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Member Story

Kofel Family: Paying it Forward to Ronald McDonald House

The Ronald McDonald House Charities were created to keep families with children experiencing major health issues together, by providing them a home environment near the care and resources they need. During such a stressful time, the ability to focus on your child, their care and being as close to them as possible, is an indescribable gift that Ronald McDonald House Charities provides.

This organization will forever hold a special place in my family’s heart. On January 7, 2019, my son, Maximus Michael Kofel, was born 9 weeks premature in Chicago, IL, 491 miles away from our family home in Pittsburgh. Maximus spent just over 8 weeks in the NICU at Northwestern DuPage Hospital, growing stronger every day so that he could make the trip home. During those 8 weeks, my wife Malinda and I were fortunate enough to stay at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH), right across the street from the hospital, where Maximus was being treated. This wonderful organization not only provided us with a place to call home, but we had all the amenities needed to sustain a home setting, three full meals daily, use of their supplied kitchen, the house’s gym and laundry facility. Our experience, as residents of the RMH, was so much more than a home away from home because of this wonderful charity and the people involved. One of the most appreciated acts of volunteerism was that everyday families, organizations, or business employees came to volunteer at the house to prepare lunch and/or dinner for the families staying there. This simple act of kindness and generosity in providing a warm, delicious home cooked meal during, what can simply be described as a very difficult time, meant so much to Malinda and I, as it did to all the families staying there.

As a way of paying it forward and acknowledging how grateful our entire family is for the existence of this charity, on December 28, 2019 we volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh, PA. The RMH of Pittsburgh, which is connected to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, has 74 rooms, which at that time were all filled, with a maximum capacity of 280 people. Our family, my parents National Director George & Sharon Kofel; Michael & Michelle Taramelli (my sister) and their two daughters Lucy and Julia; along with Malinda, Maximus and I prepared one of our family’s favorite dishes for the more than 70 families staying at the Ronald McDonald House that day. The menu included: chicken strips in butter and garlic, rosemary oven baked potatoes and honey/ginger glazed carrots and chocolate & vanilla cupcakes, Words cannot do justice the overwhelming feeling of fulfillment and happiness that was brought to our hearts as the families enjoyed their dinner.

Along with preparing a meal, we donated 15 lbs of aluminum ring tabs from beer and soda (pop) cans that were collected by family members, colleagues, and friends. Throughout the United States, the Ronald McDonald House collects these tabs, recycles them for cash and uses the proceeds towards operating expenses.

We are grateful to the GCU’s GoGive program and its financial support in helping us defray the costs of the grocery purchase. In lieu of our annual Christmas adult gift exchange, our family instead used that money to purchase the remaining food and supplies needed. We have decided to make this an annual holiday family tradition, forever being grateful to this organization and their ability to keep my family and all families close to their children under hospital care.

For more information about the Ronald McDonald House, go to their website at RMHC.org.