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Men don kilts for Ronald McDonald House

Amy Millhorn Leonard • Feb 25, 2019 at 10:30 AM

Everyone knows Superman, but have you heard of “Kilt Man?”

Every year, Kilt Man is named right here in the Tri-Cities at the Kilt Man Contest. The event gives area professionals a chance to let loose, have fun and wear a kilt at the urging of co-workers and friends. More importantly, though, the high-popular contest is a major fundraising event for Ronald McDonald House.

The third annual “Kilt Man Contest” will be the highlight of the Southern Appalachian Ronald McDonald House’s St. Patrick’s Day Bash from 6 to 11 p.m., March 2, in the Grand Ballroom at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center in Kingsport. The event, sponsored by Stifel Investment Services, will feature Gaelic festivities, a delicious buffet dinner, a cash bar and entertainment by the popular band, Spank. Tickets to attend are $100 per person or $150 per couple and can be purchased through the website at www.rmhsa.org or by calling (423) 975-KIDS (5437).

Each “Kilt Man” contestant has been using creative ways to meet their individual fundraising goal of $1,500 for a chance to win the title. Hugh Ferguson of First Bank and Trust Company was last year’s “Kilt Man.”

Volunteer High School athletic director Jim Whalen says he didn't need much persuading when someone approached him about joining the cause three years ago. "I thought about it for about five seconds, thought 'I don't own a kilt' and 'who wants to see me in a kilt,' but it was to help kids so I was all in," he recalls.

After touring the Ronald McDonald House in Johnson City, Whalen knew he had made the right decision. "I had no idea what all they did. It was a no-brainer for me and I have been fortunate enough to have a lot of family and friends help me financially support the house," he explained. "Last year, I did Jerry Lewis style telethon on Facebook live and raised enough money to reach my goal. I also said I would shave my legs if I reached my goal." Whalen got an earlier start this year and has already raised over $3,400, according to Tina Ison, Director of Special Events and Community Relations.

Southern Appalachian Ronald McDonald House provides a place to stay for families of hospitalized children. It has 10 bedrooms with private baths and a common kitchen, laundry and TV/playroom areas. Since its founding in 1996, they have helped families of 6,200 children like the Crawford family who stayed there 65 days.

“My husband and I couldn't be more grateful. When our child was in the hospital, I had no idea what we were going to do or where to turn for help. Thankfully in our time of need, they stepped in and gave us a warm bed to sleep in, a hot meal when it was needed and all the support they could provide. Even on days where I was sad and scared for my baby, I could go chat with the staff and they would make me feel much better,” Coral Crawford said.

Ison says the Southern Appalachian Ronald McDonald House is a regional facility - "56 percent of the people we serve come from Southwest Virginia, 28 percent from Northeast Tennessee, 9 percent from Eastern Kentucky, and 7 percent from other areas. Kingsport and Sullivan County are the third highest users of the House overall, so chances are people living in these areas know someone who has been impacted by the Ronald McDonald House.

"We want our community to know it is your House too!” Ison stresses.

Southern Appalachian Ronald McDonald House is located at 418 N. State of Franklin Rd. in Johnson City and is operated strictly from donations.

“Individual or group volunteers are always needed for cleaning the 18,000 square foot house and for maintaining the grounds,” says Tina. “Help us support it by purchasing tickets to the event, making a donation or sponsoring a Kilt Man. If you're unable to help financially, we have many other ways you can help too."

Donations of toiletries, laundry supplies, clothes and toys for older kids, food for families and aluminum can pop tabs for recycling are also accepted. To learn more, contact Tina (423) 975-5437 or email her at [email protected]

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