout their experience, Apron Angels has enjoyed getting to know so many of the families they have been cooking for. “You think you are doing something for someone else and in turn, they are doing something for you,” Marsha said.

Each year more than 800 meals are prepared through the Meals from the Heart Program at both RMH Pittsburgh and RMH Morgantown. Individuals and volunteer groups just like Apron Angels donate their time to give our families a chance to dine and unwind so that they can be refreshed for their child in the hospital, without the worry of having to prepare a meal themselves.

If you would like to get involved with the Meals from the Heart Program at either RMH Pittsburgh or RMH Morgantown, please click Meal Programs.

Apron Angels Volunteer Group at RMH Morgantown