Why would two professional men choose to sleep in tents outside in late-February in the heart of Detroit for four nights?
For the families of children who are hospitalized with critical illness or injuries. While having some fun doing it.
The ‘Grunwald in the Ice Garden Campaign’ – taking place this year February 28 through March 3 – is a partnership between radio station 99.5 WYCD and Szott Auto Group to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Detroit.
Jeff Schneider, General Manager for Szott, and radio DJ Steve Grunwald will spend four nights at the house’s peace garden to raise $100,000.
This marks the third year of the campaign, and while both men say it can get a little harsh withstanding the elements for four days, it pales in comparison to what families endure.
“I can’t imagine what these families go through having a child in the hospital and the additional stress of worrying about bills and where to stay,” says Grunwald. “The Ronald McDonald House offers a comfortable and close refuge and living environment with meals and provisions in an effort to take some of the pressure off. Anything I and we can do to support that, we’ll do.”
When asked how the concept of this unconventional campaign came to be, Schneider says, “Steve and I are good buddies and we can both be a little crazy. We also like to outdo each other. So, when the idea somehow came up, it became a challenge. The idea was that the first one of us to raise $50K would be able to go home before the other one.”
He goes on to say, “The funny thing is, this backfired on Steve because while he gets lots of attention as a local talent and celebrity, and while he has a lot of connections in the country music world and other networks, I end up raising more money because – all in fun – Steve’s audience will do anything to ensure that he doesn’t go home first.”
The contest certainly has brought out some big names, with the likes of Kris Draper, Joe Kocur, members of the Detroit Pistons and more.
Year one, Grunwald says he thought he’d huddle in his tent and read and watch movies for the four days, so he downloaded content and stocked up. He was in for a surprise. “We were busy the entire time with news stations showing up, local celebrities stopping by, and shenanigans that Jeff cooked up to make things more interesting.”
Interesting indeed. Last year Schneider arranged for a dunk tank, and passers-by could pay $20 to throw the ball and see if they could dunk Grunwald.
“The first time that target was hit I went down through a covering of ice on the top of the water. It was the coldest I’ve ever been,” said Grunwald.
The unorthodox campaign has brought about challenges, some surprises and a reality check for both men.
“When you spend four days without the opportunity to go inside or warm up at all, the cold settles in and there is nothing you can do. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s a short-term burden and I can’t say the same for the families who stay in the house.”
Schneider echoes this, saying, “It’s cold and hard, but those four days are also a time to check out of daily life, and also realize how good we have it.”
He shares one of many stories that have moved him, saying,
A parent of a terminally ill child who had been staying in the house for over a year came out and handed me $50. I wanted to give it back. It was life-changing.
The duo has received large sums of money from MJS Packaging, Caniff Electric, local casinos and more. They say every donation – from $5 to $10 to large sums – makes a difference.
The doors of RMHC Detroit opened in November of 1979, adjacent to the DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan, becoming the 11th Ronald McDonald House location to open. In 2015, the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit moved to a new location offering 26,000 square feet on the second floor of the old Hutzel/Kresge Eye Institute building.
The house features spacious rooms, along with private bathrooms, a playroom, a teen room, communal living room areas, a large kitchen, a workout room and a beautiful peace garden.
Szott Automotive owner, Thad Szott and his wife stayed at the house in 2004 when their son was in Children’s Hospital. They have supported RMHC since.
Sponsors of the campaign include MJS Packaging, Caniff Electric Supply, Dr. Pepper, Hollywood Casino and many local McDonald owner/operators.
You can make a donation to Grunwald in the Ice Garden Campaign here.
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