WCW Lauren Olander

Lauren Olander This week’s #WomanCrushWednesday goes out to Lauren Olander, three-time cancer survivor and the Regional Director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Oregon and SW Washington.

Lauren grew up in New England and came out west to attend law school at Pepperdine. She was a litigation attorney in Los Angeles when her heart started giving her trouble. While being treated at UCLA, doctors discovered a lump, which turned out to be cancer. The stress of it all told her it was time to change direction in life. So she moved to Bend, where she found her second career at the American Cancer Society. She started as a volunteer, and when a job opening popped up she grabbed it. At first, Lauren served ACS doing community outreach – making sure cancer patients and their families were aware of the resources available to them. As a cancer survivor, she could certainly relate! And during her own cancer journey, she had no idea of the resources available to her and her family, so she made it her mission to inform folks dealing with a dreaded diagnosis that they are not alone and that help is available. 

She then became Director of Gift and Estate Planning, helping raise more than a million dollars to fund cancer research. Lauren LOVED the work but it involved quite a bit of travel, and as her two boys grew up she wanted to be closer to home. Then one day – a twist of fate, perhaps? – Lauren received an email from a ACS board member, who also happened to be a Ronald McDonald House employee, informing her of a job opening. Now, two years later, she’s still working directly with families, providing support and helping them adjust to life in the Ronald McDonald houses.

There are a lot of common misconceptions about the houses – two of which are, you either have to have a LOT of money to stay there, or you must be low-income. Wrong and wrong – finances are not a qualifier or a disqualifier. There are but two guidelines: The patient must be younger than 22, and they must be receiving medical care. And just like our beloved nonprofit partner St. Jude, families staying at Ronal McDonald house never receive a bill. Some patients and their families stay for a single night; others stay for months. 

Before the pandemic, Lauren viewed life through a fundraising lens: she was CONSTANTLY looking for opportunities to raise money wherever she went. Today, things are a bit different – she’s constantly looking for ways to keep her staff employed. Earlier this spring, she came up with the idea of having frontline medical caregivers stay in the homes, since they couldn’t host patients and their families during the pandemic. The Bend home was truly built with love – using old growth trees! Don’t worry, they weren’t cut down for that purpose – they were damaged during construction of a parking lot, so the city donated them to the Ronald McDonald House. During construction, a timber framer suggested using the project as a training opportunity, so framers from all over the world honed their craft on the beautiful and unique Bend Ronald McDonald House. 22 years later, tens of thousands of families have found comfort and healing there.

Can you help? https://rmhcoregon.org/donate/




Salome Chimuku