Erika D. has a standing Sunday night group date which includes popcorn, fruit snacks and a movie.
But rather than a trip to her local theater, Erika’s movie venue of choice is the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and Erika’s weekly date is actually a volunteer shift.
600 and counting
Since 2015 Erika, a Vehicle Acquisition Coordinator in Ottawa, has logged more than 600 hours volunteering in the Ronald McDonald Family Room.
The Family Room offers family members of critically ill children a place to rest and regroup within the hospital while experiencing the comfortable and cozy amenities of home: a comfortable bed, warm meals, showers, a laundry room, and a place to relax and unwind.
Thanks to Erika’s efforts, countless families have come to rely on movie nights in the Family Room as downtime from the hospital, all while being just moments away from their sick child.
Erika witnessed firsthand the important role proximity to family plays in the healing of a child. One of her cousins frequented the hospital for what turned into a span of four years.
“It meant everything to our family that my aunt got to remain near my cousin,” explains Erika. “The Ronald McDonald House gave my aunt a retreat to rest her mind and body while being with my cousin during the toughest times, which helped my cousin get stronger and return to health.”
Erika is motivated by her aunt’s experience to pay it forward as a volunteer.
“I feel such a connection with the volunteer position,” says Erika. “I know how important this type of space was in keeping my aunt and cousin connected, and I absolutely love helping out in the Family Room.”
A vibrant volunteer
Erika wasn’t new to volunteering when she first joined the Family Room. She has volunteered as a swim instructor at a camp she once attended. She is also a member of Rotary International, which is how she first connected with Ronald McDonald House Charities and began cooking meals for families utilizing the facilities.
When the Ronald McDonald House Family Room expressed the need for a movie night coordinator, Erika jumped at the opportunity to volunteer on a more personal level, and the rest – all 600 hours – is history.
The Foundation and the Family Room
Erika’s passion and enthusiasm about her experience with the Family Room was so strong she felt compelled to apply for a grant from the Enterprise Holdings Foundation.
“It makes me so proud that my employer is helping champion my efforts,” she says. “It’s amazing to feel understood by my company and appreciated for my volunteer work.”
Everything offered in the Family Room – from snacks to coffee to toiletries – is purchased through donations. Erika felt wonderful being able to contribute not just time but also funding toward a charity she loves so much.
“Enterprise has an amazing philanthropic focus and the organization makes a concerted effort to give back to the local communities where employees live and work,” explains Erika. “The funding I’ve received for the Family Room is remarkable. I’m so grateful.”