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Secret Lives of OhioHealth: When Friends Become Family

Early one Sunday morning in 2004, Maureen Rolfe, MSW, LISW, a behavioral health social worker at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, OhioHealth Grant Medical Center and OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital, was driving to work and listening to the radio. An advertisement came on for the Friendship Project of Franklin County Children’s Services. They were seeking “friends” for the children within their program. Rolfe thought she would be a perfect fit. Her family lived in Cincinnati, and she and her husband, Mike, didn’t have any children.

“I thought this program would be a great opportunity to connect with a child, so I called,” Rolfe explained.

A few weeks later, Rolfe was introduced to Alicia, a bubbly 10-year-old girl who greeted her with cartwheels and a fake mouth mask. Rolfe screamed when she saw the mask, and the two burst into laughter.

“We instantly clicked,” she said. They went to Steak’n Shake and Rolfe immediately felt drawn to this bright, energetic little girl.

Alicia’s story was filled with heartbreak and foster care. Rolfe reached out to this lovely little girl, who seemed undeterred by the challenges life presented her, including going to a new school almost every year. She vowed right then and there to show Alicia a world filled with adventure.

And what adventures they’ve had.

On Alicia’s 13th birthday, Rolfe and Alicia got dressed up, and together they went to Lindey’s restaurant to celebrate entering her teens. The waiters doted on her and, at the end of the meal, Alicia stood up, curtsied to everyone and said thank you. The bartender was so touched by her charm, he handed her a fresh $20 bill from his own tips. Alicia cried tears of joy on the way home and told Rolfe it was the nicest place she had ever been.

Over the years, they’ve traveled to California and Jamaica and celebrated many birthdays and Christmases together. Rolfe and her husband cheered Alicia from the stands as she played in her high school band and did her cartwheels on the field as a cheerleader. Alicia went on to college at the University of Southern Indiana, and later landed a job with a company selling music equipment.

In October 2019, Rolfe's husband walked Alicia down the aisle at her wedding, as Rolfe and Alicia’s mother, Margie, watched from the front pew. And – because of Alicia embracing Rolfe’s love of travel ­– they all went to Greece for her honeymoon.

“Alicia has given me the desire to share the good in my life, and allowed me to experience what mothers experience,” said Rolfe. “She’s given me lots of laughs, and it’s been amazing to see the impact we’ve had on each other’s lives. I am forever grateful for her, and am proud of the strong, moral, hard-working young woman she’s become.”

Today, Alicia is paying it forward, and—using the love and adventure Rolfe has taught her—now serves as a mentor to a child who is just like the 10-year-old Rolfe had first met over 15 years ago.

This story was originally published in an internal OhioHealth associate publication.