The financial and emotional burdens placed on families whose children are sick is overwhelming. Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan, one of the 367 Ronald McDonald House programs located in 43 countries and regions throughout the world, seeks to alleviate some of the burdens on these families.
Opened in Lansing in June 2000, the eight-bedroom house serves as a home away from home for families with children receiving medical treatment in local hospitals and clinics. Families may stay at the house — at no cost — for as long as their child is receiving medical care, which may be as short as one night or longer than a year.
“We make every effort to provide a sense of calm during some of the most stressful times in parents’ lives,” says Eli Broad College of Business alumna Carolyn Hurst (BA Marketing ’09), who has worked for Ronald McDonald House since 2012.
Hurst began by coordinating fundraising events and supporting the executive director. She has continued to advance within the organization and has held essential roles including director of development and managing director. She currently serves as executive director for Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan and leads day-to-day operations for the organization, which includes identifying opportunities for service expansion, managing donor relationships and conducting market research.
One major role for Hurst is to ensure that Ronald McDonald House’s mission — to allow families staying at the home to focus on what’s most important to them — is carried out according to the company’s strategic plan, which is set by the board of directors.
“I manage operations to be effective, efficient and sustainable to ensure the services provided by the Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan will be available for families well into the future,” Hurst said.
Being an alumna of the Broad College has enabled Hurst to fulfill her roles at Ronald McDonald House as well as she has, she said.
“The Broad College of Business is known for its integrity and well-rounded programs. My experience going through the college has helped me understand just how well-rounded a business leader needs to be,” Hurst said. “While a great business leader may employ experts in each field, the leader still needs experience and a general understanding across the board in order to make sound decisions and recommendations for the organization to be well-run.”
Hurst’s job isn’t just a matter of managing the daily operations, either. Every day is something new for her.
“I love everything about my job equally — there’s so much variety,” she said. “I love that my office shares a wall with our playroom and our kitchen. I get to hear well siblings playing and families sharing meals every day. It’s a constant reminder of why I do what I do and why it’s so important. I love being able to witness the mission in motion, and it’s so rewarding to see that the resources we work to provide every day are making an impact on all of the people involved in caring for an ill child.”
Hurst derives the greatest sense of pride from her job in seeing how Ronald McDonald House has developed over the years to understand how to deliver its services to best aid clients and families.
“We have learned what each family needs, how to comfort them, how to communicate with them and how to apply compassion and stability during parents’ time of stress,” Hurst said. “We have learned to identify needs beyond the four walls of our Ronald McDonald House to mobilize our support to areas of greater distance within our region to aid in families’ access to specialized medical care that their child needs to thrive.”
For Broad College students seeking a career path similar to Hurst’s progression at Ronald McDonald House, her advice is to learn as much as you can while taking advantage of internships and networking.
“This really helped me to find out what I liked best (and what I didn’t like at all!), and it helped me to sort through all of my options. There is a connection between each place I have worked. Whether it’s people I’ve met or opportunities that have showcased my hard work, I’m grateful to those that have had a hand in helping me develop into the leader I am today,” Hurst said.