June Volunteer of the Month – Matt Clarage
Meet our volunteers! Each month, we highlight stand-out volunteers and how they support families. For June, meet Matt Clarage, who has prepared 18 meals for families since 2020.
- How long have you volunteered with RMHC-CNI?
I first joined the Ronald McDonald House Charities marathon team in 2015, so I’ve been involved with the organization for about seven years.
- Why did you first start volunteering with RMHC-CNI, and what keeps you coming back?
My volunteer story really goes back to 2011, which is when I started running the Chicago Marathon. A few years later, in 2014, the marathon began a lottery system process for runners due to the number of people who were signing up for the race. However, you could bypass the lottery by agreeing to join a charity team and do some fundraising for that organization.That first year I raised my money as required, but I simply didn’t feel connection to the team. This motivated me to look for a different charity’s team to join in 2015. When searching for a new team I was inspired by the Kiwanis motto of “Serving the Children of the World.” I have been a Kiwanis Club member since 2006, so this focus on supporting children and families had resonated with me for a number of years at that point.With that motto in mind, I found the Ronald McDonald House Charities marathon team, and the group’s comradery was great! Our team manager, Katie Marchetti, even arranged for us to participate in Meals from the Heart at one of the local Ronald McDonald Houses. During that volunteerism I got to see firsthand what the organization was all about, and I was hooked.
Since then, I’ve continued volunteering and participating with the marathon team. While raising funds for the race I often heard stories from coworkers and friends about how RMHC impacted their families. Even while out on my training runs, complete strangers would see my RMHC team shirt and stop to tell me how the charity had helped their families. So, while I started supporting the organization for purely selfish reasons – wanting to ensure I could get my Chicago Marathon bib – seeing how RMHC impacts so many people keeps me coming back year after year.
- How have you inspired others to volunteer and support RMHC-CNI?
It is one thing to donate money to the organization, but what was most meaningful for me was seeing the actual Ronald McDonald House and families. I was so inspired that I wanted to get even more people involved, so I started arranging for the Kiwanis Club of Orland Park to prepare dinner at the Ronald McDonald House near Advocate Children’s Hospital. After the first couple of meals our club wanted to help even more, so we started sponsoring monthly dinners. Now, our club purchases all the groceries and we source volunteers each month from Kiwanis, our families, friends and even the RMHC marathon team. Then, when they go to the House to cook and see the impact they’re having, they’re happy to volunteer again in the future.
- What is your favorite memory or experience from volunteering?
I am grateful for the new people that I have met and friendships I have made while volunteering with RMHC-CNI. I continue to be surprised by all the people that I meet that have been helped by the organization, and it just makes me happy to make my little corner of the world better by supporting RMHC-CNI.
Thank you Matt for your delicious contributions to helping families feel at home!