Whenever I'm asked if I'd like to "round up" or donate a dollar to Ronald McDonald House, I always say yes.

I'll admit, I really didn't have a full understanding of what Ronald McDonald Houses were all about until my family and I stayed at one for over a week back in 2012.

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Photo via GoogleMaps
Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan. Photo via GoogleMaps

When my youngest son was born, we lived over an hour away from the nearest children's hospital. Complications at birth meant we would need to bring him into the world there, instead of at the hospital nearest our home.

All those plans we had made went out the window.

The bag we had packed for the trip to the hospital wasn't going to be nearly enough for 10 days away from home. Would we just have to sleep at the hospital the whole time? We certainly couldn't afford to stay in a hotel that long. Would it be better just to commute back and forth every day and try to sleep at home? It hurt our hearts to think we'd have to be away from our new little baby. And what were we going to do with our other kids?

The children's hospital staff told us about the Ronald McDonald House just down the street. The house had a vacant room in the event we'd like to stay there for the time being.

We decided that would be our best option in the moment, not quite yet realizing how much of a blessing the Ronald McDonald House would turn out to be.

Photo via GoogleMaps
Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan. Photo via GoogleMaps

For the next 10 days, our whole family was able to stay just down the street from the hospital where our newest member was being treated. We slept easier, knowing we could be right there with him quickly. We had a clean place to shower. Free meals were provided daily - sometimes donated by someone locally, sometimes cooked on-site by either the house's staff or even another family who was staying there. There were toys and games and other activities to keep our older children entertained. A quick camaraderie was built among all the parents who happened to be staying in the Ronald McDonald House at the time - having kids at the children's hospital just down the street connected us.

The Ronald McDonald House became our family's home away from home for that week and a half in 2012, and I vowed to give back whenever and however I could someday.

Ronald McDonald Houses around the country (including the Mid-Michigan one in Lansing) are not actually run by McDonald's. However, the fast food giant is a huge benefactor for the charity.

Late every winter, McDonald's restaurants around Lansing and around the nation sell mint-flavored "Shamrock Shakes", not only to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but to help raise money for their local Ronald McDonald House. If you buy a Shamrock Shake around the Lansing area, a quarter will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan, located right next to Sparrow Regional Children's Center.

Those quarters add up! Know that the Shamrock Shake you sipped at lunchtime is  helping a local family stay close to their little one in a very stressful time. The donated money helps pay for utilities, upkeep and more for your local Ronald McDonald House - and makes it free for the vast majority of families.

Another large fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan is its "Run for the House". It's a combination in-person 5K, 10K, Kids' Mile, Kids' Sprint and Virtual Race. The in-person 2023 race is scheduled for Sunday, March 19, on the campus of MSU Federal Credit Union on Coolidge Road in East Lansing. Registration is available right up until race time here.

You can learn more about the Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan here.

Photo via GoogleMaps
Playground outside Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan. Photo via GoogleMaps

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