“We’re all in this together, and it shows when we stand hand in hand…” (High School Musical theme song)
On Saturday, April 2nd, I joined 16 other students (15 ladies and one gentleman, keeping the Corban ratio tradition) at the Ronald McDonald House to complete Sara Swenson’s last two CCS credits.
Sara came back to Corban this year after battling bone cancer. She was unable to return last semester because the cancer had returned and intensified. She has since been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Corban faculty came forward and awarded her degree in communications in what they called the “Sara-mony” held in Reno, NV, where Dr. Hoff conducted a graduation ceremony for Sara with her family.
Carrie Bernard organized a service day at the Ronald McDonald House to complete Sara’s final CCS credits. Students were given the opportunity to do something for Sara and in her honor.
The house provides a “home away from home” for families with children in the hospital who are not from the Portland area. In a time of fear and insecurity, the house offers comfort and stability for parents who may have to stay with their children for days, weeks, months, or even over a year.
Murals of Disney characters cover the walls, offering magic and whimsy to kids. A cabin-log living room offers warmth and comfort. Themes and details throughout the house remove families from the difficulty of their situation and place them in a fantastical environment.
We were sent throughout the house to do yard work, laundry, clean toys, and prepare rooms for families who would be staying there. The rooms were also decorated with specific themes. One of the rooms we cleaned was sponsored by the OSU Beavers, beavers and Beaver regalia welcoming fans. The other was barnyard themed, a cute little lamb peeking out of the barn-door painted closet doors.
But enough about the house. We were there for a purpose: to serve for Sara.
I remembered Sara from my freshman year. I remember thinking how beautiful and perfect her group of friends were: upperclassmen always seem so much together somehow. I remember her from choir; her smile and friendliness gave me courage during a group sing-along we had to perform in front of the class.
We had class together last semester, and I loved to see that same smile. She was always such an encouragement and so sweet.
When Carrie Bernard came up with this idea to work together to fulfill her CCS requirements for her graduation, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
It was surprising how many different people came, many who didn’t even know Sara at all. A reporter came and walked around video-taping our group. A mother who was staying in the house followed the reporter into one of the rooms myself and a group of students were preparing for the next guests.
I was cleaning the bathroom with Ellen Kersey, English professor, when they came through.
“Ew, Ellen! More hair!” I squealed in disgust.
The mother was having a conversation with Ellen, but turned to me to ask what was the matter. I explained to her how much I hated finding hair: in my food, on my brush, on the floor, stuck to my feet. I hate it.
“Well, be glad you don’t have to clean our room,” she told me. “My daughter is going through chemo so there is hair everywhere!”
She laughed, but I couldn’t. How could I have been so insensitive and ignorant?
When the video played on KATU news, I couldn’t believe the angle they had taken: we were the “Everyday Heroes,” working together to help our friend.
Carrie Bernard said in her interview: “I really would like the story more to be how Sara’s the hero because really, I mean, we just gave up a couple hours on our Saturday, but that’s nothing compared to what she’s been through . . . This is just a small way that we can give back to all the things she’s given us.”
It was such a blessing to be a part of this project. But it wasn’t about how cute the house was, it wasn’t about how much I hate hair, it wasn’t about what a great bunch of heroes we were – it was about Sara.
Here is the video that KATU made: