40 From Our 40: Beth Johnson

Beth Johnson smiling with Mac the therapy dog

Leader to Leader with Karin Ogden and Beth Johnson, First Executive Director of RMHCCIN

You served the House as the very first Executive Director. What is an accomplishment that you are most proud of during your years of leadership?

“I started with the Ronald McDonald House in August of 1990, not long after the opening of the south wing expansion that more than doubled the size of the original House. Of note is that we were the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world at that point. By then the enthusiastic and dedicated board of directors had guided the organization from the idea stage through the start-up stage and into a very fast growth spurt. I am most proud to have been given the opportunity to help guide this important mission through that growth and into long-term maturity to assure organizational stability. This consisted of establishing processes and procedures for daily operations, financial processes including budgeting and fundraising, as well as the staffing and volunteer infrastructure necessary for a mature and stable organization. In addition, we were able to expand our mission through the establishment of the location inside of Riley Hospital. Since leaving, I am proud that the organization has continued the growth and renewal of its mission under new and fresh leadership.”

What was an experience at the House you will never forget?

“An experience I never got tired of was chatting with parents in the kitchen over a cup of coffee and learning their stories. How they thought their child was experiencing a serious bout of the flu that turned out to be cancer. How they took turns sleeping in their car at night to be close by, all the while hoping a room would open for them at the Ronald McDonald House. How they often had to endure the roller coaster ride of the ups and downs of their child’s illness. How happy they were on that day when they all finally got to go home. And, unfortunately how devastating it was when they went home to bury their child. The strength and resilience I witnessed on a day-to-day basis was life changing.”

What are you hopeful that the House accomplishes in the next 40 years?

“I hope we continue to find new ways to meet the needs of families of ill and injured children. The recent opening of the new Ronald McDonald Family Room in the Maternity Tower, the reconfiguration of the existing Ronald McDonald Family Room on the first floor of Riley and the addition of Meals that Heal are all wonderful additions. I grew up as a sibling of a seriously disabled brother, so the development of services geared toward the needs of patient siblings is something I would like to see. And of course, for as long as I have been involved, the demand for lodging at Ronald McDonald House has far surpassed capacity. I hope that one day soon we will be building a bigger and better House to serve the need. And when we do, I hope to be right there supporting the effort as a volunteer and donor.”

How would you finish this statement: When I think of the Ronald McDonald House…

“I think of the love, dedication, and support of the many volunteers, without whom it could not exist.”

Beth Johnson served as the Executive Director of RMHCCIN from 1990-2014, then as the Chief Operating Officer from 2014-2017.

By Karin Ogden

Heart & Hearth Summer 2022