When I was given the opportunity to write a blog post for Local Laundry I wanted to write about something that had a connection with what Local Laundry promotes: community. Luckily, I had to look no further than the place I am privileged enough to work at Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Alberta (RMHCNA). This summer, I was hired as a nine week intern serving as a Youth Leadership Program Assistant at RMHCNA and already five weeks in, it has been the best work experience of my life.

Ben leading Play Time with two House Heroes

At RMHCNA, our goal is to keep families together by providing them with a place to stay while their child is in treatment. RMHCNA has served families from all across Canada, with stays ranging from two nights to over two years. Where my job primarily comes in is through the Family Life Program that RMHCNA runs. It is my job to assist in planning and engaging in activities for the kids staying at the House. From these kids, I have learned so much about what community really means. New families come to the House and have their children take part in our recreation activities. This means that kids are meeting new friends from all across the country every day. At first I thought would lead to shyness and awkward silence between the kids; however, from the day I first started to this very moment that I am writing this, these kids have continued to surprise me by acting as if they’d grown up together their entire lives. Looking back, I was naive to think this. RMHCNA is a house that runs on two things: kindness and love. And it is from the kindness and love that fills the House, that makes the families and specifically the kids, feel completely at home in the welcoming community that is RMHCNA. As a result, the kids are able to interact with each other so much easier and it really allows the recreational time at RMHCNA become therapeutic for them as it allows them to just be a kid among other kids despite what they and their families may be going through.

Ben with House Heroes, their caregivers, and another Youth Leadership Program Assistant

Additionally, from the kids interacting with one another, the parents begin to socialize among one another which results in families seeing other families in the House as neighbors within their community as opposed to strangers. It’s incredible to analyze what takes place in the House every day. Families from all different provinces who never knew one another, begin to have almost every meal with each other everyday and check in with one another just as a good friend would.

Ben volunteering at the 5th Annual RMHCNA Block Party

Overall, everyone at RMHCNA brings a bit of the community they are from into the House, which then becomes a part of the community that is at RMHCNA. With my last 4 weeks of my internship, I’ll come across new families from all different provinces and cultures and be able to witness the magic of RMHCNA, that is its ability to make everyone who stays there become immersed into the community that is created as a result of their presence; and I could not be more excited.

-Ben Forhan, Youth Leadership Program Assistant at RMHCNA. Blog re-posted from Local Laundry