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Become a Guest Chef at the Ronald McDonald House

Kensley’s family was a guest at a Ronald McDonald House in Greater Cincinnati

Imagine caring for your seriously ill child. Then imagine caring for your seriously ill child when the hospital or clinic where they receive treatment is 30 miles away, sometimes more.

Despite the fact that I know several families who travel to the Bay Area so their child can receive necessary treatment, it’s hard for me to imagine exactly what these families face every day. The struggles, juggles, sacrifices, and obstacles must often feel insurmountable.

Comforts of Home
For those who travel to Reno for care, the Ronald McDonald House of Northern Nevada offers a glimmer of hope by making available comforts of home for families in need.

Since 1987, the organization has welcomed families of seriously ill children who live more than 30 miles from Reno, and are receiving treatment at a local hospital or clinic into their “home.” They give families a place to sleep, eat, and relax so they can stay close to their hospitalized child for little to no cost.

In January, I had an opportunity to visit the Ronald McDonald House and participate in one of their many programs – Guest Chef. Through the Guest Chef program, dedicated groups of volunteers provide home-cooked meals for families staying at the House. It was my first time at the House, and I had no idea what to expect. What I found was an incredibly comfortable atmosphere that truly felt like a “home-away-from-home.” My volunteer group was tasked with cooking a meal* for about 15 people in a well-equipped kitchen that was stocked with “staples” and snacks. Even with two extra-large refrigerators, sinks, stoves and many cabinets the kitchen still felt like one you’d find in your own home. The dining and living areas felt the same. It was relaxing…and impressive.

While there, we barbecued tri-tip, and served it with homemade dinner rolls, salad, green beans, and scalloped potatoes followed by lemon bars and blondies (my favorite!), and after a quick clean-up of the kitchen, were on our way.

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Mike Caltagirone coordinated seven volunteers (including me!) to cook for the House.

Beyond a Meal
It’s not just a meal that’s provided. The practical and emotional support the staff and volunteers give have a profound effect on these families. Rachel Gattuso, Marketing and Communications Manager at Ronald McDonald House, shared with me the following testimonial – a snippet of how cooking a simple meal is an act of kindness that goes far beyond the norm for the families eating them.

“One night at [Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati], I had a plate of lasagna. I cried when I sat down to eat it. It felt like Sunday dinner with my mom. It was comforting and felt good that someone cared enough to make me dinner. I can never say thank you enough. We came here broken. After being told nine times to say our good-byes to Kensley, it was so nice to walk into the House and have someone hug me and say it will all be alright. We’re so grateful to Ronald McDonald House not just for the services you provide, but for the love that is provided with them.” 

-Kim McCray, Kensley’s Mom

The overall impact that the House has on the Reno community is great and far-reaching…and the Guest Chef Program is just one of several programs available.

Ways to help
Whether it is helping in the office or the Ronald McDonald Family Room, cleaning around the Ronald McDonald House, or cooking for the families, the organization is always in need of more volunteers.

Did you know McDonald’s doesn’t underwrite the House? I sure didn’t! In fact, the Ronald McDonald House Northern Nevada is tasked with fundraising 92-98% of its funding each year (98!). Donations of any amount can go a long way. For more information on volunteering or to make a donation, visit Ronald McDonald House.



*Note: Guest Chef volunteers are responsible for purchasing food served for dinner.


Editor’s Note: Reno Moms Blog is proud to support the Ronald McDonald House of Northern Nevada as a community partner. 


About Jennifer Woodbury Duval

Jennifer Woodbury Duval
A right coaster now living on the left, Jennifer Duval is a mom to two rambunctious boys, and works full-time in the communications department at a Fortune 500 company. Fueled by logic, she is a no-nonsense type of gal who doesn’t buy into the latest trends, but does like to try new, trendy restaurants. An avid reader, she also loves coffee, chocolate, Zumba, and discovering new places.

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