Every parent knows that little is more terrifying or stressful than having a seriously ill or injured child. For those families whose children need several weeks or months in getting specialized treatment, having access to a Ronald McDonald House is a huge comfort. These facilities give families a place to stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost.
Student members of DMU’s Pediatrics Club are working to make these stays a bit less worrisome by delivering groceries for families at the two Ronald McDonald Houses in Des Moines, one near Blank Children’s Hospital and the other at MercyOne Children’s Hospital.
“I like the mission of Ronald McDonald House and how what we do has such a direct impact. We’re sharing something that everyone needs every single day,” says Pediatrics Club member Ben Peters, D.O.’23, who has coordinated the effort among DMU students this year.
Last year, members of DMU’s American Medical Student Association (AMSA) chapter helped prepare meals for the families staying at Blank’s Ronald McDonald House. With the COVID-19 pandemic, students decided it was safer to deliver groceries. With the recent opening of the MercyOne Ronald McDonald House, they also knew there was a need. Every two weeks, Ben checks the houses’ Take Them a Meal website and talks with their executive directors to get a list of needed items. Students volunteer to purchase the groceries and deliver them – safely physically distanced and wearing face coverings – to the houses’ executive directors. Grocery shoppers are encouraged to choose healthy options such as fresh produce.
Ben, who also is president of DMU’s Medical Students for Latino Health, vice president of the Medical Humanities Society, co-leader of the DMU Choir and a teaching assistant in osteopathic manual medicine and bioethics, acknowledges the challenges of medical school during a pandemic. “But I think the adaptability of medical students is allowing us to get through,” he says. And it hasn’t diminished their drive to serve the community. Delivering groceries for Ronald McDonald House families is one representation of their ultimate goal.
“The core of our mission as future health professionals is helping others,” he says.