A year of caring for one another
Donor Ginger Hardage has joined forces with her advisor, Kalita Blessing, to champion an array of worthy causes – most notably Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Giving has always been an integral part of Ginger Hardage’s life, one deeply ingrained in her upbringing.
Growing up, she watched her parents contribute what they could to their community, whether serving as poll workers or lending a helping hand through their family-owned grocery store.
Ginger had the opportunity to build on her philanthropic values when she accepted the role of director of public relations at Southwest Airlines in 1990 – the same year she was introduced to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC®).
“Through Southwest Airlines, I was able to cook at a Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City and see how that organization allowed families to stay together and avoid financial strains when a child needed medical attention,” Ginger said. “It provided a home away from home and family-centered care. And I saw that coming to life in a joyful environment.”
Ginger was “hooked” from that first experience and began visiting Ronald McDonald House® programs across the country, immersing herself in the organization’s mission. By 2011, she was more than an avid supporter – she was on the global RMHC board – and in 2021 became the global chairman.
As chairman, Ginger works alongside the board and the staff. They are devoted to expanding the reach and cultivating the presence of RMHC wherever it’s most needed.
CHANGING THE WORLD ONE FAMILY AT A TIME
Founded in 1974, RMHC aims to create a world where all children have access to medical care and their families are supported and actively involved in that care. And while some might assume the charity is part of McDonald’s due to their shared name, RMHC is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. McDonald’s is its founding mission partner and largest corporate partner.
RMHC lives out its mission of helping children and their families through three core programs – Ronald McDonald House programs, Ronald McDonald Family Room® programs and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® programs – across 62 countries and regions.
“People are most familiar with our Ronald McDonald House programs,” Joanna Sabato, chief marketing and development officer at RMHC, told Raymond James Charitable.
RMHC has 375-plus House programs, all typically within walking distance from their designated hospitals.
“Think of these as homes away from home,” Joanna said. “They provide comfort, support and resources to the families we serve who have to travel far away from their homes for the medical care their children need.”
RMHC also has over 265 Family Room programs, providing families a place to sleep or decompress right in the hospital. These are often used by parents with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit who want to stay as close as possible to their newborns.
“Our third core program is our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs,” Joanna said. “There are about 45 of these traveling programs currently available across the globe that are bringing medical, dental and healthcare resources to underserved communities.”
A place of comfort in times of crisis
With a presence in over 62 countries and regions, RMHC is committed to finding, creating and supporting programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families. Here’s a look at the impact of that mission:
$443+ million saved by families in lodging and meal expenses each year
375+ Ronald McDonald House programs, which serve as homes for families who’ve had to travel for medical care
1.4 million annual overnight stays
265+ Ronald McDonald Family Room programs that keep families close to their sick children
530 leading children’s hospitals in 16 countries with RMHC program affiliations
45+ Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs that bring essential healthcare services to underserved communities
THE IMPACT OF RMHC GOES BEYOND ITS CORE PROGRAMS
According to Joanna, many RMHC chapters have secondary and tertiary offerings as part of their core programs. Some have teachers or offer educational resources to ensure children who are hospitalized for an extended period of time and any siblings accompanying them do not fall behind in school.
When COVID-19 hit in 2020 and a number of these core and supplemental programs were forced to temporarily stop serving families in traditional ways, RMHC found new ways to help.
“We actually repurposed the Ronald McDonald House programs and some of our Family Room programs to provide respite to frontline workers,” Joanna said. “So when there was still so much unknown with the pandemic and trepidation about healthcare workers reentering their own homes, while we unfortunately had to pause serving families, we were able to take in some of those really incredible first responders.”
And despite having to pause services and cancel an array of in-person fundraising events, RMHC was able to provide relief to two million children and their families across the globe in 2020 thanks to generous donors.
AN ALLY FOR THE GREATER GOOD
Even before Ginger joined the RMHC board, she and her husband, Kelly, were able to rely on the guidance of their advisor of 20 years, Kalita Blessing of Quest Capital Management, Inc., to breathe life into their philanthropic aspirations.
Like Ginger, Kalita – a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® and Certified Financial Planner™ professional, to name just a few of her credentials – grew up on the value of giving. Her father was one of the founding members of Shelter Ministries, an organization that oversees Austin Street, a shelter for the homeless in Dallas, and Genesis, a shelter for victims of domestic violence – which Kalita still actively supports.
Kalita carried her sense of stewardship into her career, working with clients like Ginger, Kelly and their families to establish legacies rooted in generosity. To that end, donor advised funds (DAFs) have proven to be one of her most powerful tools – one she applies in both her professional and personal life.
“I love my donor advised fund,” said Kalita, which she uses to support organizations like the Dallas Women’s Foundation and Jubilee Park, a community center she helped found to support underserved individuals. She appreciates how her DAF tracks her impact and streamlines her contributions by offering a consolidated view of her giving history through the years.
“It’s a brilliant organization tool; it’s very low cost” and it allows clients to easily make gifts online, Kalita added. She also mentioned that, unlike a private foundation, there’s no requirement for individuals to make a minimum annual distribution of 5%.
According to Kalita, DAFs are also noteworthy generational planning tools that allow clients to pass charitable values on to their children and grandchildren, or even commemorate a late philanthropic loved one.
Keen on taking the same guidance they offer clients, Kalita’s team has a DAF of their own.
“We have a Quest endowment fund where we’ve put in a percentage of our profits at Quest over the years,” Kalita said. Along with funding scholarships, Quest uses their DAF to match employees’ gifts up to a certain amount for any organization they choose.
After years of encouraging Ginger’s philanthropy, Kalita helped her family open a DAF in recent years, allowing Ginger to amplify her giving and refine her approach, which is based on three pillars: supporting at least one professional organization, one hyperlocal cause and one global initiative.
It’s in that spirit that Ginger contributes to The Page Society, focused on communications professionals; the Trinity Park Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to the stewardship of the Trinity River in Dallas and its surrounding space; and, last but not least, the globally influential RMHC.
GIVING TOWARD TOMORROW
Driven by its mission to support families with ill and injured children by ensuring access to the care they need with comfort and kindness to all, RMHC is focused on deepening the impact of its existing core programs around the world. Ginger says the organization is also seeking innovative ways to expand its fundraising capacity and further its commitment to environmental sustainability.
As RMHC strives to support the expanding needs of its global system, the nonprofit is ensuring its lifeblood – the volunteers and workers who make it all possible – aren’t left behind.
“RMHC will focus on people by providing growth opportunities, training, resources and tools to further build, expand and embrace the diversity of the organization’s people and programs,” Ginger explained.
There’s no doubt RMHC has plans for what’s to come. Plans that will be helped along by Ginger, Kalita and many, many more people like them, who are committed to caring and changing the world for the better – one family at a time.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™ and federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.