During last year’s “Blue Jackets’ Favorite Things” basket auction, the Lady Jackets – a group of the players, coaches and management staff’s wives and girlfriends – decided they wanted one of their longest-standing relationships to be the main beneficiary.
Volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio, which is now the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world with its most recent 30,000-square foot expansion, has been a regular activity for current Blue Jacket wives Brett Letestu and Ashley McElhinney, but they wanted to do something even bigger.
They came up with the idea for a “princess room” for little girls to enjoy during their stay at the house, something to give them comforts of home in an environment that may not always be the most comfortable. This would be the second Lady Jackets program in the Columbus house after the “Jackets Zone” opened in 2011, a project spearheaded by Kim Clark, wife of current Blue Jackets player development coach Chris Clark.
The fingerprints of the Lady Jackets are all over the Princess Room. They were heavily involved in the fundraising, planning, design and execution of the room from start to finish, and received donations that covered a large portion of the cost.
“We have a long relationship with the Ronald McDonald House, and we approached by the house as they were undergoing a new expansion,” said Sarah Tyutin, wife of Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin and one of the leaders of the Princess Room project. “They had three multipurpose rooms and they wanted to gear one toward little girls and make it a unique, feminine room since there were a lot of sports-themed rooms.
“Everyone was on board with the project and making the house the recipient of the ‘favorite baskets’ money. We were given free rein to do whatever we wanted, and Ronald McDonald House didn’t really have any restrictions.”
The Lady Jackets worked in groups that played to individual strengths, Tyutin said, with different groups working on fundraising, design of the room, securing donations and sponsors and also planning the grand opening party at the house.
“We all pulled together and it was a hands-on approach for all of us,” Tyutin said. “Everyone had a job to do and a role to play and we’re really pleased with how everything turned out.”
The cherry on top was a fantastic opening party. The girls dressed up, got the royal treatment with hair, makeup, nails and food and drink to go along with an overall great day for the young girls at the house – one that served as a welcomed respite from the medical battles they fight daily.
“We had several of the guests in the house show up as well as our own children,” Tyutin said. “The party had a real glamorous feel to it and the girls were absolutely loving it; there were snacks and beverages, the girls all got their hair and their nails done, their makeup. It was really fun. It was humbling, too; it was so great to see the girls living a little fairy tale in a fun space.”
The Lady Jackets would like to thank the following sponsors for their generous donations: American Girl, Big Lots, Capital Lighting Inc., Chasing Fireflies, Deon Brugmann Inc., The Door Company of Ohio, Inc., Fresh Looks by Lisa, H.H. Gregg Appliance & Electronics, K.A. Menendian Rug Gallery, Levi's 4Floors, Miller-Troyer Custom Homes, Trove Warehouse, Village Bookshop