For many, Ronald McDonald is mainly associated with Happy Meals and Big Macs. But for the Red Shoe Crew of Lexington and the patients at the Ronald McDonald House of the Bluegrass, he means so much more. He’s a symbol of hope.
The Red Shoe Crew, an 80-member student organization at the UK, volunteers for, fundraises for and supports the Ronald McDonald House of the Bluegrass. The goal of the Red Shoe Crew is to give UK students the power to interact in community service and philanthropic activities, increase their leadership potential, gain experience working with a non-profit and raise awareness for the Ronald McDonald House.
“The Red Shoe Crew simply provides a unique avenue for those who want to build relationships off campus in an effort towards helping a family in emotional crisis,” said Matt Custodero, a biology major and Vice President of Red Shoe Crew.
Members of the Red Shoe Crew lead fundraisers to support the non-profit and volunteer and work to build relationships with the staff and guests of the Ronald McDonald House. This involves working at game nights for kids at the Ronald McDonald House, decorating the house for the holidays or organizing fundraisers like bowl-a-thons, restaurant nights or art galleries that feature the actual artwork of the pediatric patients.
“From a social work perspective, the Red Shoe offers a unique opportunity to work with families who are at an emotional crossroads. From a medical perspective, the Red Shoe Crew allows for volunteers to gain access to families in a clinic-like setting, which is often new for our volunteers,” said Custodero.
Launched in August of 2015, Red Shoe Crew members logged nearly 500 volunteer hours and raised $5,000 within nine months. Since then the program has only grown. Red Shoe Crew created the “Lunches with Love” program where members make, ship and deliver shelf-stable meals to families in the NICU and PICU. Members seek to help the Ronald McDonald House in their endeavor to create a “home away from home” for seriously ill children. But the greatest accomplishment of the organization is their ability to form relationships with these families.
“My freshman year I was looking for an organization that I could pour my heart into and move up in and the Red Shoe Crew fit both of those roles,” said Megan Coffinbargar, a senior health, society, and populations major in her fourth year as a member and second year on the executive board of Red Shoe Crew as the Membership Coordinator.
“We get to see our impact first-hand by simply walking into the house and feeling the love and gratitude that the families have for what we do,” she said.
Those interested in joining can find the organization’s page on BBNvolved, email email@example.com, or find their social media at @rsclexington.