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published on December 8, 2016 - 5:06 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
In the midst of medical struggles, all Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) volunteers want to do is make kids at Valley Children’s Hospital and their families smile.

 

Unable to serve every family that wants to stay at the house, the organization recently launched its Happy Wheels hospitality cart to show each and every child and family they care.

“Our house is at 100 percent occupancy, and every day we turn away more families than we are housing. Facing these statistics, we wanted to develop a program that would offer a helping hand to the people unable to stay at our house,” RMHC Executive Director Kent Karsevar said.

The cart, which launched Nov. 22, serves patients, siblings and parents with various snacks, beverages, hygiene items and toys. The objective of the cart is to provide a moment of relief and comfort to families at Valley Children’s while raising awareness about RMHC and its programs. The cart will visit patients and families Tuesdays and Thursdays and is entirely staffed by Valley Children’s and RMHC volunteers.

The idea for the hospitality cart came from RMHC board member Brad Kirk and his wife Shirley, who saw a similar cart at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

“We caught the vision, but the vision was entrenched on June 2 when we were in Stanford. We realized this wasn’t about nuts and bolts and wood and paper, it was about the people we stood next too — grateful parents of children in the halls of the hospital. As they came to the cart, it became very evident that they were most grateful for a slight diversion.”

To execute the project, Kirk enlisted the help of Steve Mueller, owner of Closet Creations in Clovis, who in turn involved his neighbor and competitor John Goss, owner of Storage Systems in Fresno.

“When I agreed to put this cart together, I immediately thought of John and I moseyed on over to see if he was interested in helping out,” Mueller said. “Together, we solicited several suppliers and were able to get 95 percent of the materials needed to build the cart donated. I traveled to Palo Alto to see the existing cart at the hospital there and I took measurements, and when I got back, John and I sat down and designed the cart. It probably took us four to five weeks to complete the cart.”

Having Goss’s help was essential to speeding up the cart-making process, Mueller said, as Goss had a complete cabinet shop where all the materials could be fabricated — or cut to size — in house, just by inputting the sizes into a computer.

Karsevar said this teamwork is inspiring.

“It’s a story in and of itself that these two gentlemen were neighbors, friendly competitors, and they came together to really build a cart and they did a lovely job on it,” Karsevar said.

Mueller said it wasn’t just the two of them. Several other local businesses got involved, including Diamond Hardwoods, which donated the lumber, Charles McMurray Co., which donated most of the hardware, and Excel Signs, which donated the graphics on the cart.

“The thing that was really awesome was when we went to suppliers, they didn’t even hesitate to make a donation,” Mueller said. “We didn’t have to ask a second person or company. People like to give back to the community.”

Building the cart, Mueller said, took at least three weeks of labor for the two of them, or between 80 and 120 hours, he estimated. Without the donation of their time and the materials, Mueller said the cart would have easily cost between $5,000 and $6,000 to make. Instead, the cart cost under $200 with the donations.

RMHC did receive a $5,000 grant from the Fresno State Humanics Program for the project. Funds not used to build the cart went toward supplying it with snacks and toys.

“They were able to use those funds to stock the cart, and when you think of the rate of use that cart is going to get, it isn’t that much,” Mueller said. “Thankfully, there are continuing donations for the cart. The community really supports it.”
RMHC and Valley Children’s encourage more businesses and individuals to get involved and make donations to stock the cart.

“Right now, we stocked the cart was with funds from the grant, but Dasani or Kraft or other businesses and individuals that want to donate food products or toys are welcome too,” said Marisa Wheelock, the director of development and communications at RMHC.

To donate, email RMHC at jonathan@rmhccv.org


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