What started as a short weekend getaway to Austin turned into a much longer ordeal for a pair of brand new parents. Terri and Chris were visiting family when their four month old baby suddenly showed symptoms of bacterial meningitis. Because Terri has a medical background, she immediately recognized the symptoms and rushed Rebecca to the ER. Over the next 16 days, Terri and Chris were glued to their daughter's bedside. It was a situation that no parent could have ever foreseen.
This past weekend, we met Terri, Chris, and their (now) four year old daughter Rebecca, and they shared their story with us just before they spoke to a crowd of one thousand people. The family was at the 25th annual Bandana Ball to advocate on behalf of RMHC Central Texas. The non-profit based in Austin provided the couple with a place to stay and meals while their infant daughter recovered in the hospital. Terri said, "We were staying in the house, and we knew we could get back to her room in a matter of minutes, and those were the things that really seemed invaluable at the time. We couldn't imagine going through that time without having that resource available to us."
[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/89913144[/vimeo] Over the past few years, Mason Jar Films has had the honor to serve Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas by creating a short documentary of their largest fundraising event, the Bandana Ball. Much like the wonderful charity it supports, this philanthropic event is like no other --and it's something we look forward to each year. It's a cowboy casual soiree that takes place amongst the winding gardens and fields of the Wild Onion Ranch, and it serves as one of the largest sources of income for Central Texas' branch of RMHC.
As soon as guests arrive, they are greeted with wild prickly pear martinis, bbq-themed appetizers, an opportunity to take selfies with live longhorns, wine tosses, live folk music, photo booths, and a chance to bid on silent auction items just before dinner is served and the live auction begins. The incredible buffet of jambalaya, veggie enchiladas and Texas-style barbecue is prepared each year by Stephen Shallcross' catering company 2 Dine 4 Fine Catering. The live auction was lead this year by the ever-talented Gayle Stallings. Whoops and cheers can be heard for miles as donors jump to bid on items -- like behind-the-scenes tours at local movie studios, exotic trips and excursions.
These donations directly support tangible goals for supporting families at RMHC, like the cost for a family to spend a month in the house, to sponsor weekend visits for grandparents, and to provide meals for families who stay there. Ronald McDonald House Charities supports families with sick and injured children primarily by providing meals and lodging within a minute's walk of hospitals so that parents can focus on what matters most - helping their child to heal. RMHC Central Texas has many programs that are focused on improving the health of children and their families, but what they do through the house and family rooms is a physical representation of the core of their mission: to help children to heal. And honestly, that's what we love most about the Bandana Ball -- it's an opportunity for Texans to gather together and to generously say, "you never know what's going to happen in life, so when you're in our area of the world, we're going to help take care of you."
When we spoke with the co-chairs of the event, Sandeep and Debbie Kumar, the couple told us that they were first introduced to the Austin branch of RMHC through IBM's corporate volunteering. They love to cook, and decided that volunteering to cook meals at the house would also be a great way for their own family to bond together. They knew very little at the time how much they would be personally affected by the time they spent volunteering at the house. "They became like family to us," Sandeep and Debbie told us. "RMHC does so much for families. So much."
At the end of the live auction, Sandeep addressed the crowd to thank them before they took off for dancing with the Spazmatics and late-night desserts from Hey Cupcake. He announced that in the live auction alone, they had raised $200,000. He remarked that when he immigrated to America as a child, he never could have imagined that he would be standing where he was today--happily married with a family of his own, and interacting with such a happy, generous group of people.
Everyone we spoke to at RMHC Central Texas was very quick to tell us that volunteers are the life-blood of their organization, and that the Bandana Ball had the help of many wonderful sponsors and volunteers. Volunteers donating their time and talents are a vital part of accomplishing the mission of RMHC, just as donating funds are a valuable asset.
If you'd like to help RMHC Central Texas continue to support families as their children heal, please donate, volunteer, and share the story of RMHC with others.