A Grant for a Spa?

Jennifer Goodin

When you hear that The Women’s Fund granted money to send Jennifer Goodin, the Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) of Greater Cincinnati, to Lake Austin Spa, you may be perplexed. But this $6,800 grant had a profound impact on the Greater Cincinnati community and a lasting effect on the RMH. In 2008, Jennifer was facing many personal and professional changes. Her husband of 15 years was deployed to a U.S. military base making her a temporary single mother to her three and six-year- old daughters. In addition to the changes in her personal life, the Ronald McDonald House was also undergoing major changes. Construction was underway on a 30-room expansion which would triple its capacity and make it the third largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. Jennifer was overdue for a “renewal experience.”

Jennifer had a goal in mind as she traveled:  she intended to learn stress relief strategies to foster a house-wide tone of peace, relaxation, hope and calm for RMH parents in the midst of what are daily tragedies. She would take what she learned and assist both the staff and families at the Ronald McDonald House.

After a week of receiving the spa treatments Jennifer left feeling the best she had felt physically in a long time. Her first-hand experience and information-gathering had given her tools to help families feel the best they could feel during their time of crisis. During her week at Lake Austin, Jennifer talked with staff from the nutritionist to housekeepers, to the concierge, about changes the Ronald McDonald House could easily implement. In addition to meeting with staff members from Lake Spa she visited Ronald McDonald Houses in Austin and Houston, Texas to learn their best practices.

The first step upon her return was to completely revamp Ronald McDonald House’s menu. In the past volunteers were asked to bring “comfort food.” Jennifer now understood that comfort food was not helping and actually caused more health problems and stress because of weight gain and lack of food with nutritional value.

The health of the whole family is also reinforced by information provided at check-in called “six tips for taking care of yourself while your child is ill.” She also uses volunteers in a different way, recruiting massage therapists, yoga instructors and nutritionists to help families feel more relaxed and healthy.

Other changes at the RMH:

Develop service standards and hold staff and volunteers accountable
Concierge service with directions, places to visit and room information
Have a welcome letter in the room with a small present and tips for caring for the caregiver
Offer healthy snacks they can take to the hospital
In 2009 Jennifer presented her experience to 800 attendees from Ronald McDonald Houses around the world at the Ronald McDonald House Charities’ 2009 International Conference.

This grant is an example of the unique opportunities and change the Women’s Fund creates in the community. The combination of The Women’s Fund’s ability to create change and Jennifer’s unique ability to be a visionary leader this grant changed the lives of families dealing with a sick child, the Cincinnati region and the international work of the Ronald McDonald House.

May 2010