• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Smiles, laughter follow Ronald wherever he goes

RONALD MCDONALD eventually realized a book he was reading had been turned upside down, but not before his audience's laughter filled the Woodford County Library's community room. "I thought it was in French," he tells the children gathered around him. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Laughter becomes contagious whenever Ronald McDonald enters a room filled with children. It happened again last week when he dropped by the Woodford County Library. Kids of all ages - and many parents - were laughing. And Ronald was having a great time putting smiles on their faces. "I love getting up in the morning, and visiting with friends," says Ronald during an interview after his show. "It's always good to put a big smile on, isn't it?" Ronald began last week's "Make it a Better World" show by reading Pig the Pug - garnering lots of laugher from his audience before realizing his book was turned upside down. "I thought it was in French," he tells the children gathered around him in the library's community room. Later, Ronald invites 9-year-old Laynie Cox and 10-year-old Gene Bailey to join him. He and Laynie take a drive in an invisible car, while Gene provides the sound effects for a trip that ends with Ronald encouraging kids to become everyday heroes in their community. "Giving back can help make it a better world," says Ronald, before pulling out a magic bag filled with happy-face squish balls to remind his young audience what each of them can do to make their world a better place. When his show ends, Ronald spends time talking to kids, lined up for photos. "They like taking pictures with me. I think it's my hairdo," he says with a laugh. Asked to explain how kids have changed during his life's work, Ronald says they don't spend as much time outside playing. In the past, he did a show, "Get Moving," focused on inspiring kids to become more active during the summertime. Does Ronald ever tire of being Ronald? "No," he responds. "I'm always me," although he sometimes gets called Elvis because of how he looks - not because of his singing voice. "I don't sing very good, but I like to sing," says Ronald, who also enjoys entertaining kids with magic that "doesn't always work. Like earlier, I tried to make a magic chicken disappear and my magic wand disappeared "...Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. And when it doesn't, it's really pretty funny." Asked about his busy schedule, Ronald says, "Sometimes I go from here to get there. And when I get there I go somewhere else. Have you ever left from here to get there? And you can't get there from here." Besides visiting libraries and schools, Ronald goes to local hospitals where kids are often going through a difficult time. If they're starting to feel better, "I can laugh loudly and have a good time ... If they've just got there," he says, "I try to kind of tip-toe and talk softly because they're not feeling very good. And you can tell when little guys aren't feeling very good..." When he's leaving the hospital room of a little girl or boy, Ronald hopes "they'll have a smile and maybe they'll feel just a little bit better, or maybe ... have a laugh." Ronald lives in McDonald Land, but says he's proud to be the namesake of the Ronald McDonald House - a home away from home for families with sick children. More than 365 Ronald McDonald Houses operate worldwide, according to its website rmhcslc.org.

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