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Athletes Give Back at Ronald McDonald House

By Anna Palmer | Sept. 25, 2012, 12 p.m. (ET)

Ronald McDonald House 
 Lukas Verzbicas and Tyler Walker prepare a dish

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Earlier this month, a handful of Olympic Training Center resident athletes from various backgrounds took over the kitchen of the Ronald McDonald House and whipped up a home cooked dinner for families staying at the local community house.

OTC athletes are regularly involved in community charities throughout the year, and the Ronald McDonald House is no exception. The Ronald McDonald House is a home-away-from-home where families of seriously ill and/or critically injured children stay near the area hospitals where their child is receiving treatment, according to its website.

Paralympic skier Tyler Walker selected two of his favorite dishes to prepare: a variation of his famous chili, and an apple crisp. Wrestler Katherine Fulp-Allen chose to do a special jeweled rice recipe she picked up from a friend last Thanksgiving.

“I love cooking, so I am happy to get out of the OTC and help; normally we are sort of at the mercy of the cafeteria,” Fulp-Allen said when asked why she came to help.

Ronald McDonald House 
 Walker and Kathrine Fulp-Allen at the stove

At one point Walker, ‘the chili connoisseur’ as Fulp-Allen calls him, was sitting on the counter next to his pot of chili conducting the other athletes to help perfect his dish.

Wrestler Jessica Medina and triathlete Lukas Verzbicas bopped around the kitchen helping wash, chop and stir. There was a lot of joking around and playful comments among the athletes, but Verzbicas moved more carefully than normal and for a good reason too.

Verzbicas suffered extremely serious injuries from a bike crash while training in the Garden of the Gods at the end of July. He had crashed into a guard rail after hitting some wet sand in the midst of a 180 degree turn. Yet just days after being released from a nearly five week stay in the hospital he was out in the community and wanted to do something for others who are suffering.

 Ronald McDonald House
 Jessica Medina washes dishes at the Ronald McDonald House

“They told me I could have passed away, so I feel very lucky that I’m still here and that I’m recovering so fast,” the 19-year-old told The Denver Post.

It was an impressive feat to see the rehabilitating athlete up and about in the kitchen of the Ronald McDonald House just down the road from the OTC where he is still rehabbing.

On just his second day out, after 33 days in the hospital, Verbicas told TeamUSA.org why he wanted to come join the group cooking: “I had so much help from the people at the hospital and Olympic Training Center, I wanted to give back and help someone else.”

Normally the people who volunteer to prepare food for the Ronald McDonald House do not actually use the house kitchen, so it was especially nice for Debby Thomas the Resident Night Manager to have the sweet warm smells in the home.

“It’s rarer for people to actually prepare the meal in our house, and it’s absolutely fun having the athletes here, especially right after the Olympics,” Thomas shared.

Even though it was just a simple evening of preparing food together, the athletes made a difference in the lives of those families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.

Verzbicas accomplished what he set out to do fresh out of the hospital: He, along with Fulp-Allen, Medina and Walker, gave back and helped others.

 Ronald McDonald House