A group of friends from Cambria County is making Christmas merrier for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh.
The six women recently delivered about $8,000 worth of toys, food, personal-hygiene products and other items for families staying at the charity’s complex, located next to Children’s Hospital.
Ronald McDonald House operates efficiency apartments that give families a safe, private and comfortable space to call “home” when their children are at Children’s Hospital.
Nearly a year ago, a grandchild of Roxanne Zdunczyk, a Salix resident, was a patient at the hospital.
The Ronald McDonald House supplied Zdunczyk and her family with everything they needed during their weeklong stay, she said.
“They treated you like you were family,” she said.
Zdunczyk said her grandchild is doing well now.
Wanting to repay Ronald McDonald House for their kindness, Zdunczyk, with the help of friends, conducted a project to benefit families staying at the complex.
“We sold chocolate-covered pretzels at $1 each,” she said. “I posted information about the pretzels on Facebook and asked people if they would sell pretzels. Within five minutes I had people calling.”
She said her husband, Ben, belongs to the Johnstown Street Survivors car club, which donated food, toys and other items. Neighbors dropped items off at her door, she said.
“I want to thank everyone for helping,” she said. “They did it to help my grandchild.”
Linda Smith of New Germany said it was important for them to conduct the project.
“It’s paying back Ronald McDonald House for how well they treated Roxanne and her family,” she said.
All the support they received from the community shows how much people in this area care about others, she said.
“It felt good to do this,” said Smith, who along with five others drove three sport utility vehicles filled to the brim with items to Ronald McDonald House on Nov. 8.
“Just seeing their faces when they saw our vehicles was well worth it,” she said. “We are going to do this again next year.”
Kim Gates of New Germany used the project to teach her students in the religious education program at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in New Germany and St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Summerhill the importance of helping others.
Gates, coordinator of both programs, said her Grade 1 pupils at both churches sold
50 chocolate-covered pretzels at each church between Masses.
“I just think that it was a great project for the class,” she said. “It was children helping children, and they can relate to that.”
Gates said the trip to Pittsburgh was amazing.
It was wonderful to see ill children moving about as though there was nothing wrong with them, she said.
“I was impressed with the compassion of the staff and volunteers at Ronald McDonald House,” she said.
For their efforts at spearheading the project, the three are the Persons of the Week.
The other women who helped with the project are Deb Rege, Diane Krempasky and Deb Shall.
Mindy Adleff, family services manager for the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh, said Zdunczyk’s group was wonderful.
“They came with three carloads of items,” she said.
Items that are donated by Zdunczyk’s group and others mean much to families staying at the complex.
“We have a Christmas party for the families and Santa and Mrs. Claus always come,” she said. “We have a dinner and then they pass out presents.”
To read stories in their entirety, visit one of these links: