For Julie Costas of Canfield, all it took was one phone call back in 2008 to get involved in a yet-to-be-named volunteer group to support the hospital’s fundraising arm.
“I’ve always loved working with children,” she said. “I was the first person to call JoAnn (Stock) when I found out she was going to be head of the development department. I said, ‘whatever you need, I’ll be there to help.’”
Stock, newly named director of Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley Foundation at the time, was formulating a strategy to raise funds to support the Youngstown-area hospital’s early growth, and she knew she’d need lots of extra hands.
“This all started from scratch,” Stock said. “Our first volunteers were a group of people who knew we needed help; people that knew each other and came together to form Kids’ Crew. And it’s really grown from there.
“We’ve raised nearly $24 million dollars since we opened, and from an event standpoint none of it would be possible without our Kids’ Crew members.”
Kids’ Crew is a committee of caring community volunteers who strive to make a difference in the lives of children of the Mahoning Valley. Its primary focus is to provide volunteer assistance with Foundation-sponsored special events and other fundraising activities. New members are always welcome. (apply here).
Carol Sankovic, a retired home economics teacher from Canfield, has been volunteering in various capacities with Akron Children’s since 1984 when she was with the Junior League of Akron.
From 1994 to 2008, Sankovic was part of a group of volunteers that made craft kits for children, and she drove the kits to Akron once a week. When the Mahoning Valley campus opened in 2008, she started making the kits for local children and became one of the founding Kids’ Crew members.
“I was already involved with Akron Children’s, so I expanded my commitment by joining Kids’ Crew,” she said.
Donna Hayat of Poland is another original Kids’ Crew member.
“After my children were grown, I was looking to stay active in the community and I felt I was best served to help local children,” she said.
Rachel Liguore, a veterinary tech from Canfield, is a newer Kids’ Crew member, joining four years ago.
“When I came into this, I had just had my daughter and I saw on Facebook they were looking for Kids’ Crew volunteers,” she said. “I was really impressed with the hospital from previous visits, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to get involved in the community.”
Amy Gasser, of Liberty, is also one of the newer members.
“I found it very interesting that no child is ever turned away for lack of payment,” Gasser said. “So I researched and found out about Kids’ Crew and how they raised money. For me as a mom, that’s something I should support.”
As far as planning fundraising events in the community, all the ladies agree they are as fun as they are rewarding.
“Holiday Hopes is the best,” Hayat said. “It’s a luncheon and basket raffle. We wear Santa hats and raise quite a bit of money.”
Members of Kids’ Crew serve in many capacities.
“You don’t have to call people and ask for money if you’re not comfortable with that,” Gasser said. “You can work the events, help set up and check people in and out.”
Costas, however, thrives on calling in favors. She takes pride in asking businesses around the community to support the hospital’s fundraising activities.
“With Julie, the businesses know she’s coming and they just start bringing things,” Sankovic said. “It’s to the point she walks into a store and the owner knows why she’s there.”
Kids’ Crew is all about making a difference for children in the Mahoning Valley. Stock says there’s a place for anyone who wants to serve.
“The thing about Kids’ Crew is you have people from different background and with different strengths, but there’s no requirements about how much time you have to commit,” she said. “We are grateful for anything that anyone can do.”
For more information on joining Kids’ Crew, contact Stock at 330-746-9122.