Story and photos by Nancy Gould Hunter Public Affairs:
Airmen of the 117th Air Control Squadron at Hunter Army Airfield are learning the importance of giving back to a community that supports them. They demonstrated that on May 23 with a $1,500 check donation to The Ronald McDonald House in Savannah.
When Lt. Col. Ron Speir, the 117th Air Control Squadron detachment commander with the Georgia Air National Guard, arrived at The Ronald McDonald House with Master Sgt. Keith Edwards, a member of the squadron, to present the check, they were greeted with a warm reception, a house tour and a lot of gratitude for a monetary donation that will help pay the bill for 10 families who stay there while their children undergo care at Memorial Medical Center and Candler Hospital.
The donation came from the unit's May 13 golf tournament held at the Hunter Golf Course that yielded $3,000, according to Speir, who said that half of the money will be used to finance unit events, such as retirement ceremonies. Past fund-raising events have allowed the squadron to make donations to other Savannah charities such as the Inner City Night Shelter and Social Apostolate.
"We rotate donations among charities," Lt. Col. Speir said, "but we especially like charities that help kids and their families."
Lt. Col. Speir, the father of two girls, has lived in Richmond Hill and other areas around Savannah for most of his life and has a strong sense of responsibility and connection to his neighbors. "We enjoy helping those around us and by doing that, we teach our younger Airmen the importance of giving."
As a weekend guardsman and full-time Savannah-Chatham County police officer, Master Sgt. Keith Edwards sees the problems and needs of the community first hand. He knows that monetary donations and physical support play important roles in meeting needs and keeping his community healthy. As the unit's community project liaison, he will be back in touch with Kennette Yow, the full-time Ronald McDonald house parent and tour guide, to find additional ways to help.
The Ronald McDonald House in Savannah is part of The Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Coastal Empire, with a mission to create, find and support programs that directly enhance the health and well-being of children and families. The Ronald McDonald House, the cornerstone of that program, serves as a "home away from home" for families with critically ill or injured children, 21-months to 21-years old, who are receiving treatment at area hospitals. An additional service of the charities is The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program that provides underserved children in the area with free dental examinations and preventive treatment.
Families are asked to pay $10 per day/night for lodging, according to Yow; however, the actual cost is $65. Funds provided by the 117th ACS allow one family to stay for approximately 23 nights. During the day, family members get home-cooked meals, have access to laundry facilities and siblings of those hospitalized have access to a play room, toys and playground equipment.