Written by The Business Journal Staff
Pedro Santana, Executive Director
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the
Central Valley, Inc.
Education: B.S., business administration-marketing option, California State University Fresno. Minor option in advertising-mass communication journalism, certified special events planner.
Family: I have two beautiful daughters (Aubrey, 4 and Sophia, 2) with my better half Karina Torres.
What we do:
We provide “a home away from home” and resources to children and their families. Our House is built on the simple idea that nothing else should matter when a family is focused on the health of their child — not where they can afford to stay, where they will get their next meal or where they will lay their head at night to rest. At our House, families can enjoy home-cooked meals, private bedrooms, playrooms for children, and other non-clinical support services such as our Day Room. Many families travel far from home and spend several weeks or months to get treatment for their seriously ill or injured children — a long time to be away or to divide a family. And, for children facing a serious medical crisis, nothing seems scarier than not having mom and dad close by for love and support.
How did you get involved with Ronald McDonald House Charities, Pedro?
While attending Fresno State, I was fulfilling a service-learning requirement and was introduced to the Ronald McDonald House Charities where I began to volunteer as a front desk attendant. I interacted with many families whose child was being treated next door to Valley Children’s Hospital but one particular family from Biola is still in my heart. I often spoke with dad about their 3-year-old daughter who was then battling cancer. He had so much hope that his little girl would make it through, but later learned she had a few days to live. It was a very sad and emotional experience to see a parent lose a child. I knew then that I wanted to help make a difference in another family’s life even if it was as simple a gesture as cooking a meal. Everything the Ronald McDonald House Charities stood for was what I wanted to be a part of. I began my career with RMHC as the volunteer coordinator in 2003. I was then promoted to marketing manager in 2005 and shortly after became the development director for 5 years. Today, 12 years later, I am now the executive director of RMHC with the same passion of helping others as I did then as volunteer.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job, Pedro?
The most fulfilling part of my job is knowing our House provides hope and comfort to families during an important time of their life. Families are stronger when they are together, which helps in the healing process. By staying at the Ronald McDonald House, parents can communicate with their child’s medical team and keep up with treatment plans when needed. Families can also stay focus on the health of their child, rather than grocery shopping, cleaning, or cooking.
What’s the one thing people may not know about the Ronald McDonald House, Pedro?
One thing people may not know about the Ronald McDonald House is our organization is not state or federally funded; therefore, we rely on the total support of our local community and corporate partners. We serve nine counties in the Central Valley including Kern, Tulare, Merced, Kings, Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin. Our House is called a “Home” for nearly 800 families a year.
What’s in the future for the Ronald McDonald House, Pedro?
Ronald McDonald House is excited to begin the preliminary planning stages for a capital expansion in the near future. We were recently approved to expand to 85 rooms by our corporate office. We are closely working with Madera County and the Gunner Ranch West project for potentially building a new facility adjacent to Valley Children’s Hospital. More details to be announced.
How can the business community help the Ronald McDonald House, Pedro?
We have various opportunities in which your business can get involved, including sponsorships for our annual Sporting Clays Tournament Classic, Golf Tournament, and Red Heart Ball. We could also use an extra hand around the House with light housekeeping chores, minor office duties and or cooking a delicious meal for our families. We are currently seeking in-kind donations such as shower towels, toilet paper, and laundry detergent but welcome any support. The generosity of our community business and donors make it all possible to serve more families at different capacities.
What is the best advice you ever received, Pedro?
A long time mentor and family-friend, Jim Bass, presented me with a plaque for graduation that reads “The difference between a successful person and others is not lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in lack of will.”- Vincent Lombardi. This quote continues to inspire me today.
What are your roots in the Central Valley, Pedro?
I came from a farm-working family raised in Southeast Fresno. I attended Winchell Elementary, Sequoia Middle School and Roosevelt High. I’m very proud to be the first in my family to have graduated college. I remember my childhood memories walking to Hanoians Super Market (Butler & Cedar) to get my mother a gallon of milk. Both my parents still live by the Fresno Fairgrounds.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Pedro?
My first job was at McDonald’s (Blackstone & Abby) working as a crew member when I was 15 years old. I learned the values of customer service, communication, and hard work. Most importantly, I learned how to be responsible and perform in a fast pace environment. Since then, I’ve had the same passion of serving others as I did at McDonald’s.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Pedro?
I enjoy taking my daughters to the zoo to see the animals; like playing golf with my alumni friends, and bike riding at Woodward Park with the entire family.