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Ruxton woman helps sick kids create happy memories

Kim Meagher has always been generous with her time and volunteers with countless organizations, but as she began her work at Baltimore's Ronald McDonald House, she was struck by an Internet quote that spoke to the charity's mission.

"I came across this quote that a doctor said to a mom, he said, 'You can't mourn for a child that's very much still alive,'" said Meagher, of Ruxton. "That just kind of resonated with me, and I love to do event planning, so why not create these special memories for these families?"

Since then, Meagher, 47, has been responsible for many special memories for the families and children at the Ronald McDonald House, which houses families with seriously ill children during treatment.

Meagher was one of many volunteers who had a night off late last month at the annual volunteer appreciation dinner. At the June 20 dinner, patients performed songs and read poems to show their gratitude for the volunteers' efforts, Meagher said.

Meagher's contributions to the Ronald McDonald House began in 2005 when she read the Jodi Piccault novel "My Sister's Keeper."

"I need to work with kids with cancer," she thought at the time. "I was into scrapbooking and photography, and I said I'd love to do scrapbooking with them and tell their kids' stories, to have a way to keep track of what's going on in their journey."

Meagher and a friend, Nancy Ebel, began going every Sunday to help them scrapbook, and a year later, the pair co-chaired the charity's annual gala.

Since then, her myriad responsibilities have grown to include large events for the facility's family.

Last summer, she hosted a hoedown that featured miniature horses, a DJ, a cookout, and costumes for the patients and families. Meagher said she has also hosted and planned a luau for the families.

"When she does things, she goes all out," said Amber Rose, volunteer and community events manager for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore. "It is really amazing what she does, and she does these things frequently."

Rose was most impressed with a movie night featuring the film "Up" that Meagher and her family put on at the facility's playground.

"We have a playground with an all-white, brick wall, and she and her family made an actual movie screen of out PVC pipe and a screen, and got a project with red carpet running down the ramps," Rose said.

Meagher's five children — Tristan, 20, Tyler, 19, Allie, 17, and twins Kellen and Ammy, 11 have also joined her in volunteering their time at the house. Tristan began a project that gives each new family a handmade fleece blanket, and they've given out more than 3,000 so far.

"To be able to come back to the house and be greeted by a movie night or a hoedown … she's just doing fun extra things that are just a distraction and a respite from their day, really," Rose said.

Meagher said she volunteers with many organizations, including local churches and the world relief group Women Who Stand – Baltimore, a group with which she traveled to Cambodia last year.

But her work at the Ronald McDonald House has taken on special meaning, she said.

"You'd think it's a sad place, but it's a really happy place," Meagher said. "These are kids, they all have illnesses but they're still kids … They don't want to be treated like they're sick, they want someone to come down and play video games with them. I just wish everybody could experience that, experience the joy that's there and realize it's a happy place."

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