By Judy O’Gorman Alvarez
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Ronald McDonald House of Long Branch and New Brunswick volunteers and supporters are planning a variety of events. On Saturday, April 28, the 25th Anniversary Ball–A Sterling Affair –will be held at the Battleground Country Club in Manalapan.
When Teri Zimmerman, a long-time supporter of the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) , agreed to chair the Anniversary Ball she knew just who to call. Friends and fellow RMH fans, Helaine Perlman, Eva Cavallo and Harriet Katz have spent tireless hours over the years planning and executing spectacular events to raise money for charitable causes, all while providing a great time to attendees and supporters.
Over the years, these women have volunteered their creative talents, business acumen and persuasive skills to coordinate and organize events for such charities as Monmouth University Scholarship Fund, Monmouth Park Race Track’s Kentucky Derby Fund, and others. Those events have helped raise many thousands of dollars to help people in need in our area. The women were thrilled and eager to help the Ronald McDonald House.
Through its two locations –Long Branch with eight rooms and New Brunswick with six—the Ronald McDonald House provides 100 families a year with a place to stay while their seriously ill children are being treated at nearby hospitals.
From home-cooked meals provided by volunteers to computer access to extensive play areas for siblings, families can find a “home away from home.” Whether they seek quiet solace or a chance to commiserate with one another, the RMH house offers comfort to these families, who come from as nearby as Toms River, NJ to as far away as Peru or Japan.
It costs $60 per night to house one family but guests are asked to contribute $10 per night, an amount that many cannot afford. No one is turned away based on finances.
As part of the Ronald McDonald House Charities, The RMH of Long Branch, adjacent to Monmouth Medical Center, was founded in 1987 and the New Brunswick House, adjacent to the Robert Wood Johnson University campus, in 2005. Hospital staff, board members, community members, local organizations and local McDonald’s restaurant franchise owners/operators banded together to build the facilities. Since then, the two houses have served more than 4,000 families. The houses are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Teri Zimmerman’s husband, Ross, has been on the RMH board for 23 years and the Zimmermans served as house parents on weekends when their son Evan, now 23, was in infant. “You could say Evan was the youngest volunteer,” says Zimmerman about her son, who went on to be a founding member of the RMH Junior Board, the first in the country.
Throughout the years, the Zimmermans have served on various committees and in different posts. “I love the idea of working for a local organization and this house directly benefits our community,” says Zimmerman. “I feel lucky for my family and I know how precious children can be. We do it for the kids.”
Eva Cavallo agrees that working with an organization like RMH gives you a unique perspective. “You focus on what’s important in life,” says Cavallo, who has run a domestic caregivers business for 28 years. “You appreciate what you have.”
After 40 years in the specialty food business, when Helaine Perlman retired she wasn’t sure what to do.. “I said ‘What now?’ I didn’t’ want to go out to lunch with the ladies every day. It was natural thing to volunteer,” says Perlman who credits her Jewish faith as one of the reasons she has always volunteered. “We’re here to give back in life.”
Harriet Katz first learned of the Ronald McDonald House in 1978 when she toured the first facility in New York City with a decorator. “I have a soft spot in my heart for this group,” she says. “There’s nothing worse than having a sick child and a facility like this offers so much: laundry, home cooked meals, activities. More importantly, they get to meet other people in the same situation. It’s a wonderful organization.”
The 25th Anniversary Ball promises to be a spectacular event with dining, dancing and opportunities to win an array of gifts. The black tie affair will feature entertainment by New Jersey’s own B Street Band. With three levels of prizes, guests have a great chance of going home a winner. The Silver Box Gift of Chance will feature prizes such as a blu ray disc player, a Kindle, wines and restaurant certificates and more. Prizes for the Silent Auction include a fur cape, fine jewelry, and hotel and admission to Dollywood amusement park in Pigeon Forge, TN.
The Live Auction, led by local celebrity auctioneer Peter Costanzo, will feature three fantastic prizes: a week’s vacation at St. George’s Club in Bermuda, with a round of golf; accommodations for Mont Tremblant Ski Resort in Quebec; and dinner for four with Shaquille O’Neal, former NBA star, TV analyst, rap artist and film star, at Buddakan, New York City, complete with limo transportation.
“This year we’re embracing a green initiative,” says Zimmerman. The ad committee has produced an e-journal,and attendees will get their own personal flash-drives to plug into their home computers to check for a winning notice. “You won’t know until you get home and review the journal to see if you’re a winner.”
On this special Silver Anniversary, the RMH will honor past chairs of the Board of Trustees: Arleen Mageary (posthumously), Joan Wills, Alexis Tucci, Christopher Labrecque, Mary Ann Martin, Angelo Massaro Jr., Nancy Mazza and Frank Fischer.
Although the Houses are licensed by Ronald McDonald House Charities, a local Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers run them. Loyal supporters make it all possible; 75 percent of the Houses’ revenue comes from donations and fundraisers. “Our 25th Anniversary Ball will celebrate this important benchmark in our history,” says Zimmerman. “Also, we’ll be able to raise the much-needed funds for our families through our silent and live auctions, sponsorship opportunities and ads. It promises to be a great evening.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Nanette Leonard at (732) 222-8755 or via email at Nanette@rmh-cnj.org.
For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Nanette Leonard at 732-222-8755 or Nanette@rmh-cnj.org.