Happy anniversary, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

Keith Kennedy, second from right, hosts the Radiothon

Keith Kennedy, second from right, hosts the Radiothon

Thirty years ago, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals began with a telethon and a dream: to help sick and injured children by raising funds for children’s hospitals. It’s a dream that continues to this day, with even greater aspirations on the horizon.

And Akron Children’s Hospital has been there every step of the journey.

“Our partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is something we need to celebrate, and what better time than during its anniversary year?” said Bill Considine, president and CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital. “It’s a relationship that’s developed deep bonds within our community, making quite an impact on our hospital, our patients and their families, and northeast Ohio.”

It all began with a Telethon

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals was founded in 1983 through the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon that carried a simple goal: to raise money for a network of children’s hospitals across the U.S. and Canada, including Akron Children’s.

Bill and Becky Considuine man the phone banks

Bill and Becky Considuine man the phone banks

Mr. Considine was on the board of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions when the idea of the fundraising Telethon was pitched. It was a revolutionary proposal, and Mr. Considine and his fellow board members quickly saw merit in it.

“From the get-go, we were supportive,” said Mr. Considine. “In fact, I attended the first Telethon in Utah, even though it didn’t air on any stations here in the Akron area. It created a lot of energy, and I knew we were onto something.”

He felt that the opportunity to collaborate with other children’s hospitals around the country was a good idea, as the network would be built on the hospitals’ common threads while furthering the missions of all. In fact, he believed so strongly in Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ mission that he served on its board for 10 years and as chairman of the board from 1996-1998.

“Mr. Considine helped set the pace for where we are today,” said Shirley Rogers, chief hospital relations officer for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. “There were some tough decisions that had to be made when he was on the board, and he was willing to do the right thing. He is one of the reasons that 32 million children are being helped each year. His leadership had a national impact.”

One of the unique foundations of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is that the dollars raised through its fundraising efforts stays in the communities in which they were raised. This philosophy, and the growing popularity of the organization’s Telethon, paved the way for other Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ fundraising initiatives to take shape.

Companies including Dairy Queen, Walmart and Sam’s Club, and Ace Hardware signed on to become corporate partners, helping to raise money through company-sponsored programs. In the early 1990s, the Telethon hit the airwaves through local radiothon programs. Indiana University launched the Dance Marathon program in 1991, and its popularity continues to build today.

“It’s gone from telethons and radiothons to other year-round events that enable hospitals to tell their stories, engage communities and raise dollars for the missions of those organizations,” said Mr. Considine. “It’s phenomenal when you think about it.”

Participants celebrate the end of Telethon

Participants celebrate the end of Telethon

Finding a home in Akron

As one of the earliest pediatric healthcare systems involved with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Akron Children’s relationship with the organization has grown stronger over time, and Rogers said that the Akron community has always been a leader in its fundraising efforts.

“Last year, Akron Children’s Hospital raised $1.3 million for the children in that community,” said Rogers. “For a market that size, that’s a lot of money. It’s all because of the community. Everyone should be very proud of what they’ve done.”

Long-standing Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals fundraisers have made a huge impact on the level of care Akron Children’s provides, such as the Forest Heritage Festival, Dairy Queen’s Free Cone Days, and the “Miracle Balloon” campaigns at local Walmart stores, IHOP restaurants and other area organizations. The annual “Have a Heart, Do Your Part” and “Miracles & Promises” radiothons also remain some of the hospital’s largest fundraisers.

“Our radiothons have exceeded everyone’s expectations,” said Mr. Considine. “So much so that five years ago we raised $1 million. It’s dwarfed anything else we’ve ever done beforehand.”

New fundraisers also are making an impact, such as the first-ever Flash-a-Thon dance marathon organized by Kent State University students this past spring, which raised $14,000.

While the hospital community helped raise funds, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals also recognized Akron Children’s individuals for their dedication to their field, and for their perseverance in the face of adversity. In 2009, Sarah Friebert, MD, director of Haslinger Family Center for Pediatric Palliative Care, received the organization’s prestigious annual Achievement Award. And in 2011, one of the hospital’s former patients, Bradford Harris, was chosen to represent the state of Ohio for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ Champions program.

“Year after year, I’ve seen the Akron community come together in such an amazing way,” said Rogers. “We’re honored to be associated with them.”

Bright hope for the future

Three decades later, $4.7 billion has been raised through Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Its network has grown to 170 hospitals, and last year’s fundraising efforts raised a record-shattering $300 million.

But its future goals are even bigger. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals wants to start raising $1 billion a year. And it wants to start doing it soon, because the number of kids needing help continues to rise.

“More than 32 million children are being treated each year,” said Rogers. “Each day, 16,000 kids visit an ER; 2,200 kids undergo cancer treatments; 2,300 surgeries are performed on children.  Every dollar we’re able to raise does make a difference.”

Mr. Considine forecasts a healthy future for the hospital’s partnership with the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a future in which new opportunities will be explored and work will continue to grow. He views it as another way to engage the communities the hospital is privileged to serve.

“We want to give back and keep our doors open regardless of ability to pay, and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is a vehicle that helps makes it happen,” said Considine “I see it continuing to thrive.”

Rogers has her own hope for the future of the partnership.

“My hope is that Akron Children’s Hospital never has to worry about having the money they need to take care of those children. That they always have what they need. I love that they are very cutting edge and very innovative, unique, ahead of their time with surgeries. Their research department is going to influence the world. My hope is that by what we do, they are able to make their thoughts and dreams become possible,” added Rogers.

This fall in Florida, members of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals will gather for its annual meeting. A miracle child from every state will attend. There will be a massive celebration, but this year will be a little different.

“We’re going to reflect on what we’ve accomplished in the past 30 years,” said Rogers. “We’re bringing in some champions from 30 years ago. We’re going toget excited about what we’ve done. But then we’ll move forward, because the need is still great, and there are things to be done.”

Celebrating 30 Years of Miracles
Publication: Children's Progress
Issue: Summer

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