During May at Costco, regional shoppers at the registers will see photos of Spokane resident Journey Burkhart, a regular patient at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.
Burkhart, 2, was born with STAR syndrome, and she’s one of only 10 people in the world diagnosed with the genetic disease. For Journey, the disorder caused a tethered spinal cord, mild spina bifida and hearing loss. She had a spine surgery this past year at Sacred Heart that has helped her to walk.
This month, she’s also the hospital’s “champion child” at local Costco stores for the retailer’s national support during May toward Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals – an effort delayed until fall last year with the pandemic. But, for 2021, it’s returned to the normal timeframe with donations taken through May 31.
The current campaign again won’t have the paper balloons signed by donors to post on walls because of COVID-19 safety protocols. But the local impact still rises to the top among five regional warehouses, where contributions are significant for kids at the Spokane facility, said Rachael McKinney, a Spokane Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals program director.
Last year, Costco customers between Coeur d’Alene and Wenatchee donated more than $280,000. Since 1988, the retailer’s regional customers have given more than $2.6 million.
“The partnership with Costco is huge for our market. Even though there are only five warehouses raising money for our children’s hospital, they are continuously one of our top partners raising anywhere from $250,000 to over $300,000 every year – which is huge,” McKinney said.
Those warehouses are two in Spokane and one in Coeur d’Alene, Clarkston and Wenatchee. “We could not be more thankful,” she said.
A champion child such as Journey puts a face to hospital care needs for the region’s youngest patients, McKinney said.
“We choose a local child every year to represent our hospital, which is what all children’s hospitals that are part of Children’s Miracle Network do,” she said. “That just helps partners see that their money really does stay local.”
Journey also is separately supported by Spokane’s Joya Child & Family Development, a center that provides early intervention therapy services to children from birth to age 3.
“Journey turns 3 in August,” McKinney said. “She just had spinal surgery last year, which drastically improved her abilities physically, like walking. She used to walk with the assistance of a walker, but, after her spinal surgery, her mom saw her really take off and be able to walk on her own.
“I think she will be a patient of Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital likely her entire life. But the incredible thing about having Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital right here in Spokane is we have everything she needs here in our community, which is huge for her family being that she has three brothers.”
Locally, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals campaign supported by Costco customers has paid toward needs such as Sacred Heart’s NICU NicView cameras that help keep families connected to their babies when they can’t be there. The dollars also supported buying life support equipment called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, McKinney said.
She said a previously owned ECMO proved critical for Levi Kimberling, last year’s Spokane champion child who was treated at the hospital for a severe form of pneumonia.
So, more recently, “We have funded another ECMO machine, like a heart-lung machine that takes over the work of the heart and lungs so the child or baby can heal. A lot of children would not survive if they weren’t placed on this type of machine. We previously only had one, and we recently funded another one for nearly $40,000.”
But the annual campaign also helps fund the little things, she said. Support has helped pay for family CPR classes and family convenience bags with toiletries for when parents go directly to the hospital carrying nothing with them.
“So not everything we fund is thousands and thousands of dollars. It can range because the money is unrestricted. As long as it’s spent on something within the walls of our children’s hospital, it can go toward anything. It’s kind of just a matter of where the need is, which is the great thing.”
The support can go toward any care, from needs among long-term stays to the clinics within the hospital that handle specialists’ appointments or outpatient procedures.
As another example, child oncology patients finishing up cancer treatments get a “Ring the Bell Ceremony,” at the hospital with family and friends, but that hasn’t happened for a year now with COVID-19 protocols. So funds in Spokane recently helped pay for celebratory boxes that can go with patients for an at-home ceremony.
“What we’ve also funded recently – not necessarily specific to Costco dollars but just Children’s Miracle Network dollars in general – are things like Pediatric 3D heart models. A lot of times, 3D hearts are created ahead of a surgery so the surgical team can see what their options are for the patient, especially with complex congenital heart disease.”
The sculpture-like models are unique to a patient’s heart so they can’t be reused for another child needing surgery. “Any time one is needed, we fund a new one. They range I’d say anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, sometimes more, depending on the complexity of the surgery.”
McKinney said the campaign is the only donation work that Costco supports nationally each year, and the five regional stores cover the bulk of local patients’ hometowns.
“We see children who come from all over, honestly, but those warehouses are in our main area – so Central to Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho are our biggest areas we see patients come from. But, depending on needs, we can see them from Montana, even Western Washington, and when visiting Spokane, they’d come to our hospital if needed.”
In 2019, the Spokane hospital cared for more than 4,500 children, she said. For more information on how to donate and support Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, go to sacred-heart.childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.