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5/24/2012 6:00:00 PM
Local parents benefit from Wal-Mart fundraising efforts
Jean Berns Jones

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee will benefit from a fundraising campaign that is underway at Dodgeville's Wal-Mart.
From May 1 to June 15, all fundraising proceeds will be going to the hospital, funneled through the Children's Miracle Network.
"During this time, all the Wal-Marts and Sam's Clubs in the nation are doing fundraising to support Children's Miracle Network," explained Keri Brunelle, fundraising manager for Children's Hospital and Health System Foundation. "Then 100% of the money they raise goes to support their local Children's Miracle Network hospital - in this case, the one in Milwaukee."
Children's Miracle Network Hospitals is an organization that raises more than $250 million each year. The funds are raised by corporate partners throughout the U.S. and Canada. They flow directly to 170 hospitals, including Milwaukee Children's Hospital, which are affiliated with the network.
"As a corporate sponsor, Wal-Mart challenges stores to get out into the community to make a difference in their own hospitals," said employee Joanne Coogan. Wal-Mart has been a partner of the Children's Miracle Network for over 25 years,
The funds help provide many extras that are not covered in hospital budgets. In recent years, Wal-Mart's funds have helped support the hospital's emergency department. This year they will bolster the Patient Services and Family Support programs.
These services include providing teachers and tutors to work with long-term patients so that they may return to their schools on course after leaving the hospital. Teacher volunteers act as liaisons with the child's local school, sometimes even using technology to Skype into that school and maintain connections with their classmates.
The programs also provide animal therapy, since spending time with visiting dogs raises children's spirits and promotes wellness. Family Resource Centers are made available to parents, along with parent lounges, facilities for siblings, and other things that help impart a welcoming sense of normalcy to the medical experience.
"These two programs that are so beneficial to children and families cost $400,000 per year to provide, but they do not have any income," Brunelle said. "That's why it's great when we have partners like Wal-Mart to make sure the programs can keep going for years to come."
The Milwaukee hospital is a familiar place for many southwest Wisconsin residents. In 2010 alone, 44 families from Iowa County received treatment there.
"I appreciate Wal-Mart doing this to provide things for children," said Kristen Strobush, an Arena parent who has spent much time at the hospital. "Many things are not paid for by regular means, and money for them has to come from donations and other outside support."
"They provide interpreters for families who don't speak English, and a toy room for my son while he waits for my daughter and I to talk to the doctors," Kristen said. "It's not like being in a waiting room with one broken toy - there are movies, videos, and games for the children; and an outdoor playground, and even classrooms."
"This makes the hospital experience less stressful and feel more like home," she added. "When the rooms are comfortable and cheerful, it makes it less scary for the kids."
Kristen's daughter, Maizey (3), spent the first three months of her life at the Milwaukee hospital after being transported there at one day old. She was born seven weeks early with a break between her esophagus and stomach which made her unable to eat by mouth.
She now uses a feeding tube and her family makes the 2 1/2 hour drive from Arena to the gastroenterology clinic about once a month. They work with a team that helps with Maizey's special diet and ongoing feeding problems. Her mother values the Family Resource Center for its information and support.
"They make sure parents and children have the educational and emotional - not just the medical-support they need," she said. "There are many unknowns about our daughter's condition and the staff there is always willing to answer questions and they are always there to help."
Another parent who has high praise for the children's hospital is Jenafer Humphries of Spring Green. Her daughter Rhiannon (8) was flown there when she was a few hours old, suffering from a congenital heart defect and pulmonary atresia. Rhiannon had her first open heart surgery when she was three days old, and she had four subsequent complicated heart surgeries.
Rhiannon has now been diagnosed with Kabuki Syndrome and she also has pulmonary hypertension. Due to hip issues, she was confined to a wheel chair until last year. Then she started walking - a thing she was never expected to do. The little girl has defied medical predictions in many ways.
"Truthfully, if it wasn't for the skill of the surgeons and the remarkable care in Milwaukee - and the excellent, coordinated care at the hospital in Madison - she would not be with us now," Jenafer said.
"The Milwaukee hospital really is an amazing place," Jenafer added. "When you try to take a little kid into a sterile hospital room, it's so hard. But there they try to make it as livable and easy, and as close to home as possible. All those extras make a big difference in the stress level for the child and for their whole family."
"As a parent away from home for extended periods of time," she continued, "not only are you worried about your child, but you have to maintain the life that goes on - pay your bills, answer emails, and all those things. So those extras they provide, like having a parent lounge where you can go and access the computer, those things allow you to be with your child and it helps a lot."
Since fundraising began at Dodgeville Wal-Mart May 1st, over $3,500 has been raised for Children's Miracle Network in a variety of ways. Donations are being accepted at the front cash registers when customers check out. There have been cook-outs, and staff members participated in a "Jeans Day."
On June 1st a golf outing will be held at Dodge Point Golf Club. The donation is $40 per individual and $160 per team. To take part, call David Murphy, assistant manager at Wal-Mart.
"On June 9th we will be having our main event -- Family Fun Day -- from 10-3 in our Wal-Mart parking lot," Murphy said. "The fire department, ambulance, sheriff's department, a petting zoo, music, food, games, and lots of activities will be here. Everyone in the area is invited. All proceeds will go to the Children's Miracle Network of Wisconsin."
Murphy said he enjoys being part of the fundraising because "It's a way we can give back to the community and the customers who shop in our store."
Gail Heun, manager of Dodgeville's Wal-Mart, encourages store employees and others in the community to become aware of the hospital's services. On May 30th a bus load of Wal-Mart employees from the area will go to Milwaukee and tour the hospital, to learn about it and be able to share the information with their co-workers.
"We're lucky, being the size we are, to have the opportunity to raise a substantial amount," Heun said. "And are there two better things -- children and healthcare -- to raise money for?"

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