feeding the soul

We shopped for the food. 5 Kg of ground turkey.

3000 grams of pasta.

300 ounces of Marinara sauce.

LOTS of fruit and veggies.

Too much oregano (I am SO not good at conversions).

And garlic, lots and lots of garlic.

We gathered at The House in the big red kitchen and unloaded all our bags.

And for a few minutes we looked at everything piled on the big centre island and then at each other and almost panicked!

Feeding 30 families for the Home for Dinner program at the Ronald McDonald House™ of Northern Alberta is no small task! And yet, this is what three of the businesses from the Local4Local4Local program did this past Tuesday.

We may not have seemed a likely team, but we all had our roles and we worked well together. Kristi Larson from Bellies Maternity was in charge of the fruits and veggie trays. Maurice Tellier from The Koch Ford Lincoln group was our 'muscle' and also our amazing onion chopper and meatball roller. And I was in charge of the general timing of all the ingredients and dishes and the sauce and yes, I was the bossy one.

We arrived at the house just before 3 PM. I had also managed to convince my nanny, the fabulous Maria Sellis from Cupcake Addiction, to come as well and that meant she had double duty keeping an eye on my kids and helping out in the kitchen. If I have not mentioned this before..SHE IS AMAZING!! (And NO, you can not have her!)

If you have never been to the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton (or your own city), then I encourage you to call and book a tour. They really are amazing establishments and provide what sick kids need the most - their families. The Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton is a leader in heart surgery for kids and three of the families we met Tuesday night had a child recovering from heart surgery or one who was waiting for their surgery date. Being able to stay in the house gives these families a home away from home, a chance to stay close to their kids and to keep their families together during these hard times.

As you walk through the huge common dining room, complete with a train-themed table for the kids and two big play areas, you hear conversations about g-tubes and pic lines. You see four-year olds, in cute red and purple slippers, walking around with their IV poles getting 'fed' through the aforementioned tube. You see whole families of siblings gathering around a table for a snack while Mom holds their 4 month old sleeping baby brother, the one who just had open-heart surgery.

I wanted to sit and talk to more of the families and hear their stories, but we had a job to do. We were there to feed these moms and dads and brothers and sisters. And so we worked. Kristi chopped and arranged. Maurice and Maria chopped and rolled. I stirred and mixed and cooked. And somehow, we managed to get into a good kitchen groove. We had the sauce simmering on one stove top, the pasta cooking on the other and rotating trays of turkey meatballs baking in both ovens.

And amidst all of this, my amazing children played. They played with each other and with the kids of the house. They played like there was nothing 'wrong' with anyone. Little C found himself an adorable little guy to play with and they were inseparable all night long. Princess L found a doll stroller and another little girl and they played house for a bit. She is still getting used to playing with other kids besides her brother and would come and hang out in the kitchen with us for a while and then head back to the play area for more fun with Little C and his buddy.

By 5:40 PM, our meal was almost ready. We made Spicy Turkey Meatballs in Marinara Sauce over linguine (thanks to Allium Foodworks for this yummy recipe), veggies with tzatziki dip and fruit and yogurt for dessert.  The front office made an All-Call to the residents of the house and they started to come down for dinner. One of my biggest fears going into this night was that we would not have enough food for everyone. We had PLENTY of food! The families that were home enjoyed the meal and thanked us for coming and cooking for them. Seeing everyone gathered at the tables in the common dining room and eating our dinner was great. Natural Urban Dad arrived about then and we all sat down and had dinner as a family with the house families. And when everyone was done we packed up all the leftovers and put them in the fridge for all the families that were still at the hospital to enjoy later when they made it back to the house.

The whole experience at the house was amazing for me, and I suspect for Kristi, Maurice and Maria as well. It may be just one meal, but it was one meal that these parents didn't have to worry about. One meal that nourished their bodies, so that they can keep going and stay strong for their babies. It was one night out of our lives to go and do good for others. One night to show my kids what it means to give freely of ourselves and to serve those in need.

I have to thank Kristi Hammond for creating the Local4Local4Local group and providing this opportunity for local businesses to come together to do such a good thing for the residents of our local Ronald McDonald House™. I also would like to give a shout out to our local food suppliers, Serben Free Range, The Italian Centre and Kuhlmann's Market Gardens.

I am looking forward to my next Home for Dinner night at the House and I encourage anyone interested to check out the program, grab a bunch of friends, your favourite recipe and head on over for a great night of cooking, camaraderie and good karma!



making a house a home for those who truly need it

A few weeks ago I got a tweet from a wonderful lady asking for 15 minutes of my time. Little did I know what those 15 minutes were about to turn into!!

I called her back and we chatted and she told me about her project, her vision, what she was trying to do and that of all people, I was one of the first ones she thought about for this project (I was very honored!)

I am of course talking about the wonderful Kristi Hammond and the amazing new project she has founded called Local4Local4Local in support of The Ronald McDonald House of Northern Alberta.

So what exactly IS this Local4Local4Local project all about?

From the website:

The Local4Local4Local concept was born very organically. The Ronald McDonald House ™ tweeted out in May that they hadn't anybody signed up for their 'Home for Dinner' Program for the month of June. Founder of Local4Local4Local, Kristi Hammond, received the tweet, researched the program, and saw a valid way to get involved.

The idea grew out of a desire to be involved more than just once or twice per year, while still being able to afford the costs of purchasing food in quantities to feed 50 people for dinner. She thought that if a group of businesses banded together to provide more frequent meals, the share of cost and time would be manageable.

From there, the concept grew to supporting local businesses by purchasing all food for the dinners (as much as possible from local vendors) in order to provide stability to our local economy.

The 'Home for Dinner' program is a wonderful program that the house offers its families. Many of whom spend more hours than most of us work per day at the hospital, in appointments and watching their children getting various treatments and procedures done. And often the last thing on their minds when they finally make it back to the house is cooking a meal. This is where the volunteers come in. Different groups come in throughout the month and will supply all the food and make a fabulous homecooked meal for the WHOLE HOUSE! And for some of the families the impact that this has is immense.

Last week our Local4Local4Local team of over 20 different Edmonton and area businesses got our first look at The Ronald McDonald House and all that it does for the families that stay there!  Trust me, this is no ordinary house by any means, and I highly recommend that you take some time out of your schedule to go for a tour and check it out.

The house itself is HUGE! It has 30 full suites that operate at about a 99% capacity all year round! So far this year they have had to turn away at least 50 families and set them up in hotels because there is just not enough room. And as the Edmonton hospitals continue to expand, becoming leading centres of excellence and attracting more amazing pediatric specialists, the needs for the house and it's services will too.

There are families that stay at the house for a few days, some a few weeks and some that are there for months at a time. It truly is a home for these families and one that tries very hard to maintain that sense of connection and homey-ness for everyone.

I was moved to tears that night on more than one occasion and for good reason.

There are two incredible rooms at the house that every kid gets to visit. The first is The Quilt Room. This room is wall to wall shelves of handmade and donated blankets and quilts that every child gets to visit when they first arrive at the house. They can choose any one they want, and it is theirs to keep, for comfort, for warmth, to remember or to forget and mainly just to cuddle up in. Every single one of these blankets is donated by local volunteers and quilting/sewing/knitting groups and it is amazing to see!

The other very special room is aptly named "The Magic Room"! And any room that looks like this when you first walk into it, just has to be magical....

Inside the Magic Room, through a special doorway is a room FULL of every kind of toy or game that a kid would want. 100% donated and 100% awesome! And every kid that has a successful surgery or course of treatment or is ending their stay at the house gets to go into the room and choose their very own special toy or game or trinket or whatever they want to celebrate this milestone! There are some pretty special stories that go along with this room, just ask any of the highly dedicated and amazing staff at the house and they will gladly share!

After our tour of the house we all had a chance to hang out and have a little mixer in the HUMOUNGOUS kitchen and dining area. Kristi asked us each to introduce ourselves, our businesses and why we decided to be a part of the Local4Local4Local project. We all come from diverse backgrounds and all had different reasons for being involved and it was so great to hear about who they all are and what being involved with this project means to them.

When it came to me, well, I could barely get 5 words out of my mouth before I started crying (this should not surprise some of you who know me). You see, I kind of know what it is like having a child in hospital. My oldest was a 3.5 pound preemie and spent just over 2 weeks in the Royal Alexandra Hospital NICU when he was born, and as his mommy, I spent just about the same amount of time there as well. I had family and friends nearby who fed us, who brought dinners to the hospital, who made sure that my husband and I had what we needed to keep ourselves going during this time. It was good to know that we had that support and that help was never far away. So for me, thinking of these families, and quite a few of them happen to be ones with NICU babies, and of them being far away from their circles of support and extended families for far more than a few weeks....well, it was just too much for my brain and my tear ducts to handle.

And THIS is also the very reason that I am involved with the Local4Local4Local project! No mother and no family should ever feel alone when their child is sick and if a home-cooked meal can help that feeling of helplessness even a little bit, then here I come, apron and oven mitts donned!

So hold on to your taste buds Ronald McDonald House families! I make a mean turkey meatball!! I am so looking forward to my Home for Dinner night with two of the other Local4Local4Local team members and then sitting down and enjoying dinner with the families and truly making this an experience that we will all remember and cherish!

Thank you once again to our fearless leader, the wonderful Kristi Hammond (@memoryandstory), and all the local Edmonton businesses, big and small, who are volunteering their time and efforts for this great project!

To find out more about Local4Local4Local please visit the new website, like the Facebook page and follow the twitter account. And to find out how you can get involved with the Ronald McDonald House here in Edmonton, please visit their website and follow them on Twitter too!


This post is part of the Summer Blog Challenge.

31 posts in 31 days.

Please take a moment and peruse the other participants entries as well!  Thank you!

Zita of Ignite Strategic Solutions Cliff of Peer Pressure Works Tammy of Tam I Am Peter of Crazy Wookie Cookies Shaun of Expedition of Truths Chad of The Daily Grind Vlad of Analog Coast Kim of Nature Baby Bloggings Liam of ln The Now Earl of My Name is Earl (J. Woods) Brad of Kick Me Out Soon