One of my favorite events I’ve done with my Aliso Viejo, CA 2020 girls blue group is volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House.
The Ronald McDonald House is an amazing non-profit organization whose mission is to create, discover, and support programs that benefit children’s health. Ronald McDonald House allows families with sick children to stay together and close to the resources and care they need. In some families, it may be necessary to send their sick child to a hospital or facility very far away from home; Ronald McDonald helps these families by offering them a place to stay with no fee required. Learn more about Ronald McDonald and what they do here!
Volunteers greatly allow Ronald McDonald House to function and continue supporting these families. Some volunteer opportunities there are cooking, hosting, listening, nurturing, and more. Contact your local chapter to see what you can do to help! For example, at my local chapter, the primary volunteer opportunity is cooking meals for the residents there.
Our group really resonated with Ronald McDonald House’s cause and the uniqueness of the service project. We had never done anything like cooking for volunteering, so most of our group excitedly signed up, myself included. I don’t cook often, but I knew that it would be fun to do so with my friends while helping those in need.
With our enthusiasm, our group coordinator signed us up for dinner. We brainstormed ideas on what to make, suggesting ideas like hamburgers or pasta; we wanted to cook a meal that was easily prepared but still tasty. Finally, after some debate, we decided on enchiladas, rice, and beans.
To prepare, everyone worked together to bring all the necessary materials needed for the enchiladas — the sauces, chicken, cheese, beans, onions, green chiles, and rice. (Here’s a link to a good enchilada recipe if you want to make one yourself!) Everyone chipped in a little, and I was touched — as I often am — by our teamwork to gather all the items. We loaded the food and ourselves into the carpool and took off for the Orange County Ronald McDonald House, our destination.
The Ronald McDonald House had a kitchen to prepare the food there, so we immediately began cooking as soon as we arrived. We needed to work efficiently; we were expected to get the meal ready at the scheduled dinner time. Even though I was no cooking prodigy, I was determined to make the best enchiladas residents at the Orange County Ronald McDonald House would ever eat.
Our group worked seamlessly together, like a well-tuned machine, to get the meal made. With teamwork, we were able to prepare the delicious enchiladas, rice, and beans efficiently. As the enchiladas baked in the oven and the smell wafted through the entire house, we swept and mopped the dining floor and wiped the tables down. Finally, the food was ready and we laid it out buffet style, waiting anxiously for people to arrive. I grasped my serving tongs with anticipation, hoping that they would enjoy the enchiladas we had made with love. I could barely contain myself from sneaking a few bites. Despite all my optimism, there was still an inkling of doubt in my mind: would they really enjoy such a simple meal made by a couple of teenagers?
People slowly began to trickle in, exclaiming, “Wow, that smells amazing!” We began serving, happily conversing with them as we did so. Everyone there was extremely grateful, telling us how tasty the food looked. As I sat with everyone there, looking around at everyone’s smiling faces as they ate and communicated with each other, I was struck by how such a little bit of my time and effort meant to everyone else here. Changing the world can truly come from the tiniest acts of kindness.
That enchilada I ate with the residents of The Ronald McDonald House and my Lion’s Heart group was one of the best meals I’ve ever had — not because of the quality of the meal, but the love and joy of the community around me.
After everyone left, we washed all of the cooking materials and cleaned the dining hall. We had leftovers, which we wrapped up and placed in the refrigerator for the houseguests. I was full — not on enchiladas– but on gratitude and happiness.
Before we left, someone brought their dog into the Ronald McDonald House — a big, woolly dog, about the size of a small calf, named Bear. His owner explained how residents enjoyed having Bear visit once and awhile and play with him. As we petted Bear, I marveled at this wonderful community here and how many individuals contributed what they could to keep the house running smoothly. Many people were doing their best to give what they could, and in that moment, I knew that humanity still had hope as long as there was care and love.
I definitely want to return to the Ronald McDonald House soon with my group. If you have a Ronald McDonald House near you, consider volunteering there with your group! It is an experience you should not miss out.
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Written by Audrey Xia – Lion’s Heart Intern and Blogger Audrey has been an intern of Lion’s Heart since summer of 2018 and a member since 2015. She enjoys writing, volunteering, and playing soccer.