Every Friday night for the past 15 years, I’ve volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House New York. I first started volunteering because I knew I enjoyed giving much more than receiving. In all honesty, I walked into something that I never could have envisioned, and far beyond my initial expectations.
Over the years, I’ve seen heartbreak and challenge as families come and go while their children battle life-threatening diseases. The Ronald McDonald Charities provide a home away from home while the children receive treatment nearby. We've been told by many families that our volunteer programs and the time we spend together make a huge difference in their lives while they stay at the house.
One of the reasons I continue to show up each and every Friday night is because of young men like Jack Brown. Jack and his family are from London, and they are some of the finest people you will ever meet. Showing up each Friday night, I’ve gotten to know many of the families. Some of the families are with us for quite some time due to the length of treatment. In the case of the Browns and more than a few others, you literally become part of each other’s extended families. We lost Jack about five years ago. He is one of the most amazing people I have ever known.
In the last 15 years, I’ve gotten close to many kids. Many of these kids have not survived, but some do. My job is to make sure I can do everything I can to help out these kids and families in a time of need—from serving dinner to teaching kids to play baseball in Central Park. My favorite story is from a few years ago when the NYPD helped us introduce more than 100 children and their families to Pope Benedict XVI when he was visiting the city! The Pope kindly blessed each and every one of the sick children who were there that night.
In 15 years, there have been many Friday nights when we fall flat on our faces. But then there are the nights we hit a home run. On those nights, when you see the kids and their families having a great time despite their illnesses, I know I’ll be back for another Friday night.