Cooper & An Idea to Change Lives

June 28th, 2023

Pat & Megan and their two children, Elise (7) and Milo (4) were all so excited when they found out their family would be growing. At an ultrasound mid-pregnancy, it was discovered that their baby boy had Coarctation of the Aorta and Borderline Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome meaning that the left side of their baby’s heart appeared smaller than normal. On June 17, 2022, their newest addition, Cooper, was born and one week later, he had open heart surgery at American Family Children’s Hospital.

Due to COVID protocols, no one in the family could meet baby Cooper, but thanks to the Ronald McDonald House, they were able to stay close. Pat and Megan’s parents brought Elise and Milo to Madison regularly. Megan reflected, “It was so incredibly hard being away from them for so long. We went from being together every day, to this huge life change.” It was difficult for Elise and Milo to comprehend just how sick Cooper was since they were so young and unable to meet their brother.

Cooper was in the ICU for 35 days where Megan rarely left his side and because of COVID protocols, Pat stayed at the Ronald McDonald House almost every night. Megan shared, “I can’t even imagine what it would have been like without the House or the financial burden for our family had we needed to stay in hotels for an extended time. We live too far away to be able to drive back and forth. We needed to be close to the hospital as our baby was fighting for his life. RMHC made it possible to keep us as close to all three of our children as we possibly could be.”

An Idea to Change Lives

Pat and Megan are both teachers in their hometown. One day this past schoolyear, Pat came home sharing that a student was at the Ronald McDonald House in Marshfield and the Director of Special Education and Student Services was looking for ideas on how the schools could help. Pat and Megan stepped up and organized a fundraiser called the Penny Party—stemming from Megan’s idea of a coin war. The couple made a short video that was sent out to teachers to share with their classes that included their own family story and of course, Cooper. The video explained that they are just one example of the many families RMHC helps.

The rules to the Penny Party were simple:

  • Each grade level had a jar in the office of the schools
  • Pennies & Dollars = Positive Points
  • Anything silver = Negative Points (students put these in other grade level’s jars, of course!)
  • The winning grade level received a popcorn and movie party at the local theater

The Penny Party grew in popularity (and competitiveness) and was an easy fundraiser where everyone could participate. Teachers brought in pennies to share with their students and the surrounding community was mailing in $5, $10, $20 , $50 and even $100 bills. After a single week’s time, the two elementary schools had raised nearly $6,700 which was then split between the RMHC in Marshfield and Madison.

The following week, the announcement was made of the winning grade level. Megan was trying to prep her kindergarteners that week because she knew they really wanted to win. When she returned to her classroom after announcements, a student said, “It’s okay that we didn’t win Mrs. Olson, because we helped A LOT of people.”

Pat, Megan and Cooper recently visited the House to pay it forward with a donation from the fundraiser. Megan shared, “The House was a place to rest and re-group during the most terrifying and challenging time of our lives. We can never thank you enough.”

We thank you, Olson Family and the participating elementary schools, for supporting our mission and showing us that a little change can make a big difference.

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