November 19, 2015

Many groups, one mission: caring for children, families

At 6 feet 4 inches, Shea Weber towers over the tiny tots he visits at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, yet it is he who looks up to them.

At 6 feet 4 inches, Shea Weber towers over the tiny tots he visits at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, yet it is he who looks up to them.

Weber and his Nashville Predators teammates routinely visit pediatric patients in the hospital, stopping by each room to greet them, sign autographs and take photos.

“We’re lucky to be in a position to help people out. For kids who are going through tough times in particular — kids who are battling an illness — to be able to go there, light up their day, give them 30 seconds, or five minutes of joy, and help provide the resources they need, we’re very lucky to be able to do that,” Weber said.

Nashville Predators players Shea Weber, left, and Pekka Rinne pose for a photo with patient Libby Rushing during a recent visit to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (photo by John Russell)

Weber, who is team captain, and goaltender Pekka Rinne formed the team’s 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund by Dollar General during the 2013-2014 season to raise funds and awareness for cancer research and to enable the hospital’s patients and their families to get a special dose of the “Smashville hockey experience.” Through this fund, the team has provided significant support for the hospital and its programs, including the Growing to New Heights Campaign for the upcoming four-floor expansion.

“The Predators have been great community partners, and we are thankful for the support they have provided to us over the years to help fund cancer research,” said Meg Rush, M.D., chief of staff and executive medical director at Children’s Hospital.

“With this year’s gift we are also going to be able to contribute some of that funding for our hospital expansion on top of the building to allow us to serve more families, some of whom will receive a diagnosis of cancer. We can’t do the work that we do in this building every day without our community partners like the Predators.”

Money for the 365 Fund is raised during Hockey Fights Cancer games, silent and blind auctions, mystery pucks and fan donations. The next Hockey Fights Cancer night is Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.

“Since arriving in Nashville, we have made it our organizational commitment to be good neighbors in the community. Part of being good neighbors means looking out for each other and addressing needs as they arise,” said Rebecca King, Nashville Predators senior director of Community Relations. “Partnering with Children’s Hospital and helping with the expansion is a natural extension of that philosophy. This cause in particular is important because of the lifesaving and life-changing work done at the hospital.

“Every square foot we add to the facility gives another one of our sons, daughters, neighbors and friends a shot at a long, healthy and happy life,” King said.

The Nashville Predators are joined in their commitment to volunteering at Children’s Hospital by a number of organizations, each one a tremendous philanthropic partner, dedicated to the shared mission of improving the lives of children and families.

Woody and Jim, 107.5 the River

On-air personalities Woody Wood and Jim Chandler of WRVW 107.5 the River have been entertaining radio audiences for 17 years as they tag team the morning drive time. Their voices are a familiar comfort on air, as is their presence at Children’s Hospital when they host Bingo in the hospital on the first Thursday of each month.

Radio personalities Woody Wood, left, and Jim Chandler show off a gift from Gabrielle Barnes during the 2012 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Radiothon. (photo by Allison Sambola)

Patients and families can join them there to play or can play from their rooms via closed circuit television. They can call downstairs if they achieve Bingo and send someone down to pick up their prize or have one delivered to their room.

“I was in a grumpy mood and came in to play Bingo with the kids, and their energy — when they are facing terrible situations with their health — makes us smile. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Wood said.

Each year, Woody and Jim join forces with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to host the River of Hope Radiothon, broadcast live from the performance stage at Children’s Hospital. This year’s Radiothon will take place on Dec. 10 and 11 from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. They conduct interviews with patients, families and hospital staff, play inspirational musical montages and solicit donations from the community.

Since 2005, the Radiothon has unified the surrounding community by providing outstanding emotional and financial support to the children and families of Children’s Hospital. The station has also made a commitment to support the Growing to New Heights Campaign at Children’s Hospital.

“Every time I go there, even for serious stuff, I come away really positive on the other side, walking out. I think it’s just a testament to all the people there and all the kids, and you see what amazing things are being done that you just can’t help but root for the place,” Chandler said. “Going to visit there and volunteering is a no-brainer.”

Friends Lunch Bunch

On hand to help with the Radiothon each year are volunteers from the Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. For more than 40 years, a group of dedicated volunteers has worked to make the hospital feel more like home.

Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt volunteers such as Mary Lee McGregor, right, and Sheila Priest dish up more than 12,000 meals each year for families of patients at the hospital. (photo by Susan Urmy)

With more than 3,000 members, Friends, as the group is 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.

The first Lunch Bunch began with a group of Friends volunteers, who saw a need in patient families at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and began to provide lunch once a month with donations from local restaurants.

The Friends’ program has now expanded to five Lunch Bunch groups, one Family Dinner night and one Pizza Bingo night each month relying on support from local restaurant donations and Friends membership dues.

It is at the core of Friends of Children’s Hospital — caring for patients and families with a smile and making their day a little easier. Each week Lunch Bunch volunteers can be found in the fifth floor Ronald McDonald family room serving meals to 200 families.

“For the Friends Lunch Bunch volunteers, they can’t help but leave the hospital feeling touched by the patients and families they have met going through these difficult situations. It is truly a gift to be able to serve the patients and families at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt,” said Jennifer Hoffman, current Friends Hospital Services chair and past president of Friends.

Junior League of Nashville

It was the Junior League of Nashville’s dedication 90 years ago to children’s health — and its Home for Crippled Children — that laid the foundation for a children’s hospital in Nashville. In a unique partnership with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the League today supports a number of programs at Children’s Hospital that improve children’s health and wellness.

There are 42 Junior League members who volunteer at Children’s Hospital this year, continuing the tradition of providing support to patients and families.

Jenna Castle volunteers in the Junior League Family Resource Center, one of the many ways that the Junior League of Nashville supports Children’s Hospital. (photo by Anne Rayner)

The Junior League playroom heralded the beginning of what is now a thriving Child Life Services Program, which supports multiple play and activity rooms with services tailored to the unique developmental needs of each child.

Julia Mefford, a Junior League member who works in the Finance Department at Vanderbilt, is in her second year of volunteering at the hospital.

“Volunteering in Child Life makes me excited to work at Vanderbilt. While my job is in finance, I find great joy working hands-on with the patients. It’s inspiring to hear the stories behind the numbers,” she said.

“When I volunteer, I am normally assigned to a playroom where I play games, do crafts or simply hang out with the patients. Some days, I am also assigned to go to bedsides to bring activities to the children. My favorite activities are definitely the art projects.”

Junior League member Jenna Castle oversees all of the Junior League Nashville volunteers at Children’s Hospital.

She also volunteers in the Junior League Family Resource Center, which is located on the second floor of the hospital and provides information about a child’s medical condition or disability. Services, which include a health library and business center, are free of charge.

“What I love about Children’s is it touches so many lives and there are so many different ways to help, whether you want to help the parents and families or have strong interaction with the children. It’s definitely a great way to make the most of a terrible situation.

“Even though these children are there for the worst reasons possible, it’s a very positive place and they make the experience of being in the hospital as happy as possible,” she said.