What if it were my kid? What if it were yours?

by Claire Mathias

250px-Newborn_Examination_1967Ten years ago, my son was born with a hole in his heart. I will never forget the cardiologist’s visit in the hospital. He listened to my son’s heart, put his large hand over my baby’s tiny chest, and confirmed that there was murmur, most likely ventricular
septal defect (VSD).50_1683_FMech.indd

It is one of the more common congenital heart defects, but because of the location, it wasn’t likely to close on its own. On the other hand, we are lucky that it is minor and has never caused any issues. He was also born with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and we are lucky that it too has not caused any problems.


So, when I heard the story of the family to be featured in our end-of-year fundraising campaign, the Bursons, it hit close to home.  Debbie and Laramie’s son Logan was born with two holes in his heart due to an atrial septal defect as well as a PDA. And my son is almost the same age as Logan was when they learned that he would need surgery (11).

Logan undergoing evaluation.

Exam time for Logan

Normally writing web copy for RMHC isn’t part of my job, but I asked to do this story. I could easily put myself in the Bursons’ shoes. The initial worry when the diagnosis is made, careful watching to ensure that our son was thriving, regular visits to the cardiologist, seeing our baby hooked up to leads and wires for the electrocardiogram and echocardiogram, and above all hoping. Hoping that he would grow and thrive and that surgery would never be needed.

My kiddo training for a Kung Fu tournament.

My kiddo training for a Kung Fu tournament.

So far, so good, although I admit that I still fret when it does look like my son might – just might – be having trouble keeping up. Although judging from his Phys Ed grades, he can. Our next cardiologist visit is in a few weeks and hopefully all will be well.


Logan, looking good.

And it’s great to see how well everything turned out for the Logan and his family. Take a few minutes and look at the Bursons’ story on our web site. I am so glad that everyone at the Ronald McDonald House, plus volunteers and staff, could be there to help the them make it through that difficult time. We are grateful that they have agreed to share their story with you. I hope you will find it as inspiring as we do.

MilagrosPs Debbie Burson told me about an excellent resource for families of children with congenital heart defects, Milagros: http://www.mymilagros.org. I highly recommend it. The group offers a number of ways to connect with other families, information you can use, and links to reliable online resources.

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Angels Sing and They Also Support RMHC!

By Carolyn Schwarz

Willie Nelson and Turk Pipkin at Austin premiere of Angels Sing

Willie Nelson and Turk Pipkin at Austin premiere of Angels Sing

This week marks my fourth week serving as Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Austin and Central Texas. I am honored to be a part of the amazing team here as we work to create a home-away-from-home for families when their children are facing illness or injury. This week some very special angels chose to support the families of RMHC.

Sunday night marked the premiere of Angels Sing, a movie based on the book “When Angels Sing” by Turk Pipkin. Continue reading

Posted in Carolyn, Donors, Thank you | 2 Comments

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

by Lexi Riemer


Ronald McDonald House is decorated for Halloween with pumpkins donated by St. Francis School

Trick-or-treat!  Although it’s the end of October, in the Development Office it feels like Halloween, Christmas and Hannukah arrived at the same time this year. In addition to all the preparation that goes into our signature holiday event, Lights of Love, for the last few months the development staff has been hard at work on our Angels Sing partnership.

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Happy Birthday, Ingrid!

Ingrid and her bear.

Ingrid and her bear.

by Paula Duke

Isn’t she adorable?  Don’t you just want to grab those cheeks?!?! Meet my sweet friend, Ingrid. 🙂  She is about to be one!

You’d never know from this picture that she spent 47 days in the NICU at Dell Children’s Hospital. While she was there, her family made good use of the Family Room – for meeting extended family, having snacks or meals, and even a comfortable place to sleep,  just a few steps away from Ingrid.

That’s our goal with our Family Room program – to provide a place of respite, close by, for a family whose child is in the hospital.  Some people come in to use the computers. Others come in to watch tv. Some just gather there to collect their thoughts and have a moment of peace.  Whatever the need, the Ronald McDonald Family Room is there.


With locations at St David’s Medical Center, St David’s North Austin Medical Center, as well as Dell Children’s Hospital, and growing, we hope to be where we are needed most.  We served more families last year through our Family Room program than we did at the House!

The bear that you see next to Ingrid was one in a big set of Build-A-Bears that were donated to the Ronald McDonald House last December, courtesy of Dell, Inc. We handed them out to all of the families at the House, as well as walking the NICU floor to offer them to families there.  They brought many smiles! I picked this one out especially for Ingrid because it had on the fancy skirt and the shirt with fancy shoes. {And because I’d seen how her Mom and her Grandmothers had been dressing her up.}  It was a perfect match!

Ingrid’s Mom gets some time away (at least) once a week when Grandma comes over to help.  And what does she do with her free time?? She comes here to the House and volunteers! We are so lucky to have her. (Thank you, Jennifer!!)

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With so much going on around here, there are many ways to give back and help our families:  Adopt a Family Room, Donate something from our Wish List, Volunteer, Make a Meal, join us at our Lights of Love 5K, and our latest fun, the “Angels Sing” movie event.  We’d love to have you involved with us, however it best fits for you.

Here’s wishing a very Happy Birthday to Ingrid!  And if you have a graduate of one of our NICU’s, or have stayed with us here at the House or at one of our Family Rooms, we’d love to see your picture as well!!

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Creating Community for Families – and for Each Other

by Jan Gunter

Jan hanging out with Ronald

Hanging out with Ronald

After six and a half wonderful, challenging and inspiring years at Ronald McDonald House Charities, I have accepted a new position as the Communications and Community Relations Director for the Salvation Army in Austin. I am excited to be taking on this new challenge with the Salvation Army as they prepare for a major capital campaign and significant growth in Central Texas.

During my time at RMHC Austin I have been blessed beyond measure Continue reading

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I’m running the Chicago Marathon for Team RMHC Austin

by Lindsay Weeks, Guest Blogger

My recent visit to the Ronald McDonald House

My recent visit to the Ronald McDonald House

I never thought I would use the word “runner” to describe me. In fact, I just started running two years ago, when I signed up for my first half marathon. Now trust me, running didn’t come easy to me. But it’s true what people say about running. It is contagious. When you get around other runners or when you feel that “runner’s high” you are sucked right in and there is no turning back! Running can also be nostalgic. It has been the one place where I can let my mind wander and not be afraid of where my feet will take me. Not only is it healthy for my body but also extremely healthy for my lifestyle. I am a workaholic. I travel for half the month and work 50+ hours per week. For someone like me, I need an escape from reality every now and then – and running has been just that!

It was through my job that I was provided this amazing opportunity to take my love for running a step further. For the past two years, I have worked with the Austin Area Chevy Dealers, who are proud supporters of Ronald McDonald House Charities and sponsor several fundraising events throughout the year. Through this partnership I have had the pleasure of building my own relationship with RMHC Austin and all the people that make it so special.

Team RMHC Austin recently cooked lunch for the families at the Ronald McDonald House

In addition to training, we volunteered to cook lunch for the families at the Ronald McDonald House

We all know that when RMHC gives you an opportunity to make a difference you take it! This is how I felt when I was asked to join Team RMHC and commit to running 26.2 miles at the Chicago Marathon this October. Don’t get me wrong the first thing that crossed my mind was “Are you crazy? 26.2 miles!” Running that kind of distance never crossed my mind – wasn’t even on my bucket list. However, this meant more than just achieving the unthinkable. It was about giving back in my own special way, through something I feel so passionate about.

I wish I could tell you training has been a breeze and that gaining mileage has come easily, but that would be far from the truth. For the past five months I have religiously scheduled my weekly runs, tackling each new distance that was put in front of me and losing plenty of beauty sleep along the way.  The most difficult part has been training during the hottest time of the year. The humidity and the hills in Austin combined give endurance training a whole new meaning!

Lindsay with her Team RMHC friends

It’s been GREAT to train with my best friends and to know we are making a big difference.

However there have been so many GREAT parts as well, like getting to train alongside three of my closest friends who have also committed to running the ultimate distance in support of the many children and families supported by RMHC. We keep each other smiling and laughing with each new mile we tackle and somehow continue to spend our Saturdays pounding the pavement. But above all, the best part of this whole experience has been the love and support we have received from our family and friends; like us they are eager to help in any way they can. They have helped contribute to our fundraising efforts and continue to make the impossible seem possible in our eyes.

We're going to do it! We're going to run 26.2 miles!!

We’re going to do it! We’re going to run 26.2 miles!!

With week 22 of marathon training behind me, and my first 21-mile run logged in the books I can honestly say I am ready for what’s ahead. This experience has been life changing for me and the best part has yet to even come. Every stretch of the Chicago Marathon I will be smiling, for I am a member of the greatest team there is, Team RMHC!

About Team RMHC Austin

Team RMHC Austin is eight runners strong including Ann Jerome, Megan Carnathan, Tamzin Cochrane, Meredith Harris, David Rabke, Michelle Schwartz, Matthew Seale and Lindsay Weeks.  As of this writing, they have raised $7,192 toward their goal of $10,000! Click here to donate and help them reach their goal.

About Lindsay Weeks
Lindsay Weeks is an Account Director for Agency 720, a full-service advertising agency that works with Chevrolet dealer groups across the country. She is an Austin native and holds a BA in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from The University of Texas at Arlington. She also currently serves on the board of directors for the Austin Advertising Federation.

Posted in Ronald McDonald House Charities | 2 Comments

Announcing Our New Executive Director

by Marian Wu, Board President

Carolyn Schwarz, New RMHC Austin Executive Director

Carolyn Schwarz, New RMHC Austin Executive Director

We have some exciting news to share. Beginning October 14, Carolyn Schwarz will join our organization as its Executive Director, succeeding outgoing CEO Kent Burress. We appreciate Kent’s tenure with RMHC Austin; he has provided steady and compassionate leadership during a time of tremendous growth.

Carolyn brings in-depth experience working with healthcare and human services organizations in Central Texas and California. She comes to RMHC Austin after leading the innovative Health Alliance for Austin Musicians for nearly nine years. With a background in nonprofit management, health care and social work, Carolyn is poised to lead RMHC Austin. She shares our vision to serve our community by helping families face the burden of childhood illness together. As executive director, she will be responsible for program development, fundraising and operations, as well as more than 20 full-time and part-time employees of RMHC Austin.

Kent Burress will remain in the Ronald McDonald House Charities family as a consultant to RMHC Global, where he will help manage the implementation of an innovative energy program in more than 300 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide.  His experience here in Austin has prepared him well for this new opportunity.

As we wish Kent well in his new venture, we invite you to join us in welcoming Carolyn Schwarz to RMHC Austin.

Click here to read the complete press release.

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