A Senior Project to Long For 6

Big Sky senior gives Ronald McDonald a helping hand

Each year, Big Sky High School seniors are required to complete a year-long project. Senior Bonnie Long saw this as an opportunity to not only give back to her community but also to give back to the Ronald McDonald House, an organization that provided immense benefits to Bonnie and her family when Bonnie was struck a devastating health blow several years ago.

What does the senior project at Big Sky High School entail?

The first step is for a student to contact an advisor in the school and a mentor in the community to help guide them in their project. The next step is to complete a paper on a topic of your choice. Throughout the senior year each student gains activity and field experience hours, which must be a minimum of 20 hours of work, while working closely with the mentor and keeping records of everything in a portfolio, which is graded at the end of semester two. All seniors then deliver presentations on Senior Project Day, which is in late May. These presentations are a culmination and in-depth explanation of the senior project and the portfolio and are often attended and judged by community members.

Please describe your senior project.

I chose to work with the Ronald McDonald House of Missoula. The Ronald McDonald House of Missoula serves around 225 families per year and as a result, the house releases a wish list of items that they always need. The purpose of my senior project has been to gather the necessary items for the Ronald McDonald House by reaching out to local businesses and some large companies.

What motivated you to pick this subject?

In 2009 I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, which caused me to have to be life-flighted to Seattle Children’s Hospital. While I was treated in the hospital, my family stayed in the Seattle Ronald McDonald House. Eventually my disease destroyed my kidneys, and my sister donated her kidney to me in 2011. After my transplant my dad and I lived in the Seattle Ronald McDonald House for three months. When I returned to Missoula, I found out that there was a Ronald McDonald House here and I started volunteering at the house in July 2016. Then when I heard about the Senior Project, I knew I wanted to give back to this amazing organization that is so important to me.

Who is your mentor and how has she helped you?

My mentor is Amy Peterson, the CEO of the Western Montana Region Ronald McDonald House Charities. Amy was crucial in guiding me to a project that would be most beneficial to the Ronald McDonald House of Missoula. Throughout the process, Amy has been eager and willing to answer all of my questions and provide some of the documents I needed to reach out to businesses.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

My biggest challenge so far has been receiving responses from businesses. Some have said they are unable to donate, but I am still waiting to hear from others.

What has been your greatest reward?

To hear how much the volunteers appreciate the new household items and to see the products I have gathered being used by the residents. I was also ecstatic to find out that Hoover donated a vacuum to the Ronald McDonald House after I had sent them a letter in November.

What do you hope to achieve by the completion of your project?

My greatest goal is to raise awareness in the Missoula community for the Ronald McDonald House. Many of the people I know, including myself, did not know Missoula had a Ronald McDonald House. My primary reason for reaching out to local businesses is so that in the future, when these businesses are interested in supporting Missoula organizations, they know that the Ronald McDonald House is an option.

How are you and your sister doing today?

Great! We are both living life as normal.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am planning on pursuing an undergraduate degree in biochemistry in order to one day become a pharmaceutical scientist. I am not sure where I will be attending, but I am looking forward to the opportunities I will have in college. One of my greatest desires is to travel and perhaps study abroad while in school.