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Inaugural McJournal Night surpasses expectations – a recap in words, videos, and photos

Fun community event raises over $2,000 for community newspaper

LANSING, Ill. (March 1, 2024) – Bells ringing, the band playing, talking and laughing: the sound of a big, community party filled the Lansing McDonald’s on Thursday, February 29, for the first-ever McJournal Night.

The unique event raised $2,152.63 for Lansing’s newspaper. Franchise owner Jose Gutierrez called it “remarkably successful” — especially for a first-time event.

“It was so fun, I wasn’t even thinking about the funds most of the time,” said Journal Publisher Melanie Jongsma. “Thank you to all the community members who came out. I saw teachers, business owners, church members, school kids, police and firemen, elected officials, library staff — everyone socializing. It was nice to be a part of bringing people together.

“And it seemed like everyone was having fun,” she added.

Video highlights of McJournal Night

McJournal Night
Journal writers Jennifer Yos (left) and Marlene Cook collect donations in exchange for apple pies. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

The first couple hours of the event were loud and crowded as many guests ate, drank, spun the prize wheel, posed for photos, listened to the Memorial Junior High Band, and enjoyed the PlayPlace. Things quieted down in the final hour, but donations continued to come in as guests lingered and socialized at the restaurant tables.

Celebrity appearance at McJournal Night

Grimace was, as promised, a highlight of the evening — especially for the younger customers. The Memorial band gathered for pictures with the large, fuzzy mascot as he arrived. Grimace then moved inside to take more photos with a line of adoring and amused fans.

As expected, Grimace was a popular attraction at McJournal Night, especially among the younger crowd. (Photo: Iliana Ramirez)
Grimace ran through a spirit tunnel, complete with purple pom poms, created by Memorial band members. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

Later in the evening, the beloved character ran through a spirit tunnel created by Memorial band members equipped with purple pom poms.

“They had a blast,” Mathew Becker, director of bands for District 158, said of his musicians. “I asked for volunteers to be here today, and about 90% of the band wanted to participate. We appreciate the invite! The kids love McDonald’s, and they want to be a part of the good stuff happening in the community. And they were pumped about Grimace.”

McJournal Night pie reprised

Not wanting to be outdone by the famous purple blob, Lansing Christian School Principal Matt Kamien spontaneously reprised his role from November’s McTeacher Night as a personified McDonald’s apple pie. Kamien greeted guests and posed for his fair share of photos. Some of his students were especially excited and came running up for a photo the moment he donned the boxy costume to promote pie sales.

Mcjournal night
Lansing Christian School Principal Matt Kamien came to McDonald’s for dinner and ended up returning to his role as apple pie mascot. Kaden Haynes (left), 5, is a student at LCS and was excited to see his Principal in costume. He posed for a photo with his friend, Augustine Holst, also 5, at the McJournal Night event. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

Family fun

Many members of the community came out to support the Journal.

“This is a really nice event!” said Ann West, who rushed over to McDonald’s between work and a school event so that she could attend McJournal Night. Her son, DJ Manson, has had his picture in the Journal before, after winning a Fire Department coloring contest. West enjoys the Journal’s work, and she shared the McJournal Night event with her local Facebook group.

DJ Manson spins the prize wheel at McJournal Night. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

Laura DeYoung also came out to support the paper. She’s a Journal subscriber and the mom of a Memorial band member. She and her children Ethan, 3, and Chloe, 9 months, enjoyed McDonald’s food, the PlayPlace, and meeting Grimace while Ali, 12, played with the band.

Laura DeYoung and her children, Chloe and Ethan, came to support the Journal and the Memorial Band. DeYoung’s daughter Ali plays in the band. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

Sharing the blessing

Sharon Giles purchased McJournal Night pies to share with veterans. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

Journal volunteers – both writers and supporters – worked their way through the crowd to sell apple pies, the proceeds of which went 100% to the newspaper. Sharon Giles purchased 25 pies. She was on her way to mark Black History Month with a Civil Rights film at the VFW, and decided to share her support of the Journal with other attendees by sharing the pies.

Along with pie proceeds, the Journal also received 20% of the sales made at the register and drive-through during the 3-hour event.

“It was great to partner with McDonald’s,” Jonsgma said. “Iliana [Ramirez, Director of Community Partnerships], is so good at these events!”

Gutierrez and Jongsma would both like to see McJournal Night become an annual event.

A sense of community

“Jose [Gutierrez] is known for doing as many community events as possible, and it was really fun. It felt more like a party than a fundraiser. The fundraising was great, but it was just a really great community time,” Jongsma said.

Lansing McDonald’s owner Jose Gutierrez gives McJournal Night volunteers instructions. (Photo: Iliana Ramirez)

In a Facebook post after the event, Jongsma added: “It was heartwarming to hear how much the Journal means to people and how much they appreciate the work that goes into it. Tonight we raised $2,153.63 to help continue that work. But we also reinforced the sense of community that makes Lansing the kind of place people want to spend time in. THANK YOU. Thank you. Thank you.”

McJournal Night
Lansing Journal publisher Melanie Jongsma speaks with a Journal reader at McJournal Night. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

The Lansing McDonald’s is located at 17810 Torrence Avenue.


Ashlee De Wit
Ashlee De Wit
Ashlee De Wit is a freelance writer and a Lansing native. After starting her career covering high school sports in Iowa, she's excited to be back in her hometown, reporting the stories of her local community — such as the opening of Troost, the informal Lansing pickleball club, a TF South Homecoming game, and Common Ground, Lansing's experiment with healthy race relations.


  1. Bravo, what a wonderful evening. It was so nice to see so many people from all over town. Just shows how much we love having a community newspaper, The Lansing Journal. We appreciate all Melanie, Josh and the rest of the staff! do to cover our town.

  2. Thanks to your article I get to enjoy vicariously the fun missed for living so far away.

    I am proud to witness that my brother Jose is not content with being a successful businessman, he and his wife Tina go the extra mile to support important pillars of their community. I congratulate both of them openly for setting a powerful example of solidarity and for being laudable role models.

    Great journalism, Ashlee and Josh! Now you have an enthusiastic follower in Dresden, Germany 🇩🇪. Grateful to be informed what impacts the life of my relatives living in Lansing. Your journalism not only informs, but it also creates bridges for families.
    Virginia Gutierrez

    • Virginia, thank you so much for your comment! It is so affirming for us to hear that we can be a connection between you and Jose. At the bottom of this article, I added a link to another article you might enjoy — it’s a video that includes an interview with Jose.

      We loved getting to know Jose and learning about his commitment to community. He is truly making a difference in Lansing, for his employees as well as his customers.

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