07 Nov 9 Days to 30 Years: The Kozlovich Family Story
What began as a 9-day stay at the Cleveland Ronald McDonald House has turned into 30 years of involvement, and a family holiday tradition.
Read on to find out why.
To have a place to go, to get away from those beeps and alarms to recharge your body, your mind, that’s what the Ronald McDonald House means.
For more than thirty years, the Ronald McDonald House has been a part of the Kozlovich family story. Tia and Mickey Kozlovich learned about the Cleveland House in 1992, when their oldest son Cody was 11 months old and underwent open heart surgery.
Even living in Mentor, Ohio (just 30 minutes east of Cleveland), Tia and Mickey knew they needed to be closer to their newborn as he underwent heart treatment.
“There was no way we were leaving our newborn alone in the hospital, so we just assumed we’d sleep on a couch, or a chair, or not at all. The nurse came by and offered to see if the Ronald McDonald House had a room available,” shared Mickey.
Tia and Mickey took turns going between the House and Cody’s hospital room, just a block away. Being that close made all the difference–keeping the Kozlovich family together near the care their son needed.
You come back to the House and in the kitchen is another parent. You just share the moment. The quiet. The emotions. Being there to support and comfort each other—you realize you’re not alone in your grief and experience.
The comfort of the bed, the shower and the coffee were sustaining, but what was most fulfilling to Mickey and Tia were the conversations and comfort they received from other families. After long days in the hospital, “you come back to the House and in the kitchen is another parent. You just share the moment. The quiet. The emotions. Being there to support and comfort each other—you realize you’re not alone in your grief and experience.”
The Kozlovich family’s nine-day stay at the Ronald McDonald House was just the beginning of the story. “As we were leaving, we both knew that we’d be back as a family, to say thank you for all that the House did for us during our time there,” shared Tia.
Mickey and Tia decided to organize a Thanksgiving dinner the following year. “At that time, the House didn’t have a formal meal program like they do now. It was just a few frozen meals in a freezer that a family could microwave before heading back to their room. To come in, with a prepared turkey dinner and all of the fixings of a home cooked meal, it was a big deal!”
30 years later, the Kozlovich family Thanksgiving dinner tradition lives on. ”We start the Monday before Thanksgiving with the preparation. Tuesday night is the ‘stuffing party.’ We make 40 pounds of mashed potatoes – mashed by hand, still!”
The Kozlovich boys, Cody and Tommy don’t remember Thanksgiving any other way. “Our sons grew up in the House, running through the hallways with the children staying there.”
The kindness Mickey and Tia have shown has spread beyond their nuclear family. “Today, our extended family and friends come as well. It’s a tradition for us and we’ve watched as the younger generations in our family have continued to bring their families in to volunteer. At some point, we’ll know that it’s time to pass those reins on and we take such joy in knowing that it will continue.”
The Kozloviches don’t just come back for Thanksgiving. Mickey and Tia volunteer throughout the year, joining families for celebrations and camaraderie in the House. In the 1990s, Mickey joined the Facilities Committee, lending his business expertise to the construction of the new House. He was soon invited to join the Board of Trustees and ultimately served as Board President for three years. During that time, the Cleveland Ronald McDonald House opened its first Family Room at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.
When you walk through those doors, the House and the people inside it make you feel like somehow, it’s going to be okay.
Tia and Mickey reflect fondly on their 30 years of involvement with the Ronald McDonald House, “This House, it’s not just a building. It’s not just a meal or the activities, it’s not just any of those things. When you enter the Ronald McDonald House, the fears, the worries, the hurt, they don’t go away. But when you walk through those doors, the House and the people inside it make you feel like somehow, it’s going to be okay.”