By Mike Pearson, News staff
Just like a championship hockey game, preparing a three-course meal for 70 demands teamwork, skill and execution.
On March 20, five members of the Stoney Creek Sabres Midget AA team swapped their hockey gear for aprons, knives and serving utensils while volunteering for the Meals That Heal program at Ronald McDonald House Hamilton.
The Sabres hosted a three-course Asian themed dinner, with egg rolls served with a julienne vegetable salad, a main course of chicken chow mein with ginger lime steamed vegetables and assorted desserts. Before each meal was served, the players greeted each of the diners, took drink orders and recorded their preferences on portion sizes.
Ronald McDonald House Hamilton is one of 14 sites across Canada that provides a home away from home for families of children facing serious medical treatment at nearby hospitals. The Hamilton location is just steps away from McMaster Children’s Hospital on Main Street West. Meals That Heal gives community volunteers a chance to help out in the kitchen while giving families of seriously ill children something to look forward to each day.
Sabres defender Amanda Butterfield learned a few tips during her time in the kitchen, such as placing a dish cloth underneath a cutting board to keep it stable.
“I just think it’s great to help out when a family is having a tough time,” said Butterfield.
Teammate Mallory Young appreciates how a hot, home-cooked meal can comfort a family during a stressful day at the hospital.
“I know a lot of people who have been in and out of hospitals and I like the idea,” said Young.
Shawn Rocchi, the home’s culinary program manager, said something as simple as a homemade bowl of chicken soup can help a family get through tough times.
“We always have things like that here,” he said.
The Meals that Heal program offers not only quality, chef-prepared food, but also a break from hospital waiting rooms.
“It gets them out of the hospital and over here eating good food,” said Rocchi.
To maximize its resources, Ronald McDonald House Hamilton relies on volunteers, including various community groups and a team of volunteer sous chefs who work on a rotational basis.
“Without the community helping us, we can’t do this,” said Rocchi.
Rocchi was impressed by the Sabres’ work in the kitchen, which included preparing and plating salads and desserts. Despite lacking any hands-on restaurant experience, the players worked together well, with limited supervision.
“They’re doing an amazing job,” said Rocchi.
Dinner is served nightly from 5-7 p.m. and Rocchi said there are typically about 70 diners per dinner service. A fully-stocked kitchen is also available for guests on a 24-7 basis.
Fergus, Ont. residents Cathy Churly and her daughter Danielle were among the guests on hand last Thursday. Churly’s 14-year-old daughter Nicole has been staying at McMaster Children’s Hospital since late-February after suffering a seizure and going into cardiac arrest. Since then, Nicole has regained consciousness. She’s recovered some of her mobility and although she knows she’ll be at the hospital for another month, her family is optimistic for her future.
Cathy has rave reviews for the Meals That Heal program, which gives her family the motivation to eat, even after a tough day at the hospital.
“That allows us to be stronger for our daughter,” Cathy said.
In 2012, Ronald McDonald House Hamilton expanded from its original 15 bedrooms to a 40-bedroom house at the same site. The Meals That Heal program is the first of its kind at the 333 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide. The program has been identified as a best practice in family-centred care.
The Stoney Creek Midget AA Sabres are preparing to host the 2014 Esso Cup from April 20-26 at Gateway Ice Centre. The Sabres receive an automatic entry as the host team and will play five other regional champions from across Canada for the National Midget Female Championship.