Photos By Hillary Ehlen
For many deciding to embrace their giving heart, answering the “why” and then the “how” are the first two steps. One must decide why they want to help a certain organization and then they must determine how they want to help. Husband and wife duo Nick and Shauna Wimer paved their own way to answer these questions when deciding to help Ronald Mcdonald House Charities of the Red River Valley.
The purpose of Ronald McDonald House Charities is to keep families together and provide them the comforts of home while their child receives medical treatments. In many cases, children needing serious medical attention must travel far from home to receive treatments. By providing families a comfortable and safe place to stay near the hospital (rather than a hotel), the road to recovery is a warmer and less-stressful experience.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley’s 17-bedroom facility served over 350 families in just 2019. Since this national organization’s Fargo chapter was founded in 1982, they have seen an increase in the medical services the community provides and therefore an increase in demand for their “home away from home.” Thanks to generous donors, in May 2018 they opened a new location east of Sanford Hospital with many more amenities, ample accessibility, and increased privacy and safety.
Integral in making this new Ronald Mcdonald House Fargo location a reality was the Wimer family. As for their “why,” there’s a personal connection they have to the organization. In 1994, the Wimer’s were introduced to the Ronald McDonald House when their niece was born and needed medical support. Their niece’s family lived in Dickinson but were able to utilize the Ronald McDonald House in Bismarck during her time in the hospital. The Wimers were comforted knowing that during this difficult time, their family would have a place to stay that felt like home.
While the Wimers appreciated the comfort that Ronald McDonald House supplied their family over two decades ago, it wasn’t until years later when they attended the Sweetheart Ball in Fargo that they decided they wanted to give back to the organization. The Sweetheart Ball is Ronald McDonald House’s annual fundraising evening, full of dancing, dining and donating. Here, they saw the other side of the organization and all that went into making the comforts they witnessed over 20 years ago available to recipients. Once the curtain was drawn, the knew they wanted to contribute to helping more families in need. “When we got invited to this, it was like, oh this is how it happens. This is what it costs to stay there. this is what they need. And that’s where we started to think that this is what we’d like to keep supporting,” said Nick.
As for their “how,” the first step the couple took in helping the Ronald McDonald House was by donating their time. Once a week, Shauna would stop by the Ronald McDonald House and cook a meal for the residents. Cooking meals at the house became a routine for the family, as Nick would take their son to swimming lessons at the nearby YMCA and would drop Shauna off at the Ronald McDonald House to cook. By the time the swimming lessons were done, Shauna would be picked up and the family would all go home together. After getting into this routine for some time, the family felt the call to continue to give to Ronald McDonald House. “I very clearly remember standing in that kitchen thinking, ‘this is what we are meant to be a part of,’” said Shauna.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley’s Executive Director Jill Christopher witnessed the work Shauna was doing and invited her to be part of their board, which then lead her to eventually becoming president of the board. “We kind of joked that we went from making tater tot hot dish to providing capital campaign money. Our journey changed quite a bit,” said Shauna. In expanding their commitment to the charity, the Wimers reimagined how they would contribute to the organization that grew to mean so much to them.
For a while, they quietly donated, not telling many friends or publically speaking about it. However, Christopher encouraged them to share their experiences and said why doing so would benefit the organization. “We were very comfortable being anonymous,” said Shauna. “But coming out helps invite other people to contribute…so it changed our thinking.”
Coming out of anonymity, the Wimers uncovered another “how” with different ways to fundraise and spread awareness. For their 25th wedding anniversary, they hosted a fundraiser party with the goal to raise $25,000 to go to Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley. The party was held at Oxbow Country Club and included performances by 32 Below, Roshambo and Plinko games, a signature cocktail and over 200 attendees. “It changed how we could provide in a whole different way, and all of these other people were excited and happy to contribute,” said Shauna.
Because of the fun and success of the Wimers celebration, other area couples have been inspired to throw similar fundraising parties. “It was a really good way to spread the message. It was a way to give us the opportunity to talk about the Ronald McDonald House in a very non-pushy way,” said Christopher.
The Wimers have showcased that donating doesn’t have to be just quietly signing a check…it can be fun and a celebration. “Everyone had fun, everyone enjoyed themselves. And we raised money!” said Nick.
Interested in finding your own way to help out?
Christopher encourages, “Come and see us! We’d be happy to give you a tour. Once you come and see what it’s like, it’s so much more than you imagine, especially in this new space.” Calling to schedule a tour or to inquire about volunteer or fundraising opportunities is a great first step in knowing how to best help the organization. Who knows? You might be the next one to throw your very own fundraising event to celebrate the joys of giving.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley
4757 Agassiz Crossing S,
Fargo, ND 58104