Building a Legacy

img_8042Kids are so important to me. Everything in my life has always been centered around kids: My family, my 2 sons and 7 grandchildren, my career as a kindergarten and 1st grade teacher and my free time as a volunteer with Lancaster Central School district. Retiring 5 years ago gave me the opportunity to pick the next chapter of my life and focus on what’s really important to me. Becoming a volunteer at the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House was an offshoot of everything I did in my life channeled to a different place.

For me it’s not about one person volunteering, it’s about all the people you can have join you. So with a few girlfriends, we became the “Glammas”, donating our time each month cooking meals for the families who stay at the Buffalo House (as part of their Cooks for Kids program). My significant other Pete, who was a regular Tuesday volunteer at the House, also joined us in the kitchen many times. The more time I spent at Ronald McDonald House, the more attached I became to the spirit of the House.

Life took a turn when Pete became critically ill. I accompanied Pete on his journey from hospital to hospital and stayed at his bedside throughout. As Pete’s condition worsened, I began making soft pillowcases for him to use at the hospital. I would say to him each night “No matter what happened today, when you put your head on this pillowcase, you are surrounded by love”.
Spending time at Pete’s bedside, I saw first-hand, what it was like for other patients to be alone. It made me want to do so much more. After Pete passed, I founded Pete’s Pillows Charity, which distributes hand-made children’s hats, bibs, blankets and pillowcases to the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House and Family Lounge. It started with a few volunteers and grows each day. It’s a legacy to Peter and our love of children and the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House.

Coming back to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House after Pete passed felt like coming back to a loving home. I continued as a Glamma and also took over Pete’s Tuesday volunteer spot at the House. The more time I spent at the house, I quickly came to realize that being at the Ronald McDonald House is like being at home. Everyone embraces everyone else. No matter your job and daily task everything is done with a sense love. That’s what generates everything that people do here.

I always leave here with a sense of peace. No matter what’s going on in my world, it puts things into perspective and gives you a reality check.

You feel the love in the house and each night when the children lay their head down to sleep, they are cradled and surrounded by love. Isn’t that all that really matters?

Karen Overhoff