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‘North Pole’ arrives at Ronald McDonald House

Every year, in the month or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a conference room at the Ronald McDonald House Charities ® of Michiana becomes a winter wonderland.

Hundreds of toys and other gifts fill up the space in Beacon Memorial Hospital’s Skyway building. Hundreds of stuffed animals, dozens of Lego sets, some American Girl dolls, model cars, blankets, books. To type it all out would take days.

“We just cancel all of our meetings toward the end of the year to make room,” joked Kierstin Miller, RMHC Michiana President and CEO, as she walked into the room.

As many as 150 families participate in the North Pole event just before Christmas every year.

“This is just one of the many ways we try to help our families feel a sense of normalcy when their life has been turned upside down,” Catey Traylor, RMHC Michiana Marketing and Special Events Manager, said.

While the Ronald McDonald House collects gifts for the event all year, about 75 percent arrive within the last month before Christmas. Sue Losievski, House Operations Assistant, sees most of the gifts as they are brought through the front door. She also greets many of the residents.

Even as she talked, gifts were coming into the office. A cart of remote control cars and boxes of Funko Pop toys were placed on the floor after the Ronald McDonald House team had sorted the hundreds of other toys into age groups.

In the days leading up to Christmas, parents staying in the Ronald McDonald House enter the room and choose the gifts their family might be interested in. The families are encouraged to pick toys for patients and their siblings.

From there, the gifts are wrapped by dozens of volunteers. Finally, the presents are delivered to the family.

This event, along with all other RMHC services, costs nothing for residents of the House. “For us to be able to bring Christmas to families when their whole world is the four walls of a hospital room, that’s huge,” Traylor said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Losievski and Traylor both expressed their appreciation for the Michiana community. “It’s everyone’s generosity that does this,” Losievski said.

The Ronald McDonald House of Michiana has hosted the North Pole event for eight years. The staff of the House say it’s one of their favorite events. “It’s kids,” Losievski said. “It’s kids we’re fighting for.”