Sams Storyhow to helpendorsementshow we are doingsams blogcontactsams friendspressRonald McDonald House

Sam's Story

Sam's Race for a Place was created in the summer of 2008, when I was 14 years old. I grew up volunteering through my middle school (Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford, CT) and wanted to do more, on my own time. As a result, I started volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House® in Springfield, MA, doing arts and crafts projects with the children. Very shortly I realized that though the children love arts and crafts, the House really needed money in order to sustain all the families; so I decided to use my love of skiing and competitive ski racing to promote and raise money for the House. When I was a part of the Southern Vermont Racing series I would race in the colors of the Ronald McDonald House to raise awareness and money. I handed out fliers, sold sweatshirts and solicited money from complete strangers on the slopes.

In college at Harvard I was still very much involved with the Ronald McDonald House®, volunteering when I was home on the weekends and keeping in touch with the families and staff. I am so grateful for my brother and sister who were able to keep the fundraising alive throughout the Kingswood Oxford community and consistently go every weekend to visit the children.

After college I moved to Philly, which is by happenstance the home of the first Ronald McDonald House. I have since transferred my volunteering and fundraising efforts to the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. In addition to volunteering, I have used work as an outlet to fundraise and have become involved in corporate challenges to help the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House raise money for its new tower, which will house 88 bedrooms.

Please support Sam’s Race for a Place to benefit the Ronald McDonald House® in both Philly and Springfield and help give families a place to stay during a tough time. A one-day stay for a family costs $45 — and some families need to stay for weeks. So any amount you can give is appreciated and will make a big difference.

Thanks for your support. Let’s go win one for the kids!

Claudia’s Story

My involvement has meant building meaningful and lasting relationships with the kids at the House. Since 2008, when our initiative began, I have visited the House every weekend to check in with the patients, talk to them and their families, and engage them in various arts and crafts projects. Especially important to me are these special connections because they are based on a shared experience of physical impairment and emotional devastation. In seventh grade I was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a facial paralysis that lasted nine months. Despite the doctors telling me I would eventually enjoy a full recovery, my middle school mindset felt overwhelmed with doubt, fear, and insecurities as each classmate passed by with a mocking half-smile. During that time it was the support of family and friends, as well as many of the children at the House, that helped me feel connected and secure at a time when I felt scared and alone.

Dylan’s Story

Sometimes it’s better to give than to receive, and this is a lesson I’ve learned from serving as a volunteer, spokesman, and fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House®. Since 2008, my sisters and I have visited the Ronald McDonald House® in Springfield, MA, to give our time and love to the young patients there: we talk with them, share stories with them, do arts and crafts projects with them, and become friends with them. The patients at the House come from all over the world to get necessary surgeries and treatments at the local worldclass Bay State Hospital. My experience with the kids has been remarkable, and the more I give, the more I tend to receive. Over the years, I have formed meaningful relationships with numerous patients and family members, from Abrianny to Zoë, and continue to build bonds with new families who call the House their part time home.

While the time I spent at the House with the children and families is by far the most meaningful part of the whole experience for me, I also carry them with me when I’m away from the House, and I’m referring to more than the time when I asked them all to sign my snowboard so I could bring them to the slopes of VT and CO. Since 2007, I have competed in Alpine Snowboard racing, and in 2013, I officially turned Pro. Through both domestic and international competitions, I have raised awareness for the Ronald McDonald House by distributing brochures in the lodge and on the mountain. I also arranged for my gym to offer free protein smoothies for any athlete who donates to the House, and I set up stands and sell donuts with my friends to raise awareness and money for this very important and helpful cause. I am grateful for the gifts I have received in life, but I am just as grateful for the opportunity the Ronald McDonald House has given me to donate my time and energy through Sam’s Race for a Place!

A Message from Enix Zavala, Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House of Springfield, MA, Inc.

In 2008, Samantha Udolf walked into the Ronald McDonald House in Springfield, MA to volunteer her time to the kids who were recuperating there. These kids come from around the world to receive surgical treatments for orthopedic deformities and other conditions.

Since then, Sam, followed by sister Claudia and brother Dylan, have volunteered on a weekly basis – planning, organizing and conducting activities for the children.

That’s just the beginning of these sibling’s efforts for the children at the Ronald McDonald House. They have also created a website that is dedicated exclusively to raising money to buy supplies and food for the kids at the House. The site is and as of January 2014 they have raised over $60,000... and counting.

In the time that they have worked with the Ronald McDonald House, Sam, Claudia and Dylan have established themselves as spokespersons, hands-on volunteers, fundraisers and friends. They are a shining example of the difference young people can make when they set their minds to a goal and pursue it with all their heart and soul.

Photo Credit:
EB Taylor Photography
Portrait Photographer