By Leslie Chandler
It was 2008 and I was stuck. I had recently been re-diagnosed with a nervous system disorder called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), which took away my livelihood, my independence and left me with a life full of chronic nerve pain. But it was during one of my “darker days” that I stumbled upon the Ronald McDonald House website, specifically their request for volunteer bakers. I didn’t know where my life was going and I didn’t know much about the House, but I did know one thing – I loved to bake!
Now, as I look back, I can say with certainty that the house and everyone within it didn’t just help give me perspective, it helped save my life. The house became a haven – it gave me a purpose that was bigger than me and I got to see what courage and compassion looked like and I wanted that to be a part of my new identity.
So I jumped into the kitchen and I baked. I baked for the lunch program and I baked family requests, the whole time picking up new tips and tricks from moms, dads, grandparents and fellow volunteer bakers. I’ll always remember the time I mentored a teen baker. We laughed as much as we baked and her final caramel cake creation was a joy, both to my mouth and my soul – she was amazing! Hands down, I’m a better baker and a better person because of the house.
Now I feel like Ronald McDonald House is my second kitchen. I’ve tried to figure out how best to make the kitchen as efficient and productive as possible. I have a strange enjoyment of organizing and I find the kitchen a worthy challenge.
Growing up I never crushed on New Kids on the Block, as I was in love with Richard Dean Anderson – better known and loved as MacGyver. In a weird way I see each family as being in their own TV episode, having to pull together whatever they can in order to fend off their own arch-enemy. So if I can be apart of a team that ensures the families have all the tools they need – be it a cookie or a Swiss Army knife – then I will bake and organize until every villain has been defeated. The House is to me is the best place to MacGyver up!