A Look Back

Categories: Volunteer Spotlight


Ronald McDonald House Charities of St. Louis has changed tremendously since the first House on West Pine opened in 1981, from expanding its services through two additional House locations to launching the Ronald McDonald Family Room program inside the walls of our three partner pediatric hospitals. However, we feel very fortunate for one particular constant through it all: the incredible support of RMHC volunteers like Peggy Connelly, Kathy Dolan and Neal Slaten.

Peggy, Kathy and Neal have dedicated their time and talents to RMHC for more than 25 years. This close-knit group began volunteering together in the early 1990s and were quickly dubbed part of the “Wednesday Crew” at our West Pine House.

The three were introduced to RMHC quite differently but were all drawn to the impact the organization has on families. Together, Peggy, Kathy and Neal have helped thousands of families of seriously ill children find comfort and care in our home-away-from-home.

“Over all the years, it’s the families you remember,” says Neal, reminiscing on special moments he encountered with RMHC guests. One fond memory Neal shared was meeting the first recipient of a double lung transplant from St. Louis Children’s Hospital and playing the Pong, 1980s classic video game, together in the game room during his recovery.

Kathy shared another memory of the emotion she felt when, upon returning from a trip, a 10-year-old girl with whom she’d grown close walked through the door to greet her. The last time Kathy had seen her, the girl was using a wheelchair. It was a moment of pure joy that Kathy will never forget.

The passion of these extraordinary volunteers is evident through their years of dedication and from their heartwarming stories of helping run the West Pine House.

“There were no night staff, so we took care of the House,” says Peggy. During the early years, volunteers served the families in many ways, often taking on roles that eventually grew to require the addition of more staff members as the organization expanded.

Other Wednesday West Pine House volunteers at the time included Neal’s wife, Maryann Slaten, as well as Marge Normile, Pat Britt and John Lyons. The Crew had a lot of responsibility but always had fun during their shifts.

“After years of being together, you become a family,” says Kathy about the entire Wednesday Crew. Their lasting friendship is evident as they recount heartfelt stories and memories, especially the bond between Neal and John Lyons, one of our organization’s founders.

After 25 years of making an unforgettable mark upon the history of RMHC St. Louis, Kathy and Neal recently “retired” from their volunteer positions. Today, you can find each of them spending time with their families and enjoying other community activities. Peggy is still involved and enjoys helping as much as she can.

We couldn’t be more grateful for the longstanding service of Kathy, Neal and Peggy, who have helped countless families through their generosity and dedication to our mission. We feel extremely fortunate to have them play such important roles in the RMHC St. Louis story.

As our organization continues to grow, we are excited to see what the future holds for a new generation of volunteers. If you are considering donating your time and talent to RMHC, we leave you with these words of encouragement from Kathy: “You get so much more than you give.”