Rachel Gattuso is the marketing and communications manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Nevada*, a local non-profit that houses families who have children receiving critical treatment at area hospitals, and a board member of the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She splits her time between marketing, public relations and development responsibilities at work and winning the war on laundry and general upkeep at home. She has no clue how people with children do it. Good on you, parents.
December. We’ve trotted past the turkey, let the cranberry sauce puddle, and have arrived at the Pinterest enthusiasts’ dream season: the holidays. The most ambitious of us will attempt to create homemade wrapping paper, coax mounds of cookies into existence from scratch and hoard ingredients in bulk for DIY Mason jar gifts that turn out far more complicated and expensive to assemble than the instructions implied. Light displays will checker neighborhoods, Christmas tree hunts will unite families and holiday enthusiasm will inevitably reach even the Grinchiest of Scrooges.
Myself, I’m taking a more subdued approach. This year I’ll use the remaining gift wrap I own, purchase treats at the store and forego mason jars altogether. I’m just not particularly interested in repeating history. Let me illustrate:
Light displays: Decades ago, when my family moved to California, my father put Christmas lights up the December after we arrived. He pulled them down in January. Two years later. It’s the last time I recall lights on our house.
The Christmas tree hunt: My older sister, then 15, once wandered off while the rest of our family hunted for a tree in the expanse of wilderness between Bridgeport, California, and Smith Valley, Nevada. “But I had my dog with me,” she told my red-faced, panicked parents when she casually trotted back to the pick-up an hour later, and seconds before my father drove off to alert authorities since cell phones were not an option then.
Holiday enthusiasm. Two days before my fourteenth Christmas and hopped-up-on-holiday-candy, I once initiated a friendly “you shall not pass” stand-off with my mother in the pathway next to the living room woodstove. When I realized I was losing ground, I clutched at the (in use) woodstove to strengthen my position. I opened presents that year with puffy white burn boils running the length of my palms.
I promise I’m not a scrooge. I’ve just been channeling holiday energy into work this year instead of the home front. For weeks the Reno Ronald McDonald House and its charitable event partners have been planning an annual holiday benefit for our organization: Breakfast with Santa. It has been a pleasant reminder that there are plenty of people who get the season right. For Tim Wuth, a frequent guest of the Reno Ronald McDonald House®, the holiday memories he will always treasure include reading to his children and taking his family’s annual portrait.
“One of my favorite memories is decorating the tree Thanksgiving weekend,” says Tim. “We’d get a nice family picture in front of the tree and basically watch the kids grow up each year.”
Tim is the father of Trevor Wuth, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2013. On top of the medical challenges, the family was faced with the question of where to stay during Trevor’s time at the hospital. Because they live in Fallon, they became guests of our House. Based on the 2013 Hotel Price Index, a report on travel habits compiled by Hotels.com, the average cost for a hotel stay in Reno is about $83. It sounds reasonable until you realize a month’s stay would cost nearly $2,500; higher than what many in our area pay for rent or mortgage.
“I can’t imagine not being able to be right there [for Trevor],” said Tim of his family’s time at the Reno House, mere steps from Renown Children’s Hospital. “I can run right back over even in the middle of the night. The fact that we’re all right there; together in his hospital room a lot. I would say that being close by has provided a lot of strength for him and his recovery and his ongoing treatment.”
I feel honored to work in a place that enables the Wuths to remain together during such financially and emotionally trying times. I’ve been thrilled to channel energy into Breakfast with Santa and I encourage you to join us Saturday, December 13, at The Grove. Let it be your chance to create new holiday memories.
Presented by Reno Media Group, Model Dairy, McDonald’s, and The Grove, Breakfast with Santa on December 13 at The Grove is an easy, affordable holiday activity. Kids can visit with Santa and Ronald McDonald, participate in coloring and pajama contestsand parents can revel in the knowledge that a) they don’t have to coordinate a fancy holiday outfit for their child, b) they don’t have to cook or clean, and c) the money spent will help keep families together during challenging times. Everyone gets to enjoy the delicious breakfast buffet, chocolate chip pancakes included!
I hope you’ll consider it as you’ll be supporting families like the Wuths. While Trevor is doing well and only needs occasional treatment these days, other families are not so lucky.
“I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to be there over a holiday,” says Tim. “My hope for families there is that they get to go home, that [their child has] a successful recovery.”
We hope so, too, Tim.
Wishing love and light (and an absence of second-degree burns)for you this holiday season,
*Opinions are solely those of Rachel Gattuso and do not necessarily reflect the company position of Ronald McDonald House Charities®.