Sharon Reasonover first started volunteering at the age of 16. It was the summer before her junior year of high school, and she hadn’t really understood the meaning behind doing something for others until that day.
Sharon was accompanying a church group to the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Dallas, Texas. RMH is a “home-away-from-home” for families so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost.
Sharon recalls her first time walking into RMH — nervous and afraid of messing up or saying the wrong thing. After only 5 minutes, she began connecting with families. “That day, I played with kids, laughed with the adults, and heard countless stories — you name it!” says Sharon.
Now a 20-year-old student at the University of North Texas, Sharon has volunteered with RMH ever since. “I have met so many people there that have changed my life.”
When Volunteerism Meets Heroism
In January 2012, Sharon met her soon-to-be hero: Dan (actual name withheld to protect privacy). Dan was a car passenger, riding with a group of friends, when the driver thought it would be cool to show off and drive fast.
The car flipped, ejecting both the driver and one of the passengers from the vehicle. When Dan came to, he got out of the car and quickly began searching for others. One of the passengers was still caught in her seat. Without hesitation, Dan climbed back in to save her.
In doing so, he somehow managed to get himself stuck and caught fire. Although he was able to rescue himself, his skin was so badly burned he underwent multiple surgeries. Sharon helped care for Dan during his stay at RMH, helping him get better through stories, laughter, compassion, and companionship. Sharon still keeps in touch with Dan today and assures us he’s doing well.
“He added me on Facebook about a year ago, and thanked me for gifting him tickets to see the Dallas Mavericks play,” says Sharon.
Making Them Smile
Sharon likes that she gets to hear so many stories through volunteering — but more importantly, she likes the laughter and joy her volunteering brings to others.
“Nothing brightens my day more than to be able to make someone who’s going through something beyond my understanding smile,” says Sharon.
A smile that will always live in Sharon’s memory came from a girl named Caroline — a patient whose family stayed at RMH.
Caroline was diagnosed with bone cancer, and her treatment made eating very difficult for her. One day, Caroline’s mom struggled to get her to eat more of her dinner. To help, Sharon made an agreement with Caroline: If she ate 5 bites, Sharon would do whatever she wanted. Little did Sharon know that meant dance in front of everyone! Caroline’s grin grew — extending from ear-to-ear.
Even though Caroline has passed away, Sharon still checks in on Caroline’s mom every once in awhile. “She’s doing well, though it’s not easy for her without Caroline,” says Sharon. “She is very strong.”
A Newfound Sister
In February 2015, Sharon met someone she would eventually call her little sister: Abby (name withheld to protect privacy).
“Through the thick and thin, she always had a smile,” says Sharon. In May 2015, Sharon sat in a room at the Children’s Hospital in Dallas with Abby and her mom, where she heard a doctor say some of the best words ever: “You’re cancer free!”
Sharon keeps in touch with Abby and says she’s doing great. “She’s moving to Florida after graduating from high school this summer,” Sharon says.
Ever since Sharon first started volunteering at RMH, it’s given her a new outlook on life. She says she’s always been a “glass half-full” kind of girl, and volunteering has helped push her boundaries. “I feel like I’ve become more of a caring and selfless person since I started volunteering. I seek joy in the joy I provide to others and focus less on myself,” says Sharon.
“It has made me a bit more carefree too. When I started volunteering at RMH, I was in high school, so, of course, I thought I needed to please everyone and always do the ‘cool’ thing. After a few months of volunteering, RMH brought out a more authentic version of myself — exactly who I want to be in life.”
Sharon has one piece of advice for those who have never volunteered.
“DO IT! Just try it once, I promise, and I won’t even have to tell you to do it again. Volunteering is one of those things you can go into with super high expectations and your experience there will still surpass that.”
There are 356 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide. Find volunteer opportunities with RMH in your community on VolunteerMatch.