Robby Griesmye, of Westminster, sits with his fiancee Kate Chucko at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore.
Robby Griesmye, of Westminster, sits with his fiancee Kate Chucko at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore.

In 2009, when Robby Griesmyer was first diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, he had to travel from his family home in Westminster to Sinai Hospital in Baltimore for treatment.

"Traffic-wise, it could take up to an hour," he said. "Then when you have to come home after just receiving chemo you'd have an hour car ride back home, and that is not a pleasant feeling to have to deal with."


When his cancer returned in 2014 and it became clear he would need a transplant from Johns Hopkins Hospital, Griesmyer, then 21, and his family began looking for some way to stay closer to the hospital.

"Once you have a transplant, you are so susceptible to anything bad happening at such a fast rate," he said. "They were able to have us stay at the Ronald McDonald House, which is just a couple of couple miles away. There you received free dinners, a room to stay in, I stayed with my parents and my fiancee."

The three months Griesmyer and his family spent at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore facility were crucial for his recovery and remission today.

""The Ronald McDonald House Charities Baltimore takes the worry out of day-to-day logistics so families can focus on their child's medical care," Stephani Renbaum, spokeswoman for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore. "From meals, activities and even transportation, the House take care of it all for those staying with them."

The Ronald McDonald House Charities Baltimore facility at 635 West Lexington St. houses up to 36 families for a donation of $15 per night, or whatever they can afford.

During his time there, Griesmyer said the community spirit with the other families was wonderful.

"You wouldn't even think the people there were there for a medical reason if you didn't know them," he said. "It almost felt like an oversize college dorm. You saw people every day and you would have meals with them."

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore are currently in the middle of a $28 million dollar capital campaign to open a new, 55-family capacity facility that will expand access to people like Griesmyer.

Now through Dec. 31, every time a person plays the Million Dollar Match Game online at www.rmhcbmillionmatch.com, the Kahlert Foundation will donate $1 and will also match other donations, up to $500,000, toward the campaign, according to Renbaum, spokeswoman for Ronald McDonald House Charities Baltimore. The game itself is free.

As of Dec. 17, the campaign had raised $21 million out of a total $28 million needed for the project, according to Renbaum, and $425,000 of the $500,000 pledged by the Kahlert Foundation for the Million Dollar Match Game.

Renbaum said the new facility will be able to serve an estimated 2,200 families annually, versus the approximately 1,450 families served by the current facility. Construction is expected to begin in early 2017 at 1 Aisquith St., in the Jonestown neighborhood, she said.

For Griesmyer, the value of the Ronald McDonald House is clear, and he hopes people will contribute to help them reach their fundraising goals.

"There are people all across the country who will come to Johns Hopkins for such extreme procedures and to not only have to worry about what procedures they are going to have, but then to try to find housing for either the child or the entire family —that's just such an added stress," he said.

At the Ronald McDonald House, however, "The whole family could stay there so it wasn't just an isolated hospital room; it felt like a home."


How to help

What: The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore Million Dollar Match Game

When: Now through Dec. 31

Where: Play online at www.rmhcbmillionmatch.com.

Cost: The game is free to play and each game played results in $1 being donated to help build a new Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore.

For more information on the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore, go to www.rmhcbaltimore.org.