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Saturday, Jun 15, 2024

Execs Raise $15M for Ronald McDonald House

It was a granola bar that inspired a $15 million fundraising campaign for the renovation of the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Orange.

About a decade ago, Dawn Antis delivered twins six weeks earlier than expected. The babies didn’t cry as normal, and they were placed on incubators at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County facility in Mission Viejo.

Every day, the twins’ father, Charles Antis, would pass by the volunteers and workers at Ronald McDonald House that was located down the hallway.

“I just saw them as a club of people who I didn’t want anything to do with,” Charles Antis recalled. “I didn’t want to know anybody. I felt sorry for myself. I just wanted to shrink and not be noticed. I was anxious to get our babies out of the hospital as soon as possible.”

Then one day, he had heartburn and when he spotted a granola bar at the Ronald McDonald House, he grabbed it without talking to anyone.

“I wasn’t proud that I took something.”

That guilt eventually led to a $15 million campaign to double the size of the Ronald McDonald House in Orange, which is next to the main campus of the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, commonly called CHOC.

This year, for his contribution to the Ronald McDonald House and other nonprofits, Antis is one of the Business Journal’s OC50: The Giving 50 that features entrepreneurs who have made major contribution to nonprofits.

“That means a lot to me,” he told the Business Journal.

A Leaky Roof

Antis, who in 1989 founded Irvine-based Antis Roofing & Waterproofing, is well known among Orange County nonprofits.

His firm has donated every roof for all Habitat for Humanity homes built in Orange County over the past decade. He sits on the boards of diverse entities like California State University, Fullerton’s Center for Leadership and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast.

During the pandemic, Antis chaired with his buddy, Wing Lam, co-owner of Costa Mesa’s Wahoo’s Fish Taco chain of restaurants and a member of the OC50, for a program called California Love Drop, to deliver thousands of meals to workers like police officers, EMTs and other “front-line heroes.”

In 2020, the Business Journal highlighted Antis Roofing & Waterproofing as one of five companies in its inaugural Companies that Care awards.

Antis, whose firm generated $31.5 million last year and employs 160, estimated that he spends about 70% of his time on nonprofits.

“Donating my time brings out the best in me,” Antis said. “I’m a happier and nicer person.”

The House

After his twins successfully recuperated and left the hospital following a month-long stay, Antis felt guilty about ignoring the Ronald McDonald House, which he began donating to.

He discovered that its purpose is to help host families who have children being treated at hospitals.

When Antis found out the main house in Orange had a leaky roof, he volunteered to fix it.

“My story wasn’t that big. I know a lot of families who lost their children,” he recalled.

“I told them that I’d be honored to fix that leak. It made me feel noble—as a roofing professional, solving a leak makes you a hero.”

He eventually joined the board of trustees, admitting to the “embarrassing story” about the granola bar.

When the board decided to enlarge its house in Orange, its members turned to Antis and Katie Rucker, co-owner of Irvine-based MacKenzie Corp., to lead the fundraising campaign.

“We were the most qualified because we’re marketing people and we have to market our own companies,” Antis said. “All the other board members were like doctors.”

It was difficult because they began fundraising just as COVID-19 struck. The amount needed rose from $12 million to $15 million.

A big initial donation was $4 million from all the owners of McDonald’s franchises in Orange County. Other big donations came from Pacific Life and Ventura Foods. CHOC itself gave $500,000.

Antis pitched in $300,000 and vendors to his company also chipped in.

“I made the commitment in a year where we lost money and it was scary,” Antis said.
The new Ronald McDonald House, scheduled to open this fall, will increase from 12,500 square feet to 33,000 square feet; it will double the number of guest rooms to 44. Last year, the house’s 20 rooms served 1,299 guests and about 10,300 hours were donated by volunteers.

Last year, Antis and Rucker were given the Bill Moore Award, named after the co-founder of Irvine-based Golden State Foods, a one-time large supplier to McDonald’s.

“Katie and Charles have demonstrated exceptional leadership and unwavering commitment to RMHOC,” Noel Burcelis, the house’s executive director, said in the nonprofit’s annual statement.

“Their tireless service to the charity has been instrumental in bringing us to a pivotal moment in our history. As we stand at the culmination of the House’s expansion, we recognize that their dedication has forged a path for a new chapter in the Orange County community.”

Antis also worked with the National Roofing Contractors Association where he repeated the granola story. The national organization agreed to adopt all 165 Ronald McDonald Houses around the country.

“Who knew that taking that granola bar would be a story that I’d tell all these roofing pros,” Antis said.

A Respite for Parents

Katie Rucker experienced firsthand the power of the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
It was about 13 years ago when her daughter, Paige, was 11 months old and spent a week at CHOC’s facility in Mission Viejo for a variety of tests for seizures.

“As a parent of a small child, I was completely freaked out,” Rucker recalled.
She didn’t leave her baby’s side for about three days until a nurse suggested Rucker visit the Ronald McDonald House that was in a room down the hall. Rucker was reluctant to do so but the nurse assured her it would help.

“I went in there and shut the door—it was the first time I let myself cry and let it all out,” she said. “I found a space where I could find respite.”

Rucker is on this week’s OC50: The Giving 50 that honors entrepreneurs involved in nonprofits. She co-chaired the Together Capital Campaign along with Charles Antis to raise $15 million to double the size of the Ronald McDonald House in Orange, which is expected to open this fall.

“There’s something beautiful about the mission,” she said. “It’s supporting the family that is supporting the kid. It’s taking some of the stress off the parents of the sick child. So many parents who donated to the House empathize with the struggle.

“The highlight of the fundraising campaign has been able to connect with so many people in Orange County who demonstrated kindness.”

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