Written by Dave Gil de Rubio Wednesday, 17 July 2013 00:00
When Plainview-Old Bethpage resident David Rosner was recently appointed the new director of development for the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island (RMH-LI), he came to the position with a unique perspective. He’d battled leukemia as a teenager and had dealt with two years of chemotherapy from the ages of 16 to 18 before his disease went into remission. It’s an experience that shaped his worldview and led to his now nearly two decade journey through the nonprofit fundraising world.
“My connection here [with this Ronald McDonald House] came about in a roundabout way in that I went to Schneiders Children’s Hospital, which is now Cohen’s. So I can certainly understand firsthand what the families are going through that stay here,” he explained. “We opened in 1986 and I got sick in 1988. My dad is dead so I don’t know why I didn’t stay here, but it was smaller. Back then, it was only 18 beds versus 42 now. So that’s what attracted me to this job—the mission.”
For more than 25 years, the purpose of RMH-LI and all of the almost 350 houses internationally, has been to be a home-away-from-home for more than 18,000 families in the United States and more than 80 countries around the world who are dealing with the pain of having a child undergo medical treatment at nearby hospitals. In this case, the hospital would be the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. But for all the good RMH-LI does, which includes raising roughly $2 million a year to keep the facility running, it’s a challenge to even get the non-profit’s Nassau County location on people’s radar.
“One of our biggest problems is awareness. There are people at the hospital that don’t know we’re here,” Rosner pointed out. “So letting people know that we are the only Ronald McDonald House on Long Island is huge. They only know about the one in the city. There are two in northern Jersey and one in Westchester, so those are the local ones. Our number one marketing issue is that we’re in their backyard and they don’t know it. It’s even more important since we’re opening up a family room in Stony Brook on August 1 that’s going to be about 800 square feet. Ideally in three to five years we hope to have a house if we can raise the money.”
With extensive stints working at other non-profits including the Mid-Island Y JCC, Gurwin Jewish Geriatric Foundation and UJA-Federation of N.Y., the Hofstra University alum is well prepared for his current duties. They include overseeing his current agency’s fund raising, marketing and public relations. In addition, he leads the major gift, endowment, capital and planned giving activities of the House. It’s all pretty mind-boggling when Rosner lays it all out.
“We run a number of different fundraising events. We have special events, a golf outing, a Lights of Love Gala inside of the house that’s got a kind of Christmas theme,” he ticked off. “We have a Mets room here. They give us a total of five suites and 150 tickets and we charge $150 to go into the suites. Then we have this sort of crazy Extreme Makeover.
Bethpage-based Kravet Inc., one of the biggest fabric companies in the world, got together with Tony Baratta, the original architect who did this building. They started a competition where we got 26 of the best interior designers in the industry to come, pick a room out of the 18 original bedrooms and redesign it. They’d donate their time and get their vendors to pay for the materials. That project not only gives residents neat new rooms but it’s also a great fundraising opportunity.”
When you hear the zeal and gusto in Rosner’s voice as he walks you through all the moving parts in his current position, it’s easy to see why he left his first job out of college after six months—managing a Toys R Us. And while he confessed to having hated the idea of working retail and feeling unfulfilled while doing it, that reality couldn’t be further from the truth in his current position.
“The staff here is amazing—there’s something like 200 volunteers that do everything from manning the front desk and driving people to filing and writing letters. I have fun coming to work,” he admitted. “It’s exciting to come in and have fun. It’s a crazy time to come in but at the same time it’s okay because I’m doing work that makes a difference.”