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story.lead_photo.caption Tim McMennamy is the chairman for the 25th Annual Golf Scramble to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas. The event tees off Sept. 24 at Pleasant Valley Country Club. - Photo by Cary Jenkins

The second-largest annual fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House in Little Rock happens on a golf course, and this year is the event's silver anniversary.

The 25th Annual Golf Scramble tees off Sept. 24 at Pleasant Valley Country Club.

"It's a great tournament," says Tim McMennamy, chairman of this year's event. "Pleasant Valley is a great course and it's a fun event. It will be a good time for everyone who comes out to play."

The scramble, which features about 50 teams with four golfers each, raises around $150,000 for the nonprofit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas, and puts it right behind the annual Chocolate Fantasy Ball fundraiser in terms of money raised, McMennamy says.

Also associated with the scramble is the Totally Tailgate VIP Party at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Next Level Events, 1400 W. Markham in Little Rock. The party will feature NFL games streaming on large screens, a silent auction, a raffle, complimentary wine and beer, a cash bar and other goodies.

Golfers registered for the scramble will receive two tickets to the party, otherwise admission is $50.

"We have some really good stuff in our silent auction," McMennamy says, including a suite for the Oct. 20 Arkansas Razorbacks homecoming football game and tickets to a Denver Broncos game, the latter courtesy of Broncos defensive lineman and Jacksonville native Clinton McDonald who often visits the residents at Ronald McDonald House in the offseason.

"He's about as nice a human being as you will ever meet," McMennamy says. "It's hard to believe his job is beating people up [in football games]."

McMennamy is speaking while giving a tour of the gleaming new Ronald McDonald House, the nonprofit charity that gives families a "home away from home" while their children are hospitalized or receiving treatment.

The 49-year-old McMennamy, president and chief operating officer of Innerplan Office Interiors, has been involved with Ronald McDonald House of Arkansas for about four years. That's when Innerplan began working with the charity on its new location at 1501 W. 10th St., catty-corner from Arkansas Children's Hospital.

"Initially it was a business relationship," he says. "But the more I spent time with the folks that worked here the more I realized the passion they had. It doesn't take long hanging around here to learn the stories of some of the people who have come through here and to see the impact that this house has on people's lives."

Monika Hemenway, development manager with Ronald McDonald House, calls McMennamy "an amazing, top-notch volunteer. His heart is in it, he's passionate and he dedicates his time and resources."

The Ronald McDonald House Charities started in 1974 in Philadelphia. Kim Hill, the 3-year-old daughter of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill, was being treated for leukemia. During the three years of Kim's treatment, Hill and his wife, Fran, spent hours camped out at hospitals on uncomfortable benches and in waiting rooms. They also saw other families in the same situation, with many having to travel far from home to receive care.

Fred Hill looked for help from his teammates and the Eagles organization to establish temporary housing for families of hospitalized children. McDonald's became involved and the first Ronald McDonald House was opened in 1974 near Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. There are now more than 360 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide.

In 1980, the first Ronald McDonald House opened in Little Rock, serving families with seriously ill children hospitalized at Arkansas Children's Hospital, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock.

The new 32,000-square-foot location, which opened almost two years ago but still has that new-building smell, has five floors, 32 rooms, a playground, a sprawling kitchen and dining area with granite countertops, a closet full of toys, a salon, and gently used clothes for women who didn't have time to pack before rushing to the hospital.

Think of it as a nice hotel, only friendlier, helping to alleviate some of the stress that comes when a child is ill.

"It provides a place for families when they are in a really bad situation," McMennamy says. "They've got sick kids, they're worried about housing, worried about feeding themselves, worried about their jobs and money because they're at the hospital for long periods. This house is here to take away some of that stress, give them a place to stay, feed them dinner every night."

McMennamy and Hemenway are in the kitchen, which has five refrigerators and a freezer. Some food is donated by Tyson and Hiland Dairy, but guests can stock up on their own groceries and snacks. They also get to enjoy dinner donated and cooked each night by "Supper Club" volunteers.

"The meals are set out at 6 p.m. and the families come eat," Hemenway says. "Not everyone gets here at the same time. If they are at the hospital and can't get back until after supper is put away, it's in the fridge whenever they need it."

Hemenway shows off the toy closet, filled with new board games, stuffed animals, dolls and other fun things to keep a child occupied. There's an indoor play area and a well-equipped playground outdoors.

"While kids are outside playing, families are in here giving each other support," Hemenway says. "We have watched families get to know each other and develop a strong bond and give each other support because they're talking to someone that knows what they're going through."

And then there's Mac, the easy going, ultra-friendly goldendoodle donated by Doodle Heaven Puppies of Little Rock. He's the house's official Director of Smiles, complete with his own "office." Mac isn't an official therapy dog, but loves to play fetch and is popular among the guests, Hemenway says.

Ronald McDonald Houses -- including the Little Rock location -- are run 100 percent on donations, which is why events like the golf scramble are important, McMennamy says.

"McDonald's is a great partner, but they aren't paying for everything. The money that comes to the house from McDonald's comes from owner-operators, small business people that are running the restaurants. They give some of their money and time to serve the house, but it is strictly a charity."

For information on Golf Scramble registration and the VIP Tailgate Party, visit rmhcarkansas.org/golf-scramble.html.

Photo by Cary Jenkins
Tim McMennamy, president and chief operating officer of Innerplan Office Interiors, has been involved with Ronald McDonald House of Arkansas for about four years. At first, his involvement was strictly business. But after spending time at the house, he decided to become a volunteer.

High Profile on 09/09/2018

Print Headline: Golf Scramble fundraisers keep happy meals coming

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