Two Des Moines-area organizations work together for a common cause.
First, there was the Ronald McDonald House, a home away from home for families with children being treated for life-threatening conditions at Des Moines-area hospitals. The facility is recognizable to just about everyone but not really that familiar to many.
Then there was the Barrett Boesen Foundation. Started as a way to honor a young man who loved life and poured his heart into his nieces and nephew, the charity depended largely on a tight-knit circle of friends and family who supported the nonprofit in his memory.
Finally, there was Carson King, a young man with plans to join the police force who just wanted to enjoy some beer and football but ended up gaining national fame and raising $3 million for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
Three unrelated stories with apparently nothing in common.
“When we started the Barrett Boesen Foundation in 2016, we wanted to raise money to support charities for children because that was something that meant a lot to Barrett,” says board member Pete Cutler.
The foundation has held an annual golf outing and a fundraiser at Exile Brewing and has donated to numerous organizations (see “The Barrett Boesen Foundation”). But, as Cutler explains, fundraising activities were largely focused on adult activities.
“This past fall, we got to talking about where we wanted to go from here,” he says. “We wanted to expand outside the box of our social circle, which had been the main support for these events, and we wanted to find a way to reach a bigger audience.”
The foundation also wanted to incorporate family-friendly activities into its fundraising efforts since the charities it supports are focused on serving children.
After a brainstorming session with the board, where fellow board member Meredith Boesen, Barrett’s sister-in-law, expressed her gratitude and amazement at the care they received from the Ronald McDonald House in Denver, Colorado, Cutler made a call to Brenda Miller, Executive Director of the Des Moines Ronald McDonald House, to see how the Barrett Boesen Foundation could help.
“It’s not very often you get a call like that, where someone just rings you up and says they have a chunk of money for you and how can they best support your work,” says Miller.
About the same time, fellow Boesen Foundation board member Bob Boesen, Barrett’s father, read another article about Carson King and his fundraising fame.
“I told Pete we should reach out to Carson. We needed someone who could be a sort of spokesperson for the Barrett Boesen Foundation, who could focus on the publicity side, and we thought maybe he’d be interested in doing something more full-time,” Boesen explains.
The timing was perfect.
“I never thought this was something I’d be doing for a career,” says King. “But when all the publicity and donations came in from my sign, I realized I had an opportunity to do something really meaningful. I want to do as much as I can for organizations like these for as long as I can.”
As the groups came together and discussed how they could best support the efforts of the Ronald McDonald House, an unusual idea arose.
“We were looking for ways to get a younger market involved in supporting the Ronald McDonald House,” Miller says. “As donation methods have changed in recent years, we recognize that younger people are quick to donate when they see a need, and they’re enthusiastic supporters when they get on board.”
With the Barrett Boesen Foundation’s financial support and Carson King’s name recognition, sharing the Ronald McDonald House vision seemed the perfect campaign.
The groups have partnered with Studio Iowa to create a series of videos featuring Carson with families across Iowa who have benefited from the services of the Des Moines Ronald McDonald House. The videos will be used in a variety of promotional outlets and shareable on Facebook and other social media sites, with links for viewers to donate to the campaign.
“Venmo is working with us to process donations at no additional fee,” says Cutler.
Miller says, “We are thrilled about this campaign. Not only will it give us the chance to share our message with a new audience, but we really want to develop long-term relationships as a result. There are so many ways individuals and groups can get involved, but until you need the Ronald McDonald House, most people don’t realize all that we do.”
That’s exactly how the Barrett Boesen Foundation became aware of the need. Board members J.R. and Meredith Boesen, Barrett’s brother and sister-in-law, were the beneficiaries of Ronald McDonald House services this past winter when their 10-year-old daughter spent 12 weeks in treatment in Denver.
“I knew about the Ronald McDonald House,” Meredith says. “But until I stayed in one, I had no idea how much they provide for families. They served hot meals every day. They had activities for the other kids. They left us gift cards to help pay for meals and gas. They provided toiletries and groceries. We had carolers come through over the holidays. It was just amazing.”
She says the stress and being so far from home would have been unimaginably overwhelming if it hadn’t been for the volunteers and staff—and the generous donors—at the Denver Ronald McDonald House. She knew the Barrett Boesen Foundation needed to find a way to support the Des Moines facility for families going through similar struggles.
Cutler says, “One of the messages we really want to communicate is that wherever you live in the state, the Des Moines Ronald McDonald House really is your local charity. It’s not the Des Moines families who benefit. If my child is in the hospital, I’ll be able to stay in my own home. It’s the families from everywhere else in the state who benefit from it the most.”
“I’m excited about the work I can do for the Barrett Boesen Foundation,” King says. “And I’m really looking forward to being able to tell these families’ stories through this video campaign. The Ronald McDonald House benefits kids and families from across the state, and I want to help share that message with everyone.”
Six months ago these stories had no connection at all. Six months ago King’s piece of the story hadn’t even begun.
“It was just meant to be,” says Bob Boesen. “All the pieces came together at just the right time.”
The best stories are like that.
Be a Part of the Story
Learn more about the organizations involved in this campaign and about how you can join the effort.
The Barrett Boesen Foundation
Founded in 2016, the Barrett Boesen Foundation raises and donates money for causes “that improve and enrich the lives of children.” Barrett’s family and friends started the foundation as a way of remembering his love for children and the joy he spread in his short life. Although he had no children of his own, Barrett adored his nieces and nephew and sought to teach them that life was a gift and blessings were meant to be shared. The Barrett Boesen Foundation seeks to continue that legacy, supporting a variety of organizations that serve children throughout Iowa.
To learn more or to donate, visit BarrettBoesenFoundation.org.
The Ronald McDonald House
The Des Moines Ronald McDonald House opened in 1981 . The current facility was part of a “Hubbell Extreme Build” in 2017. The brand-new home, which has 18 bedrooms and bathrooms in over 17,000 square feet, sits on the original site near Blank Children’s Hospital. On January 7 of this year, a 14-bedroom second location opened on its own floor at MercyOne Children’s Hospital.
Each of these facilities does much more than offer a place for families to sleep. The Ronald McDonald House, through its staff and a host of volunteers and donations, provides families with the comfort that they are cared for and their daily needs will be met so the families can focus their attention on the needs of their child. In addition to financial donations, The Ronald McDonald House relies on volunteers for everything from providing and serving hot meals every day to contributing gift cards, toiletries, postage stamps, phone chargers, and other items.
To learn more about how you can contribute to the Ronald McDonald House, visit RMHDesMoines.org.
You can donate to the campaign, rmhdesmoines, through Venmo, which is waiving service fees so 100% of your donation goes to the cause.