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Gala chairs reflect on importance of Ronald McDonald House

RANCHO SANTA FE — The Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego’s eighth annual ROMP Aloha gala at the Fairmont Del Mar was an outstanding success, and the honorary chairs and an executive committee member of the Sept. 30 event shared how important this nonprofit is in their lives.

The Ronald McDonald House is all about making certain that families remain intact when there is a medical crisis.   

There were three Rancho Santa Fe residents working behind the scenes for the 2017 ROMP Aloha: honorary chairs Susan and Scott Salka and executive committee member Jamie Straza.

The Salkas shared that they were thrilled to be this year’s honorary chairs. As gala attendees over the years, they have seen the enormous growth of this event and the organization on the whole. The couple said the ROMP gala is one of San Diego’s premier events.

AMN Healthcare was the ROMP Aloha title sponsor. Susan Salka is both the president and CEO of AMN Healthcare Services.

“My husband Scott and I, along with AMN Healthcare, have been avid supporters for the Ronald McDonald House for well over a decade,” she said. “The AMN Healthcare team has supported the Ronald McDonald House of San Diego, Dallas and other locations with numerous hours of volunteerism, including serving meals to families staying at the home. Both personally and professionally, we value the tremendous work that the team at the Ronald McDonald house does to support families in crisis. As an organization committed to helping health care facilities deliver an effective and compassionate patient experience, AMN understands the value of complete patient care, which includes attending to the family as well as the patient.”

Susan Salka added that investing time and resources to help lighten the burden of families is incredibly important. It helps encourage families to focus on the recovery of their child — a critical contribution people should make in their community, she said.

The couple also pointed out that so many have already faced health challenges in their lives be it parents, a spouse, family members, friends or even children.

“We can empathize with families facing difficult medical decisions and often lengthy recoveries,” Scott Salka said. “As parents ourselves, we wanted to do something to provide for families dealing with the emotional strain and financial burden of dealing with a child’s illness. We are very grateful to have an organization like the Ronald McDonald House to help us and others channel our desire to help into compassionate and effective work for the San Diego community.”

According to the Salkas, there are more than 14,000 family members each year who desperately need a “home away from home” while their children are receiving medical care in San Diego. The Ronald McDonald House is a place to find support and refuge, they said.

“While the house is located near Rady Children’s Hospital, it is open to families seeking medical treatment at any San Diego health care facility,” Susan Salka said.

Jamie Straza, a McDonald’s franchisee, called it an honor and a blast to be on the ROMP executive committee once again. She said she has enjoyed every minute working with a talented and hardworking group of people.

“Giving back to the community that I am fortunate enough to be a part of is something that is important to me. It really has been a great experience,” Straza said.

Straza shared that she has been involved with the Ronald McDonald House since she was in high school. She remembers hosting Christmas parties and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House.

“It has always been a charity that’s close to my heart,” she said. “The Ronald McDonald House keeps families together and provides a place for them to stay connected to one another in a time of need.”

Straza wants people to know that even though McDonald’s restaurants and its local franchisees fund approximately 10 percent of the annual operating costs for the San Diego Ronald McDonald House, help is still needed.

And this assistance can be ongoing.   

“The charity really relies on the generosity of individuals, community groups and corporate and foundation donors for the remaining 90 percent,” Straza said. “Events and fundraisers such as ROMP are critical in supporting the organization and the services it provides.”