Volunteering With Purpose: What I Learned From the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore

I watched my son play and laugh with critically ill children last night not once questioning why some were unable to walk, were wearing masks or carrying around IV poles. Hide and seek to children is just that…hide and seek. It doesn’t matter what each player looks like, talks like or what condition they are facing. He looked at them as another human and as an equal. He’s 8. Every time I work with people alongside my son I am astounded at his lack of judgement and his understanding of the work we are doing.

My mission when starting this organization was to recycle and re-purpose wedding and IMG_8635event flowers. I quickly learned through the people I was reaching that the need in our communities was much greater than this. I was at a place in my life where I was discouraged by the ‘corporate’ work I was doing; I wanted to reach those in need and directly impact their lives. I know without a doubt that what we are doing is necessary. Each and everyone of us has an impact, and regardless of how small it may seem it is important.

The Ronald McDonald House and it’s programs supports the critical needs of children through its family-centered programs. Its home like setting helps to bring comfort to those who must travel long distances for access to healthcare. Through their programs they provide housing, meals, emotional support and other services for children and their families. By doing this, they allow families to focus on being present for their children without worrying about necessities when they are so far away from home. They have locations in 64 countries and through their efforts have saved families more than $880,104,484 out-of-pocket lodging and meal expenses. How incredible….the Ronald McDonald House freely gives hope to those who desperately need it.

Petals for Hope has visited with the Ronald McDonald House several times, and we always leave feeling more on fire for our cause. We typically host an activity hour which is a designated time for the children and their families to focus on something other than their current circumstance. True to our founding mission, we teach a ‘Mini Flower Arranging Workshop’.

We guide the children through decorating their vase, adding filler and choosing flowers to build their arrangement. It’s a given that the families here are under a great deal of stress while also being away from their home. Several of the children have been here for several months and will be for many more. This time allows them to just be kids, and can offer a time for their parents to have a few moments to themselves.

Sharing your time with those who have found themselves in less than desirable circumstances and looking at them as an equal, is life changing. I have a deeper appreciation for all that I have in my life because of my interactions here. Every time I meet a sick child, a woman fighting breast cancer, a homeless vet or an elderly person who can’t understand where they are because they are battling Alzheimer’s, I am firmly reminded that all of the work that goes into making this happen is worth it.

Donated flowers are still delivered to those in need regularly. This is still at the core of our purpose. We also aim to directly impact the lives of those who could use a smile with hands on workshops and activities. When you support our mission, THIS is what you’re supporting. You’re helping children and adults likely experiencing one of the hardest times in their lives being able to focus on something completely separate from their circumstance. Laughing, connecting and teaching us that life is messy but there are still reasons to find joy. We’re reminding them that we are all equal and that the rules behind hide and seek are still the same…regardless of what you may be going through.

I’m blessed beyond measure because I have the ability to learn from these children and adults. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

We’re building a community of those who have a desire to help others. Those who look at each other not seeing our differences but seeing that we are all human and everyone will be in need at some point in their life. We will be visiting again on October 28th. Please send us your contact information to Brittaney@PetalsforHope.com or call 410-253-6019 if you would like to join us. 

 

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Petals for Hope Visits Alzheimer’s Unit

recycled event flowers serviceI questioned my decision to take my son Mark into the Alzheimer’s unit on Saturday to deliver flowers donated from a wedding. I vividly remember my first experience visiting one of these centers specific to those suffering from this disease when I was his age. The fear I felt when I was younger came from a place of not understanding what was happening to these patients and why they were acting the way they were. Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. Symptoms can include repetitive questions, aggression, confusion, delusions and more.

I know that I want to raise him to be aware of the suffering around him so he can have a positive impact on those around him, so we went for it. We talked beforehand about what he should expect and I explained to him in terms his young mind could understand what this disease was. When we left and he said “That was sad but I’m glad we were able to make them smile”…I knew we were in the clear.

Seeing people who have lost their memory and their ability to function normally is heartbreaking. Without realizing, we take for granted so many basic things on a daily basis. Having a place of our own to live, being able to cook for ourselves or get out of bed, having a pet or family living with us. These are things these people live without every single day.

 

As a child I used to go into nursing homes and read to the patients and I remember feeling like I was impacting their lives in a positive way. It would always baffle people why reading to someone was important, but its these smaller acts of kindness that are often overlooked that seem to have the biggest impact. Some of these people have family and regular visitors, and some of them do not. However, the one thing I am positive of is that having someone visit them shows them that they do matter. Putting myself in their place and considering how daunting it must feel to not be able to get out of bed or get things without assistance, whether I had visitors or not would not matter. It gave me a feeling of dread to know that in those downtimes I’d be myself confused and unable to do for myself as I previously was able to.

These men and woman were SO unbelievably grateful for something as simple as a bouquet of flowers and someone to chat with. Some of them were in the end stages of their disease and were on hospice, some of them were in the beginning stages and adjusting to this new norm. I met a lady in the end stages of this disease who used to arrange flowers for the people in the nursing home, and now found herself being the recipient of flowers from a stranger.

The staff at Bayleigh Chase in Easton, MD are an incredible group of people. I witnessed a manager stop to help a gentleman who was unable to lift his feet up so his wheelchair could be moved. I saw nurses and nursing assistants list off names of patients that were the most in need as if they were their best friend. Not once did I see them lose patience when asked the same question five times. They answered each one with kindness, thought and the patience of a saint. This turned out to be my favorite delivery we have done so far and I can’t wait to revisit them soon.

These flowers were donated through Sophie Felts Floral Design from a wedding that took place at the Morningside Inn in Frederick, MD. Click here to donate flowers from a wedding or event, or to volunteer with us.