19 Apr Ronald McDonald Family Room Volunteer Spotlight: Chris Blower
Before my time as a volunteer, I was a school teacher for twenty-three years. I taught math and science in grades six through eight and taught gifted students in grades four through seven. While teaching, I also coached Math Counts, Science Olympia and Robotics. Coaching after school and on weekends and traveling to regional, state and national competitions with my middle school students was a rewarding (and tiring) adventure.
When I retired, I was ready to relax and enjoy sleeping in. That didn’t last long, as my daughter decided to go back to school and asked me to provide daycare for her three kids. Specifically, I rose early, tended grandchildren, and then crashed onto the sofa for a year. (Another adventure!)
I decided I needed to do something new and totally different. I was approached by a university asking if I would like to supervise student teachers. Thus began another teaching adventure. (So much for a relaxing retirement.)
A friend invited me to join a quilting club. I had never quilted before but decided to give it a shot. Soon I was bit by the quilting bug. I found my old, inexpensive sewing machine, which hadn’t seen the light of day for years, and dusted it off. My quilting supplies and area grew as fast as guppies multiply. I soon retired my old sewing machine and replaced it with two new ones. I joined our local Quilts of Valor unit, and I now make quilts for retired military men and women and enjoy their surprised faces when they are wrapped in their Quilts of Valor.
Still, I felt I needed something else. I was not used to having so much free time.
I fondly recalled a little four-year-old boy who used to visit my classroom during my prep period to play with my robotic equipment. His older sister was a member of the robotics team, and he was our honorary member. His mother was president of the PTO, and I assured her it was great to have him in my room while she went about her duties. One day I spotted him sleeping under the principal’s desk. It was so unlike him. Soon after, he was diagnosed with ALL (acute lymphatic leukemia). Our robotics team rallied around the family and dedicated our robotic name and research topic, fighting to beat ALL. For months, the young boy and his parents spent many days travelling to and from Salt Lake City for treatment. They often remarked how wonderful it was to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. That kindness shown to the four-year-old and his parents left a strong impression on me, and when I saw that a new Ronald McDonald Family Room was opening in Idaho Falls, I jumped at the chance to volunteer.
I love my time volunteering at the Ronald McDonald Family Room. I pick up meals made by a local retirement center; I pick up groceries from the Deseret Industries (a church charitable organization); I check-in parents, and I help prepare meals and organize and clean out cupboards. Before the COVID pandemic, I also delivered lunches from the Family Room to parents attending their children in the NICU, PEDS, and PICU units. (Since the pandemic, nurses from the hospital make those deliveries.) I also try to make sure that families always have a goodie bag.
I love meeting and visiting with the parents, and I want to share one incident with you. A few years ago, when the Kansas City Chiefs were hoping for a spot in the Super Bowl, I met a dad in the Family Room loudly cheering the Chiefs while watching a game on TV. I let him know that I was a die-hard Patriots fan (Go Pats!), and we exchanged some light banter about the relative merits of the Chiefs and the Pats. Still—trying to be a good host—I cheered along with him. Soon, both of us were wrapped up in the game and boisterously cheering for the Chiefs. Suddenly, we witnessed an unbelievable play by the Chiefs. He was so excited. He jumped off the couch, ran over and just hugged and patted my back saying over and over, “Unbelievable! Unbelievable!” Clearly, he felt “at home” in the Ronald McDonald Family Room, and that made me feel great. (By the Way, the Chiefs won and went on to win the Super Bowl that year.)