March 26, 2015

Friends of Children’s Hospital dedicated to showing support

For more than 40 years, a group of dedicated volunteers known as the Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has worked to turn scary hospital visits into happier memories.

Ellie Moore, right, a former patient at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, will take part in her third Friends & Fashion show in April. (photo by Susan Urmy)

For more than 40 years, a group of dedicated volunteers known as the Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has worked to turn scary hospital visits into happier memories.

With a roster of more than 3,000 members, Friends, as the group is more casually known, has committed to fundraising, community awareness and supporting the patients and families of Children’s Hospital through a variety of activities and programs.

They organize more than 12,000 meals that are served each year through its monthly Family Dinner Night and weekly Lunch Bunch, a lunch for families of patients in the hospital. Pizza and Bingo Night are always popular, and closed-circuit television was added recently so patients who can’t leave their rooms can still play. Friends help with the Children’s Miracle Network Radiothon and Telethon each year, host staff appreciation events, hold an annual Fourth of July party and help organize and fund the “Time for Remembering” memorial service for families to honor loved ones who have died.

Friends of Children’s Hospital president Rachel Hornsby, left, with Friends & Fashion co-chair Angela Bostelman.

“As a mom with three kids who has made lots of trips to the hospital, it’s in my heart to make sure that other parents who have to bring their children here are comfortable,” said Friends president Rachel Hornsby, who has been a member for almost 15 years. “It’s comforting to have a group of volunteers who are dedicated to providing meals, basic comfort items and distractions or entertainment for the entire family during their hospital stay. I am proud to be part of an organization that thinks of the needs of the whole family during their time of crisis.”

Friends celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012 by making a $1 million commitment to support prematurity research. They also have committed to support the Growing to New Heights Campaign, a $30 million effort to expand the size and the reach of Children’s Hospital to patients.

“We are extremely grateful for everything Friends continues to do for the children and families who turn to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt for care,” said Kathryn Carell Brown, campaign chair. “Their generosity and dedication will bring comfort and hope to so many.”

Among the organization’s signature annual fundraisers is Friends & Fashion, which began 25 years ago as a luncheon for women in Williamson County. One of the original organizers of this event was U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn).

“I was a young mom in a group of young moms, and we chose to do something for Children’s Hospital. We all had children who had used or could use those services, and we wanted to make certain that the hospital had the resources it needed to meet the needs of families in Williamson County,” Blackburn said.

“We met to discuss what we could do that would be a fundraiser, and we decided a fashion show would be a great start. So Angela Chapman and I took the lead that first year, doing the show. There is a photo of Angela and me presenting that first check. I think it was for about $2,500 that first year. We are many years down the road and still celebrating a very successful event.”

To date, the show has raised close to $1 million for Children’s Hospital.

“We’re amazed that it’s been around this long. I’ve been able to attend it on and off through the 25 years and now my daughter is involved in the process. How fun that people still come together for this event that continues to benefit an institution we all care deeply about,” Blackburn said.

The Friends & Fashion show, put on by Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital and sponsored by Belk, has raised nearly $1 million for Children’s Hospital since it began 25 years ago.

This year, Friends & Fashion, sponsored by Belk, will be held on Monday, April 13, at the Embassy Suites in Cool Springs. Belk has partnered with the Friends organization since their arrival in the greater Nashville area in 2006. The family-owned department store will transform the Embassy Suites ballroom for the show. Joining the professional models who will be showing off spring fashion will be current and past patients of the hospital modeling the latest children’s and junior fashions. Former Children’s Hospital patient Ellie Moore will be participating for the third year.

“I do, of course, enjoy getting all dolled up in a pretty dress and having my hair done, but the highlight of the whole experience for me is getting to hear the other kids’ stories about how Children’s Hospital saved them,” said Moore, who is in the ninth grade at Harpeth Hall. “I enjoy seeing every year all the children hold up their sign with their sickness and how Vanderbilt saved them and see the faces in the audience turn from concern into a smile when the children flip their signs around to what they want to be when they grow up.”

Moore was born with transposition in the great arteries, also known as a blue baby. She had open heart surgery twice as a newborn and was given a 5 percent chance of surviving. She returns to Children’s Hospital yearly for a checkup.

“I want to major in education and minor in service learning. My experiences at Vanderbilt have influenced me to choose these particular things to study. They made me look at the world differently. The people at Vanderbilt spend all day every day helping people and saving lives. They have inspired me to help others,” Moore said.

Award-winning songwriter Brett James will serve as this year’s performer for the event. He and his wife, Sandy, have a son, Preston, who is a former Children’s Hospital patient and will be a model.

Friends & Fashion opens at 10 a.m. with a silent auction and shopping, followed at 11:30 a.m. with the luncheon and fashion show. Tickets are $125 per person ($90 tax deductible) or $1,500 for a table of 12 ($1,080 tax deductible).

“Without the drive, dedication and talent of the many volunteers who pull Friends & Fashion together year after year the event would not be what it is today. I am honored to be part of such a tremendous group, raising money for such a worthy cause,” said Friends & Fashion co-chair Angela Bostelman, acknowledging the 60 or so volunteers who are working behind the scenes. The event is also co-chaired by Vera Lee.

Several auxiliary events lead up to the fashion show including Sundae with Friends, a special mother-and-daughter event where young girls are invited to bring their favorite doll to share in the fun. Activities include hair and makeup styling for girls and dolls, a photo booth, a runway walk, a sundae bar and much more. This event takes place on April 12.

“All good ideas start with that question of ‘I wonder if this is something that would work? I wonder if this is a good idea?’ When you have that idea, give it the opportunity to grow. All ideas are going to start small — every idea has a beginning. It is the commitment to help it grow that is going to yield something that becomes a marquee event. Friends & Fashion started small, and it is now a major part of the focus of the Friends organization,” Blackburn said.