Schaumburg man volunteers for 15 years at Ronald McDonald House
By his own admission, Bill Drennan of Schaumburg has changed thousands of light bulbs over the last 15 years. Not just at his home, but at the Ronald McDonald House located near Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.
Drennan has volunteered at the house nearly every Friday morning since he retired from teaching English and coaching cross-country and track at Maine South High School in Park Ridge.
His story of volunteering aired on an ABC 7 newscast last month during National Volunteer Week.
Drennan's commitment to the house goes back 20 years. In 1998, his granddaughter was born at 23.5 weeks gestation. She weighed just 1.6 pounds and required three months of care in the neonatal intensive care unit at Loyola.
To be close to their newborn, his daughter, Ann Harrison, and her husband, Ed, spent time at the Ronald McDonald House, located nearby and one of five Ronald McDonald Houses in the Chicago area.
"They would stay there on days when they knew the specialists would be seeing Sara during their morning rounds," Drennan says. "They never knew what time (the specialists would) come, but it was usually early in the morning, and it was hard to get there from their home in Crystal Lake."
Sara came home weighing just over 3 pounds and still relying on oxygen. She eventually caught up with her peers and now is completely healthy, having just finished her second year of college and still following her passion for horseback riding. She turns 20 next month.
Drennan began volunteering while still teaching at Maine South. He orchestrated pop tab drives and his wife, Kathy, held drives with the 1,000 students enrolled in religious education at Church of the Holy Spirit in Schaumburg, where she directed the program.
"I still collect them," Drennan says with a laugh. "Over the years, we've collected millions and millions of them. It's like turning over money to the house. They take them to a scavenger service, which pays them for the scrap metal."
When Drennan retired in 2003, he began driving to the house to volunteer. He worked with the house manager to do anything they needed done. Drennan recruited friends, including his Schaumburg neighbor Jim Korreck, as well as Ron Janiak of Hoffman Estates and Mike Dewbray of Darien, who reserve Friday mornings for volunteering.
Each week, they report to the "corporate nerve center" of the building, as they call it, or the basement, to do such mundane tasks as taking out the recycling, restocking pop machines on every floor, and helping with heavy lifting around the house.
Drennan also listens to the stories of other families, answers phones, conducts tours and occasionally has been asked to promote Ronald McDonald House Charities to churches and other groups.
"I love all of it," Drennan says. "Having seen what Ronald McDonald House did for my family and all the families that I meet, I'm still looking for ways to give back."
Holly Buckendahl, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, says volunteers like Drennan are part of the lifeblood of the organization.
"It is through the dedication of volunteers that we can offer families care, support and resources they rely on as they focus on the health of their child," Buckendahl says. "We are so grateful for volunteers like Bill Drennan, whose long-term service truly makes a difference in the lives of countless families."