Barbara Wellman had ideas on how to improve children’s services at Kootenai Medical Center, but none of them were free. As an occupational therapist, she visits special education students in local schools and helps them develop their fine motor skills. In the summer, children come to her office in KMC’s McGrane Center. It is functional, but Wellman wishes for more. She imagines an outdoor playground where practicing skills could be partnered with sun and fun.
“A child’s job in life is to play,” she said. “That’s important in their developmental sequence.”
When she heard that KMC was joining the Children’s Miracle Network of the Inland Northwest, her ears “perked up,” she said.
“I thought I better check into this, especially if the money was to go to kids,” she said. “I think it’s great. I was just really excited to hear we were going to get involved.”
The arrangement with CMN, an international nonprofit organization, is designed to benefit children’s hospitals and facilities. It taps into national corporate donations, which are ordinarily difficult for small communities to access. By joining, KMC will receive matching funds from the network at a rate of $2 for every $1 raised in local fund-raising.
More than 25 KMC employees have been meeting on several new committees, which were formed this spring to jump-start the fund-raising. Wellman, a 17-year KMC employee, joined the bracelet committee, which is responsible for sales of red and yellow bands that say “Miracle Maker.” They have been for sale at the hospital and available to the public for purchase at the North Idaho Fair.
So far most efforts have focused on KMC employees, who were asked to donate to CMN through payroll deductions and a balloon campaign, which displayed donor names in the hospital cafeteria. A golf tournament was held in July to partner employees with community members and brought in about $6,000. Sponsors included RE/MAX By the Lake, North Idaho Imaging Center and Ear, Nose and Throat of Coeur d’ Alene.
A goal of $15,000 was set for the first year of participation and approximately $8,400 has been raised to date. This means that $16,800 will be granted from the CMN to supplement the local dollars.
“We’ve seen some wonderful early success,” said Teri Farr, vice president for community development at KMC. “This first year it’s about communicating the mission.”
Joining the network has meant additional work. Some has been provided by paid staff members and some by volunteers.
“It’s gotten off to a great start,” Farr said. “Employees are showing enthusiasm and commitment in getting the fund-raising launched, solely for the benefit of the children that we serve.”
She said that KMC was invited to join CMN based on their strong relationship with other regional hospitals that are already part of the network.
“We reviewed it and felt it was very appropriate for us to do this,” she said. “There was a real opportunity for us to leverage our fund-raising for children’s programs.”
Donated funds will be for above and beyond normal equipment, Farr said. Some possible needs have been identified already such as newborn hearing screening equipment and school supplies. Employees who work in departments with children will be encouraged to submit proposals on how the money should be spent. Suggestions from the community are welcome and a committee will determine the allocations.
For KMC employees, the CMN project means that they may be able to purchase items that enhance the day-to-day necessities.
Shannon Moore-Normington, a mental health specialist at KMC’s North Idaho Behavioral Health division, has worked on the youth psychiatric unit for five years. She is involved with NIBH’s accredited school, where children can earn diplomas while learning problem-solving, anger management and other tools to teach them to be productive, she said.
She helped coordinate bracelet sales and spread the word about the fund-raising campaign to the psychiatric branch, which is located blocks away from KMC’s main campus. Her hopes for the extra dollars include specialized equipment for autistic children and additional recreational therapy equipment.
“We don’t necessarily need medical equipment,” she said. “We deal with kids from every type of home, rich or poor. We offer hope and tools so that life will be better. We have the unique opportunity to work with kids and effect changes.”
Moore-Normington said that she has treated youngsters struggling with addiction and kids on parole. She believes that CMN gives the community an opportunity to show their support and potentially, society will reap the benefits.
“They are getting a healthier, happier next generation,” she said.
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