For the last four years, I’ve been lucky enough to share my birthday with the families of the Ronald McDonald House. My birthday can be something of an extravagant occasion. I typically draw it out at least a week (sometimes starting the weekend before my birthday and ending the weekend after). I go for birthday dinners, lunches, brunches and shows. But my favourite birthday week celebration is getting a group of friends together and cooking a dinner for families at the House.

Meals That Mend Crew in 2014.

I’m not really sure how it started, but now I can’t imagine a birthday week without RMHCNA. I try to round up a group of friends who have never been to the Ronald McDonald House before, because part of cooking a Meals That Mend includes a tour of the House and that is such a special moment for my friends – learning just how much the House helps families and kids in need.

Dishes I’ve made for the families.

Another truly special moment is sitting down and eating the dinner we cooked with families. Usually after dinner, parents and kids alike will come into the kitchen to thank our group for that night’s meal – that’s another heartwarming moment. It’s also a bonus when families ask us for recipes for specific dishes we’ve made.

Celebrating my birthday with the 2017 Meals That Mend crew.

One of the best parts about cooking a dinner for families at the House is that generally, the group of people I round up are so moved and have such a good experience, that they end up rounding up their own friends and family to cook more Meals That Mend.

If you’ve never volunteered for the Meals That Mend program, I strongly recommend it. It is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done and a birthday tradition I hope to continue for the rest of my life.

Linda Hoang, Digital Strategist for Calder Bateman & Edmonton food/lifestyle/travel/pets blogger