Ronald McDonald House of Detroit holds successful grand opening gala

Detroit … Nearly 200 guests attended the Grand Opening Gala for the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit on May 30 at Max M. Fisher Music Center to celebrate the new House at 4707 St. Antoine, Suite 200, in Detroit’s Midtown. The event raised $37,000 for the House.

The theme, “A night on the town in Midtown” played well as guests, attired in long gowns and tuxedos, enjoyed cocktails and appetizers in the reception area of the Music Center. The character Ronald McDonald joined in the festivities, posing for photos and joking with guests. Dinner in the Music Box room of the Music Center featured lavish food stations and classical music by Sasha.

During the reception portion of the event, guests were able to board a shuttle that took them to the House, located about 1-1/2 mile away, for a tour. Guests said they were impressed by the size, the attractive furnishings and the elegance of the House, which opened to residents on April 1, 2015.

During the program, Jennifer Litomisky, executive director of the House, spoke about “The Heroes behind the House,” giving thanks for the work of Gary Granader, who oversaw construction. His father Harry built the first Ronald McDonald House of Detroit in 1979, next to Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Jackie Meara, regional director of Global Operations for Ronald McDonald House Charities, noted the importance of longtime support of McDonald’s owners and operators and La-Z-Boy, which furnishes all the new Houses in the U.S. and around the world.

Larry Gold, CEO of Children’s Hospital of Michigan, spoke about the partnership between the hospital and the House. He recalled that one parent said to him, “On the worst day of my life (when my child was in the hospital), the House was the best thing that happened to me.” Families who had stayed at the House spoke about their experience and told how much the kindness of the staff and comfortable House meant to them during a very trying time in their lives.

Donors who contributed $10,000 or more to the Hearts, Hands and Home Campaign were given engraved crystal hearts on stage, presented by Litomisky and Teresa Saputo, chair of the campaign.
“The gala was our way to thank donors for their gracious support and generous contributions over the years and especially during the renovation for the new House,” said Litomisky.

To date, the House has raised nearly $2 million for a $3 million campaign that runs through August 2016. Learn more at rmhc-detroit.org or by calling 313.745-5909.

Three board members of Ronald McDonald House of Detroit honored as AFP Distinguished Volunteers

Gary Granader, of Oakland Township, Teresa Saputo, of Oakland Township, and Deborah Virgiles, of Southfield, will be honored as Distinguished Volunteers by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Detroit Chapter on Nov. 12, 2014 at the National Philanthropy Day dinner at Cobo Center.
Distinguished Volunteers are the advocates, leaders and mentors whose passion for their respective causes inspires philanthropic action and community involvement in southeast Michigan. As owner-operators of many McDonald’s restaurants in southeastern Michigan, Granader, Saputo and Virgiles have a passion for helping the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit through volunteerism, fundraising and leadership.

Granader chairs the charity’s relocation committee, working with Executive Director Jennifer Litomisky, her staff and other board members to handle the myriad details involved with the move to the Hutzel Professional Building in Detroit in early 2015. The move will double the House’s size, enabling the non-profit to provide a home away from home for more families whose children are hospitalized at Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
Gary’s father Harry was a founding member of the House in 1979 and Gary has served as a board member since the early 1980s.

“My father and I always wanted to help children and their families who were in need because of their children’s serious illnesses,” said Granader, who owns several McDonald’s restaurants in Downriver communities.

Virgiles is president of the board at the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit and volunteers by making meals and organizing other volunteers. She is the owner-operator of two McDonald’s restaurants in Detroit.
“I serve on the board of the House because I have a passion for kids. One of my best friends had a son who was sick and was at Children’s Hospital. They stayed at the Ronald McDonald House and I went there to visit and saw all the wonderful things that they were doing for the parents.

“I joined the board and also go to the House often to volunteer – it is my way to give back to the community. I attend a majority of the charity events given for the House – I even held a radio-a-thon at one of my McDonald’s locations that raised $10,000 for the House.

Her daughter, Dominique, 27, is also a volunteer at the House and ready to take on a restaurant herself. Virgiles, who’s been with McDonald’s for 42 years, says, “Ketchup runs in my veins.” Maybe that’s why she also likes to cook for families at the House.
Saputo’s first involvement with the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit came in 1990 when she and her husband William, owners of 14 McDonald’s restaurants from Rochester to Royal Oak, sold shirts for the Woodward Dream Cruise outside their restaurant on the cruise route and donated proceeds to the House.
“We’re all about the Ronald McDonald House,” Saputo noted. “My kids have been involved since they were teens, washing windows and cleaning pantries.” Her son William and daughter Jessica, now in their 30s, also own McDonald’s restaurants.
“There are so many good charities out there. My husband and I focus mostly on the Ronald McDonald House because when you are with a good organization, why go anywhere else?” she said. Saputo often finds herself being a “volunteer on-call” for the House. She and Virgiles were co-chairs of the spring tea.
“Many who stay at the House didn’t expect to have a child or grandchild who needs long-term or intensive treatment but they sure are glad to have the services the House provides during their time of need,” Saputo said.