Rancho Santa Fe resident to serve as chair of Ronald McDonald House gala


By Kathy Day

Talk to Jennifer Gramins about Ronald McDonald House’s annual gala, Le Cirque du ROMP, and you’ll have no doubt she’s excited about the sold-out event featuring Steven Tyler as guest artist.

Yes, that’s Steven Tyler of rock and roll fame, the always spirited leader of Aerosmith and former “American Idol” judge, who will be fresh off the band’s Let Rock Rule”World Tour stop in Nova Scotia when he plays for the fifth annual ROMP fundraiser.

Gramins, a Rancho Santa Fe resident and the gala chair, had just left the private club in La Jolla where the Sept. 20 party will be held when she shared details about the gathering of 400 supporters of Ronald McDonald House located across from Rady Children’s Hospital. The event is the largest fundraiser for the facility, which gives families a spot to rest or stay for free while their children are facing life-threatening illnesses.

Last year the event brought in $690,000, and Gramins said the goal is always to raise more than the prior year. At this point in the party planning, she says she’s optimistic they’ll achieve that.

In the last year alone, Ronald McDonald House served 125,000 family members and was full 96 percent of the time with families who were lodged in private guest suites, according to CEO Chuck Day. Some stay for a few days, which others stay for months at a time.

On top of that, the Family Care Center served 150,000 meals and provided a place for a break from the hospital between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

All of the visitors receive not just meals or a spot to cook their own meals, but access to a computer room, rooftop courtyards, recreation areas and exercise facilities. Ronald McDonald House also offers educational programs and classes for both parents and siblings of the ill child. There’s also a chapel and a free hair salon.

“To me, what Ronald McDonald House does is beyond words,” Gramins said. “I have a healthy child and realize how lucky I am. If there’s anything I can do for those not so lucky, I will.”

She’s been involved with the gala for four years, but this is her first time chairing it, with Rebecca Moores and Jennifer Moores as honorary chairs.

Pulling together a party for 400 takes a lot of work, but with so many volunteers and sponsors who return each year, the job is a bit simpler.

“The staff helps us so much, and the support we get is wonderful,” Gramins said, acknowledging “there are a lot of moving parts.”

From planning a VIP meet-and-greet with Tyler before the main event and lining up “an amazing chef” and auction items, the event takes many hours and tons of dedication.

But picking a theme came naturally, she said, because “we have a tent.”

So the cirque/circus theme was given to the event designer who has been running with the creative details, though Gramins concedes she’s given some ideas to the designer.

“We picked the theme early so it gave us time and leeway to do something with a different flair,” she said.

Tyler just adds that extra flair to ROMP, which will also feature other entertainment that is still being finalized. As the date approaches, Gramins said selling out wasn’t a concern but being in an “oversold” position was a bit of a concern.

The entertainment isn’t the only excitement of the night. Guests also can bid on an array of silent auction items and live auction treats, such as a Kona Estate getaway for 29, the chance to have a “Ferrari of your very own … for a weekend” and a private jet to Napa and dinner for six at the French Laundry.

Gramins, who learned about Ronald McDonald House while living in Chicago, met Mary Drake when she moved to Rancho Santa Fe. Drank chaired the event in 2011 and has recruited many in her footsteps to make ROMP an evening to remember — and one that goes a long way toward helping Ronald McDonald House in its mission to be a “home away from home for families with critically ill or injured children in local hospitals.”

For those who haven’t bought a ticket but want to help, ROMP is accepting auction donations until Sept. 18. Go to For more information on Ronald McDonald House, visit