Smokeball volunteers spent a recent evening at Streeterville’s Ronald McDonald House preparing home-cooked meals and providing company for families whose children are undergoing treatment at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Ronald McDonald Houses provide support in the form of lodging, meals, and other local resources for families while their child is being treated at a nearby hospital.

The November 12, 2018 visit was Smokeball’s second volunteer opportunity at the Ronald McDonald House, with nine Smokeballers preparing and serving vegetarian tortilla soup, chicken and cheese quesadillas with a topping bar, brownies with an icing decoration station, and Southwestern salad to Ronald McDonald House families.

Smokeball Trainer and Social Committee Member Jessica Robinson organized and joined both of Smokeball’s visits to Ronald McDonald House. The Social Committee planned the visit from the ground up. From recipe selection, to menu planning, to grocery shopping, Ronald McDonald House empowered Smokeball to own the planning process. All family members – from toddlers to picky teens – eat at mealtimes, so Smokeball volunteers had to carefully plan their menu for the evening. Jessica estimates that Smokeball prepared dinner for about 80 people – not counting Smokeball’s volunteers.

“It’s a lot of work to plan for and prepare that much food! But it’s a really fun volunteer event to cook with your coworkers and have fun at the end of the day,” Jessica said. Jessica also pointed out that the team’s menu selection was on-point: “For the brownie station we had an icing decoration station that the kids loved – it was precious. And the soup was a hit! Families kept coming back for seconds.”

After planning, preparing, and cooking dinner, the Smokeball volunteers sat down to share a meal with the families. The families get a chance of some “normalcy” during a life crisis, and get to sit down for a home-cooked meal and conversation with the volunteers. 

Onboarding Specialist Jonnell Simpson enjoyed greeting residents and getting to know the volunteer coordinator at the Ronald McDonald House. Jonnell also appreciated getting to know her Smokeball colleagues, “I loved getting to spend some time talking to co-workers who are newer to get to know them better.”

Sales Development Representative Erin Van Rensberg was happy to volunteer with her Smokeball colleagues and help her community, noting, “I loved the team building aspect where we all worked together to put together a meal for the families. I know all those families are going through a difficult time so it was heartwarming helping as much as we can.” Would Erin volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House again? “Honestly I would 100% love to do that again, it was an amazing experience!”