“We’re a wild traveling circus,” says Andrew Ballantine about his family.
The 39-year-old director of food and nutrition services at Redmond Regional Medical Center and his wife, Courtney – a teacher at Rome Middle School – have four young boys ranging in age from 6 to 14.
Vacations are riotous and at home they’re off in all different directions.
“The world of sports and band and all that took over,” he says. “I tell my wife I’m a father and a glorified taxi driver.”
Born and raised in Rome, Ballantine left for culinary school in Charleston and started a career as a chef, working in restaurants and country clubs including a stint at the famed Reynolds Plantation luxury resort. But when the chance to come to Redmond opened up about a decade ago, he jumped at it.
“Further on down the road I was trying to promote more of a family life,” Andrew says “The hospitality industry isn’t too kind with that sometimes.”
Since then, he’s taken the opportunity to help other local families through his volunteer work with Summit Quest, a local nonprofit cancer support organization. Andrew says Redmond’s chaplain, Billy Murdoch, asked if he’d be willing to teach healthy cooking classes to the kids in the program and it turned out to be a perfect fit.
“That’s my heart and soul,” he says. “Often, with a cancer diagnosis, things get really hairy and fall through the cracks. I wanted to empower some of those kids to help mom get dinner on the table.”
This year, Ballantine is serving as president of the organization’s board of directors. Their mission is based around family activities, including adventure trips, art programs, rural retreats that give children and their parents battling the disease a sense of normalcy.
Ballantine says his own father passed away from cancer about seven years ago. The experience in his own family, he says, is the basis of his commitment to helping Summit Quest with everything from catering to fundraising.
“It helps kids get on a path, to gain control over something, when they have little-to-no-control over other aspects of their lives,” he says.