‘Volunteer’ Only Begins to Describe this Local Woman

‘Volunteer’ Only Begins to Describe this Local Woman
RMH volunteer Jill Foley with her daughter Sarah and husband Mike at last year's Color Me Rad 5K.

Jill Foley began volunteering with the Ronald McDonald House 20 years ago and has grown in her work to serve in multiple capacities. Jill’s commitment earned her the title of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Madison’s Volunteer of the Year in 2012, and inspires her continued efforts to serve families who need help at all levels of this organization.

Madison Magazine: How did you begin volunteering for the Ronald McDonald House (RMH)?

Jill Foley: I had just moved to Madison and heard a RMH was being constructed.  I thought it would be a great way to become part of my new community. I have been volunteering with RMH Charities as an individual for 20 years! 

MM: That’s great! What are some of your roles as a volunteer?

JF: As a Volunteer at the RMH I help support the house that is a “home away from home” for families whose children are undergoing treatment at area hospitals. Myself, and other in-house volunteers, provide any assistance we can to families. This might include things like checking them into the house and getting them comfortable in their room or giving them a ride to the hospital. In-house volunteers also help out by answering phone calls, processing donations, tidying the house, making lunches for the Lunches with Love program, cleaning up after dinner and a variety of other little things that help the house run smoothly. 

MM: How does volunteering differ from your other roles at RMH?

JF: Well as the Volunteer Director, I help train new volunteers for the house and oriented the initial group of volunteers at St. Mary’s Family Room.  I will also help coordinate volunteers for special events. And as a Volunteer Fundraiser I’ve been on numerous committees including the Ronald McDonald House Golf Classic, Packer Tailgate Tour and headed the RMH Renovation Garage Sale. As a Board Member, I help make decisions that allow RMH Charities to be successful so that we may continue to help families for years to come. And as a donor, I make contributions to the annual “Light the House” campaign as well as other fundraisers.

MM: Wow, that’s a lot of work and involvement! With all of your contributions, which role do you enjoy most? 

JF: My favorite moments volunteering are hearing from the families. Often at fundraising events or volunteer appreciation nights, a family will speak and describe how much RMH has helped them through some difficult times. I always get emotional and am so proud that I have been a very small part of their journey. I also love whenever I can see Ronald interact with the children at the house. You can’t help but be happy, they adore him! But my favorite aspect of the organization is most definitely the people!  I really enjoy the other volunteers, staff and the families.

MM: It’s great to be involved in such a family-oriented organization. What has the Madison house worked on lately?

JF: Our RMH chapter recently opened the Family Room at St. Mary’s Hospital, which provides a place of respite for any family with a child in the Pediatric or Neonatal Units, no matter what distance they live from the hospital. This is the first Family Room in the state and volunteers help make it a comfortable, relaxing place for families to go when their child is in critical condition.

MM: That sounds like a great resource for families. What’s on the agenda for RMH in the upcoming months?

JF: We have a Color Me Rad 5K on August 31! I helped coordinate the many volunteers needed to run the Color Me Rad event last year and I also ran and had a blast! My favorite part of Color Me Rad is the party at the finish line where everyone comes together, dances and throws even more color packets. Our partnership with Color Me Rad is a really fun, family-friendly way to raise money and support.

MM: What would you tell someone who is considering becoming involved with the RMH?

JF: I would tell them that volunteering your time anywhere is so valuable. You get back so much more that you put in knowing you’ve helped someone in some way.  RMH Charities is an amazing charity that helps families all over the world. I would also encourage others to sign up for Color Me Rad!  It is so crazy fun!

Join Jill and register for the Color Me Rad 5K on August 31 at Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center. To learn more, volunteer or donate to the Ronald McDonald House Charities visit rmhcmadison.org.