Bret Baier Shares Story of Son Paul’s “Special Heart”

paulBret Baier and his son Paul signed Bret’s new book, Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage, and Love, at a special event at Politics & Prose in Washington, DC, on July 17.

The book tells the story of Paul’s successful battle with congenital heart disease. “It is my hope that by sharing my family’s experiences through my brave son Paul’s story, we can help others overcome adversity in their own lives,” Bret said.

Twelve days after he was born, Paul had open-heart surgery at Children’s National. The five-hour procedure was “one of the top five most difficult surgeries I’ve ever done,” said Richard Jonas, MD, chief of cardiovascular surgery and co-director of the Children’s National Heart Institute. But the surgery was a success, and now the 7-year-old is happy and active.

Paul and Bret at the 2013 Race for Every Child.

He has had two additional open-heart operations and seven catheterization procedures. In September 2013, just 17 days after his most recent surgery, Paul and his kindergarten classmates participated in the first annual Race for Every Child 5K to raise money for Children’s National. He and his family will be crossing the finish line again this year.

Bret, his wife Amy, and their sons Paul and Daniel, have become important members of the Children’s National family. Bret and Amy serve on the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board, co-chaired the record-breaking 2014 Children’s Ball, and have shared their story with many others to illustrate the impact of our physicians and researchers. Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit research into congenital heart disease.

In recognition of Amy and Bret’s leadership and generosity as parents, board members, donors, and advocates for children, Children’s National awarded the couple with the inaugural Joseph E. Robert, Jr. Prize in Philanthropy in January 2014.

View photos from the event. Read about the book and purchase your copy at

Report: Philanthropy Supported $124 Million in Community Benefits

community-investment-header“Hospitals today must stretch and even bend to meet the increasingly complex and changing needs of the communities they serve,” says Dr. Kurt Newman, president and CEO of Children’s National, in our new Community Benefit Report. “Confronting the current social, economic, and political factors that impact children’s health requires a bold vision – a willingness to challenge the status quo, encourage unconventional approaches, and set ambitious goals.”

This year’s Community Benefit Report documents the $124 million in community benefits Children’s National provided in fiscal year 2013, including making an impact in priority areas like asthma, obesity, and oral health. Read the executive summary.




All Warmed Up for the Race for Every Child!

Zumba session hosted by Fit Kids.
Zumba session hosted by Fit Kids.

Earlier this month, families, staff, and patients warmed up for the Race for Every Child at Children’s National Health System. The kickoff for the second annual race included fun activities like arts and crafts, face painting, an interactive workout led by FitFathers, and Zumba session led by Fit Kids. Race registrants voted for this year’s race T-shirt design and created team posters to display on race day.

Dr. David Wessel, chief medical officer, talked about the importance of the funds that the race raises each year. Race chair Carrie Marriott shared her personal story that inspired her to give back to Children’s National. During the kickoff, we surpassed the 1,000 participant registration mark. Register for the Race for Every Child today!

See more photos.

A Cross-Country Trip Changes a Child’s Life

Gaby Leach PhotoSharee 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.

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Fox 5 DC: Race for Every Child Kicks Off

racekidWe 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.”

Register now for the Race for Every Child on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, at Help us reach our goal of $1 million! You can also become a sponsor or volunteer.


Ben’s Run Tops $200,000 for Cancer Research

Clare and Tom Goldfogle with Ben's Run committee members and longtime supporters.
Clare and Tom Goldfogle with Ben’s Run committee members and longtime supporters.

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.

View photos or visit to learn more.


DC Design House Raises More than $225,000

The seventh annual DC Design House raised more than $225,000 for local kids treated at Children’s National. The residential design showcase redesigned a local home in Forrest Hills in Washington, DC. Here are the before and after pictures of the event.
The seventh annual DC Design House raised more than $225,000 for local kids treated at Children’s National. The residential design showcase redesigned a local home in Forrest Hills in Washington, DC.

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.


Kyle’s Kamp Raises $360,000

Patient Ambassadors and Kyle’s Kamp Committee members present the check.
Patient Ambassadors and Kyle’s Kamp Committee members present the check.

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!

See more pictures here.

VIP Visits: Presidents Obama, Clinton Discuss Asthma and Global Health

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.


Making Birthday Memories: One Donor’s Story

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.”