40 From Our 40: Lori Kleiman
Lori and her husband Dave were students in Muncie in the late 1970s. Lori was student teaching in the special-needs department. One of her students was sick and had to be hospitalized at Riley Hospital, (now Riley Children’s Health.) Lori witnessed firsthand the family’s struggle to be not only with their sick child in Indianapolis, but also with their other children in Muncie. Occasionally, Lori would babysit the children while the parents were at Riley. One day, Lori and Dave passed their local McDonald’s and noticed a large crowd. Wondering what was happening, they stopped and went inside. It was Sunday, August 2, 1981, the now legendary 25 Cent Hamburger Day.
The Kleimans learned of the special day and then more about a Ronald McDonald House being planned to be built near Riley Children’s Health. Because of Lori’s experience, the cause resonated with them both and when they moved to Indianapolis, they signed-up to become one of the volunteer couples who would stay the weekend as House Managers. In the mid-1980’s, House Managers volunteered from 5:30 PM Friday through Sunday evening
“People were Lori’s passion,” Dave shared.” She cared about everyone and everything. She had a special way of making everyone she encountered feel important. She was beautiful inside and out, empathetic, loving, and inclusive.”
Shortly after they began volunteering, Lori became pregnant. Sadly, a short time later she was diagnosed with leukemia. Dave remembers her sharing the news of her cancer diagnosis with him in the RMH parking lot. The next six months were a race; pregnancy vs. Leukemia. Lori carried her baby, Mandy, full term, then began chemotherapy a week after giving birth. Lori lived until Mandy was just under two years old.
Founder, Judy Monnier remembers Lori’s contributions. “When we first opened the House, we did not have rules and procedures in place. Lori helped us structure and craft them.” To broaden the awareness across the state, volunteers reached out to churches to ask them to include the Ronald McDonald House in their summer vacation Bible school. “Lori stepped up and wrote the curriculum which we then sent with the request. We had a great response. She was always positive and helped whenever she was needed and was a great volunteer.”
After Lori’s passing, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana established an award honoring Lori’s spirit, her love for everyone and her commitment to service. Annually, since 1990, special volunteers have been gifted the “Lori Kleiman Award,” the highest award for service in our organization.