Surrounded by children, Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa flipped a switch to illuminate thousands of twinkle lights at Ronald McDonald House at Stanford Thursday evening. He said, “It’s a blessing to have a resource like Ronald McDonald House here.”
Sarah Reichanadter, the family activities coordinator of Ronald McDonald House said that “Light the House” was the theme of this year’s annual holiday party and reunion for former guests. This was also the first year that the community was invited to participate and local vendors like Jamba Juice, La Baguette, Neiman Marcus, Pinkberry, Sprinkles and Starbucks offered samples of their products.
“We’ve been having these events for twenty years,” said Honey Meir-Levi, executive director of the house. She described the pony rides, petting zoo, cookie decorating, balloons and face painting as “just wholesome stuff that kids love to do.” Several hundred families of former patients who are now doing well have returned for the reunion. She also pointed out the special new wing of the building for keeping patients isolated after stem-cell transplants.
Children were given rides on Patches, a miniature pony from Coulterville, California, owned by Donna Kissinger who said that her firm, My Pony Party and Petting Zoo started in 1990 and has been coming to Ronald McDonald House and Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital every year. Her fiancé Earl Morey said “This is a really rewarding job to see the kids’ faces.”
Echoing that sentiment was long-time volunteer and party coordinator Kay Sims who said, “You come for what you can give but you stay for what you get back.”
When she started 27 years ago the house had only 13 rooms. Now it can accommodate 47 patients and their families. Ten years ago she recruited Colleen and Kevin Lynch as volunteers who say they specialize in “crafts and general humor.”
Wai-Ling Eng is the owner/operator of a McDonald’s restaurant in Daly City and serves on the board of directors of Ronald McDonald House Charities. She said contributions are collected in canisters in the restaurants. In addition to the house there are “care mobiles” where kids in underserved areas can get dental care. Also, its college scholarship program has awarded $1,500,000 over the past decade.
One of the Ronald McDonald House board members, former Palo Alto Mayor Bern Beecham, said he’s involved because, put simply: “I care a lot about kids.”