Sharee Leach had prayed for years for a second child, so when she learned she was pregnant, she and her husband, Lindon, were overjoyed. At an 11-week checkup, their doctor ran a test that revealed sobering news: their baby, Gabriella, had sickle cell disease. “My husband is a doctor and I am a nurse so we quickly understood the grim reality of our situation,” recalls Sharee. “This disease is life-threatening and has no widely available and guaranteed cure. That did not stop us. We were determined to save our child.”
When a child has sickle cell disease, the cells become distorted into the shape of a sickle and can get caught in small vessels, leading to poor blood flow, severe pain crises, and other issues. Without highly effective treatment, about half of these children die by age 40.
The Leaches consulted numerous physicians in California, where they lived, and were told repeatedly that not much could be done until Gaby experienced an actual crisis. At 7 months old, she did, running a very high fever that would not subside. Sharee and Lindon found themselves in and out of a nearby hospital with young Gaby every two weeks. Yet the medical professionals would not administer hydroxyurea, a drug that can relieve painful symptoms of the disease, because of insurance policies in the state of California.
We kicked off our 2014 Race for Every Child last week with race chair Carrie Marriott and current and former patients and their families. Watch Fox 5 DC’s coverage of the launch to hear Carrie’s personal story that inspired her to give back to Children’s National. Fox 5 is a media sponsor for the event, and Allison Seymour will be the emcee. See the clip from Fox5′s “Good Day DC.”
The fourth annual Ben’s Run on April 5 raised a record $80,000, with 1,150 participants. Over the past four years, the event has raised more than $233,000 for cancer research in memory of Ben Goldfogle. The fifth annual run is set for April 25, 2015.
The seventh annual DC Design House raised more than $225,000 for Children’s National. The annual residential designer showcase event redesigns a local home in the Washington area, and interior design professionals display their talents while raising funds for local kids. The event has raised more than $1.2 million for Children’s National since it began in 2008. Proceeds from the project support the Children’s Health Board and the Children’s Hospital Foundation. Volunteers from the Children’s Health Board manage the house and tours.
This year, DC Design House redesigned a local home in Forrest Hills, with more than 25 local designers, and more than 6,000 visitors to the house from April 13 to May 11.
“This year was made possible through the talents and efforts of the all-volunteer support group working hard on this major fundraiser to benefit Children’s National,” said Skip Singleton, Jr., president of the DC Design House. “We are so very pleased to see the DC Design House continue its tradition as a major community event, and increase the community’s awareness and support of the mission of Children’s National.”
View before and after photos of the 2014 DC Design House here.
Baseball teams from all over Washington, Maryland, and Virginia raised more than $360,000 to support children battling cancer through the Kyle’s Kamp Memorial Day Tournament. The top four teams that raised the most money played on the field at Nationals Stadium on May 23. Since 2012, Kyle’s Kamp has raised more than $850,000. All of the players, teams, coaches, and volunteers, led by Rob Hahne, remind us that the whole community is here to knock cancer out of the park!
It’s not often that two presidents visit any hospital just a few weeks apart, but that recently happened when President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton visited recently. On May 30, President Obama recorded his weekly radio address at the main campus after visited with children with asthma. Read or watch his address on reducing carbon pollution.
In May, President Clinton visited to discuss global health programs. He met with students and faculty who are working to improve pediatric health worldwide. See photos of the visit on Facebook.
For years, children battling cancer at Children’s National had something special to look forward to on Wanda Bissell’s birthday. Miss Bissell, a member of The Guardian Society and retired government employee, would round up toys from friends and deliver them to the hospital. It was her unique way of giving back after overcoming a strenuous personal battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).
“I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 40,” she recalls. “I learned that ALL is a cancer common in children. As time went on, I thought there must be something I can do to help young people who may be suffering with this awful illness. That’s when I decided to call Children’s National.”
Miss Bissell met Debbie Freiburg, Vice President of Nursing at Children’s National, who became a strong ally in her quest to bring cheer to children as they battled cancer. “Debbie first greeted me with small red wagons, which we used to transport all the gifts I had packed in my car. She then led me from one child’s room to the next,” remembers Miss Bissell. “I dropped off games, coloring books, and electronic toys to the children, who smiled from ear to ear. It was wonderful the first time I did it, and it became a birthday tradition.”
As time went on, I wanted to make a lasting difference. I decided to name Children’s National in my will and designate my gift to the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. It was easy. I just called Children’s National and spoke with Vikki Ismael, Senior Associate Director of Gift Planning, and she was right on it! Mrs. Ismael gave my attorney the specific language to be included in my will.”
Miss Bissell believes her estate gift will have a real impact in children’s lives. “I know what it means to receive a heartfelt gift, which I was given from an unrelated bone marrow donor. While I never met him in person, we did speak once, and for years we exchanged birthday cards. Children’s National is a heartfelt place and so giving back was a natural thing to do.”
Get ready for the second annual Race for Every Child on Saturday, Sept. 13! Last year, runners raised more than $700,000 to support kids at Children’s National Health System. Make a difference for children by joining a team or making a donation. Early bird registration is $25 until June 15.
Milagros para Ninos, a new initiative to further engage the Latino community in raising awareness and funds for children’s health, raised nearly $30,000 at its first event on May 16. Led by a Latino Advisory Committee representing business and community leaders, Milagros para Ninos is building visibility about the need for free wellness and diagnostic screenings, research, public education about important health issues, and philanthropic support for Children’s National.
The breakfast was held at the Embassy of Mexico’s cultural landmark, the Mexican Cultural Institute, and honored the strength and resilience of the 300,000 mothers and caregivers whose children were treated through the Children’s National Health System, including the hospital, outpatient clinics, and community programs.
“As a community, we have a collective responsibility for all kids, especially Latino children,” said Denice Cora-Bramble, MD, MBA, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Ambulatory and Community Health Services, and Senior Vice President of the Goldberg Center for Community Pediatric Health at Children’s National. “We need to ensure that children receive the kind of care and treatment that gives them chance for a full childhood and a productive adulthood.”
The Latino Advisory Committee of Milagros para Ninos presented two awards to leaders in the Latino health community. The Community Leadership Award was given to Roxana Olivas, director of the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, for her achievements in advancing the Latino community in Washington. The committee presented the Outstanding Caregiver Award to Children’s National Health System’s Maria T. Acosta, MD, for outstanding care, her dedication to children and families, and her role in developing the Milagros para Ninos initiative.
In its third annual Be Brave & Shave fundraiser, the lacrosse team at Gonzaga College High School raised more than $26,000 to support pediatric cancer research at Children’s National. Players, coaches, and parents individually raised money and shaved their heads during their end-of-season celebration on May 15. See more photos on WUSA9′s website.