By Crystal Harrell
The Inland Empire Ronald McDonald House is kicking off the giving season with its annual gala and awards ceremony, A Few Good Men and Women, on Friday, September 30, 2022. This year’s event at Agua Caliente Casino Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, California will honor eight distinguished men and women from the Inland Empire who have made an impact on the communities of the Coachella Valley, in which they live and serve.
The Class of 2022 honorees, hand selected for their years of volunteer and philanthropic service to the region, include Peter Chryss, Managing Partner of First Call Security & Sounds; Karen Devine, Anchor/Investigative Reporter, KESQ News Channel 3; Julio Figueroa, Director of External & Legislative Affairs for Ca Tribal Liaison of AT&T; Damian Jenkins, President of The Management Trust; Melissa Neiderman, Producer of Neiderman Productions; Rod Vandenbos, Founder/CEO of Buzz Box; Brian Wanzek, Bella da Ball Social Ambassador; and Stephanie Wilson, CEO of Circa Management.
“We’ve been going out in the Coachella Valley speaking to the community and going to various functions. Many of the residents were surprised to know that a big percentage of the families we serve come from the Coachella Valley. We help and support the families at the trauma center in Loma Linda, as they get the help they need. We provide the temporary housing so the families can stay there for support,” stated Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House Karen Hooper.
The event is co-chaired by Jack Srebnik, Michelle Stansfield, along with committee members Ann Piller, Ernesto Rosales, Geoff Allen, Jeff Tropple, Neftali Galarza, Richard O’Connell, Mario Hernandez, Robert Piecuch, Deborah Granillo, and Ron DiGrandi. The evening will include a red-carpet entrance, entertainment, cocktails, silent and live auctions, and delicious food. The Inland Empire Ronald McDonald House is grateful to the Host Sponsor, Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage, the Presenting Sponsor, H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation, and the Diamond Sponsor, 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians along with all those who will be in attendance that evening.
The Inland Empire Ronald McDonald House works to keep families close to their critically ill children, located steps from Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. The House allows families to access critical medical care while ensuring they have a warm nurturing, caring, environment and safe place to stay. The Inland Empire Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home for these families and serves 54 families nightly. Guests have access to a private guest room, private bathroom, and share common areas such as living room, kitchens, dining rooms, refrigeration, activity rooms, library, laundry room with five washers and dryers, business center, backyard play space, art center, a mother’s room for new moms who need to pump, and even a salon where outside stylists come do haircuts for the families.
“We actually have five kitchen stations set up where a family can go into one and prepare their breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If a family doesn’t have the means to grocery shop or haven’t had time to do so, we have a full bank of a two shelves-high pantry that they can go into and pull products out of to make a basic meal, including tuna, pasta, cereal, and baby food,” revealed Hooper.
Since opening on September 12, 1996, the House has served more than 27,000 family stay requests from Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Of all the families served from Riverside County, 50 percent are from the Coachella Valley. For more information, please visit http://rmhcsc.org/inlandempire.
“We just try to make it as pleasant as possible for the families. We have a family support services team. With every family that gets checked into the Ronald McDonald House, family support services help them with whatever resources they need or if they just need to talk. They also do therapy and fun clubs for kids. Whatever that core family support unit is, we are accommodating them at the house. We try to make it as comfortable as possible for the families going through such a trying time,” said Hooper.
As Executive Director, Hooper has full oversight on all the programs and services the Ronald McDonald House provides the families. She also writes the grants for fundraisers and works with management and leadership teams to make sure everything is safe and current for the families. Although she acts as the face of the organization, there is a tremendous staff working behind the scenes as well.
For more than 40 years, Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Southern California has been dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children and families across Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Southern California helps families with critically ill children stay together, connecting them with others facing similar challenges through its six Ronald McDonald Houses® in Bakersfield, Inland Empire, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Orange, Pasadena, and coming soon, the Westside of Los Angeles.
There are three Ronald McDonald Family Rooms® inside CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange, Mission Hospital, and Ventura County Medical Center. One of the few chapters to operate a cost-free, medically supervised Camp Ronald McDonald For Good Times®, RMHCSC helps children with cancer and their siblings rediscover childhood and develop the self-esteem and self-efficacy often lost as a result of the disease.
“The key thing to remember is that it takes a village to keep the doors open at this house. We are very fortunate. A lot of people think that McDonald’s pays for our overall operating costs, we still raise a majority of those funds here locally. When we do the A Few Good Men and Women Gala, all that money we raise that day go straight to support the house,” said Hooper.
More information about Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Southern California and its programs can be found at www.rmhcsc.org.