From our House to yours

Fifth annual Ronald McDonald House Doors of Compassion fundraiser

By Tara Pettit

Photo: Amy Saling [left] with Red Box Catering prepares salad at the 2014 Doors of Compassion event

It’s that time again in Dayton when doors open – doors to individual homes, to community fellowship and to local support of a larger mission focused on helping area families in need. The fifth annual Doors of Compassion fundraising event, sponsored by the Dayton Ronald McDonald House, is right around the corner and volunteers, business owners and community members alike are diligently preparing for one of Dayton’s most unique evenings of fundraising, community involvement and local collaboration.

For the past five years, an increasing number of Dayton community members have opened their doors for a greater cause. Literally.

The Doors of Compassion event, a major fundraising event for Dayton’s Ronald McDonald House, relies on the generosity and willingness of local residents to open their kitchens for local chefs to prepare a meal in, as well as welcome participating community members to partake in the meal.

This year, 27 households will participate, which is the most involved yet, event chair Amy Fish says. A lot is involved in coordinating the one-night Doors of Compassion event.

“It’s such a fun and unique event,” Fish says. “It’s just a really different kind of fundraiser.”

Fish began volunteering with the Ronald McDonald House at a young age. She recalls her mother working at a children’s hospital that partnered with the House in her area. She volunteered her time by reading stories to the children or helping to prepare meals. When approached many years later about volunteering with the Dayton House, she eagerly got involved.

“At the time my mother wanted us to understand the importance of volunteering for the House,” Fish remembers. “I wanted to get involved with it here in Dayton because I knew I understood the concept of the Ronald McDonald House.”

Fish is one among many in the Dayton community who understands the importance of supporting the local House, especially by getting involved with the Doors of Compassion event.

That’s why the event attracts dozens of volunteers – from regular chapter volunteers, to local businesses and restaurants, to community members willing to open their homes – and even more supporters from those purchasing tickets to participate in the fundraiser.

The event will draw support from 27 local chefs, one stationed at each home, who will prepare a unified menu of filet mignon, salmon, salad, bread and side dish of their choice in the home they are assigned to. This year’s event will feature chefs from top area restaurants including Citilites, Fleming’s, Franco’s, Lily’s Bistro, Olive, Dorothy Lane Market, Salar and others, each preparing meals for 10-12 people. Some locations will even feature private chefs.

“We will have three or four of these private chefs that work for families or do catering, which is exciting because they always bring a really different presentation,” Fish says. “They’re more used to working and cooking amongst people and not in their professional kitchens.”

But this isn’t a typical private event. Each of the diners is assigned to one of the participating homes. Bringing people of the area together who have never met is part of the nature of the event to encourage community friendships, partnerships and collaboration in the larger mission to support local charity.

“It’s a great way to get involved in Dayton and meet new people,” Fish says. “A lot of times the people attending this event are other involved people in the community. It’s a way of meeting those people and supporting this very important charity we have in town.”

The event is also a great networking opportunity, says Betsy Woods, marketing chair of Ronald McDonald House.

“It’s very exclusive and you feel very important,” Woods says. “The chefs talk about wine pairings, homeowners are opening their doors … it’s a night of celebration where you get to meet a lot of new people. It’s definitely a top-notch event.”

Woods also has a personal attachment to the Ronald McDonald House. She decided to volunteer with the Dayton chapter after experiencing her brother’s childhood battle with leukemia. Her family relied on a local House when they traveled for her brother’s treatments. She recalls how much the House helped her family through a difficult time, providing a place to stay, regular meals and gas cards to offset expensive medical bills.

“I was really familiar with the House and what it could do for families,” Woods says. “It was very important for our family because we all got to stick together when we didn’t have a lot of money. It’s important for families everywhere, especially in the Dayton area, to have an opportunity like that.”

Today, Woods volunteers with the Dayton house, contributing her marketing skills by promoting the organization’s events like Doors of Compassion. This year’s event is the first she will coordinate as well as attend, and she looks forward to watching the night unfold.

“I am so excited to go,” Woods says. “It’s such a big event and has such phenomenal support from the community. It’s amazing to see everyone come together and support the House.”

Woods is especially excited to see what happens as the planning unfolds for the event’s after-party. The location is kept secret until after dinner, adding an element of surprise to the night.

The after-party features live music, dancing, dessert, drinks and the always-popular silent auction. This year’s silent auction will incorporate a smart phone app that allows bidders to place their bid electronically, which will then be projected onto a big screen.

The evening concludes with the auctioning of the items and late-night finger foods. All proceeds from the event go directly to the Ronald McDonald House for upkeep and maintenance of the houses, provision of meals and gas cards for families, costs associated with providing free lodging to families and varying items of entertainment for families during their stay.

“We rely heavily on this event to raise as much money as possible in order to take care of the families who come to house as well as for upkeep of the house and to provide entertainment for the families,” Woods says.

The Doors of Compassion fundraising event will be held Saturday, April 18 at various residential locations. Tickets cost $135 each, or $230 per couple. For more information, please visit, or contact the event coordinator at

Reach DCP freelance writer Tara Pettit at

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Tara Pettit is a regional journalist and communications specialist with a focus on the arts, social/environmental justice issues, and community activism. She is passionate about cultivating intentional community and engaging in collaborative creative projects that make healthy community possible. Reach her at

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