In “The Secret Garden,” Children’s Ball Raises Money, Awareness for Kids

Tess and Alexander Theodorakos are interviewed by emcee Bret Baier. Tess and Alexander shared their story of living with cerebral palsy and their journey at Children's National.
Tess and Alexander Theodorakos are interviewed by emcee Bret Baier. Tess and Alexander shared their story of living with cerebral palsy and their journey at Children’s National.

Bright colors and secret wishes took over the National Building Museum on Friday, May 8, for the ninth annual Children’s Ball. With the theme “The Secret Garden,” the event attracted more than 750 guests dressed not just in black and white, but dramatic colors and florals, to show their support for Children’s National Health System.

Chairs Norma and Russ Ramsey led a dynamic Children’s Ball Committee that hosted an inspirational evening that included a live auction, an online silent auction, and an after-hours lounge and dance party. With the support of many generous sponsors, the 2015 Children’s Ball raised $4.1 million for children and families.

Additionally, several awards were presented during the evening. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) received the Children’s Advocacy Award. David Bronczek, CEO of FedEx, accepted the Children’s Innovation Award on behalf of the company, and Franco Nuschese, owner of Café Milano, received the Café Milano Award.

“The Children’s Ball is just one of the many ways that this community helps fulfill our mission to improve children’s health,” said Dr. Kurt D. Newman, president and CEO of Children’s National. “Thanks to generous support, Children’s National is advancing pediatric medicine around the world through innovation, excellence in care, and research.”

View photos of the evening and the patient video shown at the Children’s Ball.

A Father and Son’s Journey

DukesRoberto Victor Duke knows firsthand the power of lifesaving medical care. When his mother was traveling back from the Caribbean on a cruise, she gave birth to Roberto prematurely, and he weighed one pound and two ounces. The doctor on board saved his life by constructing a makeshift incubator out of wine crates. His mother was so grateful that she named her newborn after Captain Roberto and the cruise ship, called Queen Victoria.

“This story of my birth always reminds me of the importance of helping others,” Roberto said. He went on to attend the University of Virginia, where he met his wife, Ivy. Together, they moved to Washington to start their careers—he as an urban planner and she as an attorney. In 2003, Roberto and Ivy discovered they were going to have a baby, whom they would name Ian.

At the 20-week ultrasound, they learned that Ian had hypoplastic right heart syndrome, a serious congenital heart defect. They were referred to Children’s National and at just three days old, Ian had the first of five open-heart surgeries. He is now thriving. “While my birth was fraught with challenges,” said Roberto, “I never imagined that my own child would endure a similar fate. We decided to put Children’s National in our wills so that more children have access to excellent medical care.”

As members of the Guardian Society, the Dukes actively raise awareness about the power of philanthropy. Ivy recently joined the Children’s Hospital Board. In the summer of 2014, they welcomed Ana Victoria Duke into their family. “My mom honored the captain of the ship for saving my life by naming me after him,” said Roberto. “So it’s fitting that Ivy and I have named Children’s National in our wills. We want to honor the doctors and nurses who helped Ian survive.” See Ian’s story in this video.

Happy Red Nose Day!

rednoseIf you’re at our hospital today, you may see children, parents, and doctors with red noses. Don’t worry — it’s not a health condition, but a fun way to support the first-ever Red Nose Day in the United States. After raising money for 30 years in the United Kingdom, the nonprofit Comic Relief is expanding to the US, and tonight at 8:00 eastern, NBC will air a three-hour comedy special that will raise money for charities that benefit children here and across the globe. Get details about the show.

Children’s National is a proud partner of the Children’s Health Fund, one of 12 nonprofits that will receive proceeds from the fundraiser. The Children’s Health Fund supports our mobile health units that allow us to serve children and families when and where they need care.

The mission of Red Nose Day is to raise money for children and young people living in poverty by simply having fun and making people laugh. People across the country are coming together to have fun and raise funds and awareness.  Proceeds raised during the Red Nose Day campaign goes to the Red Nose Day Fund, which then distributes grants to charities that benefit children and young people in the US and some of the poorest communities in the world.

Red noses are being sold at Walgreens, the retail partner of Red Nose Day. Are you wearing YOUR nose? Send us your photo on Twitter (tag @childrenshealth) or Instagram (tag @childrensnational) with the hashtag #rednoseday or #rednosedayUS.


335 Miles for Miles

Mike M RaceLocal Washingtonian Mike Monroe, an avid bicyclist, crossed the finish line on May 15 by riding into Children’s National after an arduous journey in his fight against food allergies. Inspired by his son, Miles, who lives with food allergies, Mike undertook a 335-mile ride along the Great Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania to Washington, DC. Mike’s effort has raised more than $34,000, which will help fund clinical food allergy research at Children’s National under the leadership of Dr. Hemant Sharma.

“This is a life or death situation for our children,” Mike said. “That is why I’ve pushed myself to my limits, because Miles and other kids like him have to constantly push themselves to be alert of the threats around them.”

Food allergy affects 1 in 13 kids in the United States, and the number is growing. Across the country, life-threatening allergies are increasing in prevalence. This realityMike and Miles 5 4 2015 poses a danger to children and young adults, who often lack the awareness, knowledge, or tools to ensure their safety everywhere they go – at school, in the community, and even in their own homes. There is currently no cure, but early research into potential treatments for food allergy appears promising.  Children’s National was just named a Center of Excellence for Research by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) and will begin its first clinical trials in peanut allergies.

The ride stretched from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Cumberland, Md., to the front doors of Children’s National. In just 26 hours and 29 minutes, Mike became the first person to continuously ride the 335 miles of trail system, a course that most people complete in four to six days. Learn more or make a donation.

Click here for more photos.

Miracle Child Gives Back to Help Kids with Heart Conditions in Uganda

Zach blumenfeldWhen Zachary was born, he was diagnosed at Children’s National with pulmonary atresia—a life-threatening heart condition in which his pulmonary valve was sealed shut and blood could not get to his lungs to receive oxygen. Zachary also had an enlarged chamber and holes across the upper chambers of his heart.

Cardiologists Gerard Martin, MD, senior vice president of the Center for Heart, Lung and Kidney Disease, and Craig Sable, MD, director of echocardiography and medical director of telemedicine, successfully opened the sealed valve without having to perform open heart surgery. After the successful procedure, the doctors dubbed Zach the “miracle baby” and he was discharged at six weeks old.

In the next few years, Zach would have additional procedures for his heart condition. Before starting kindergarten, he had a cathertization to close two holes in his heart. When he was 9 years old, he underwent heart surgery to replace his pulmonary valve. Now, at age 11, Zachary’s heart is beating fine, and he’s an active baseball player. His mother says that you would not think that he has a severe heart condition by looking at him.

Thankful for the lifesaving care they received at Children’s National, the Blumenfelds established the Zachary Asher Blumenfeld Fund to raise funds to support the care of children fighting heart issues around the world. They are especially committed to assisting Dr. Sable, who is developing a surgery center in Uganda.

Two years ago, Zachary had the opportunity to meet some of the African patients he has helped support. Dr. Sable had brought two Ugandan patients to Children’s National for heart procedures, and Zachary asked Dr. Sable if they could come to one of his baseball games. This game was Zach’s first after his open heart surgery. Zachary was thrilled to share the game with the children from Uganda. He showed them how to play baseball and gave them ball caps and t-shirts.

Zachary is also developing a business plan to place slushy stands at local baseball camps and Little League games to raise funds to continue to save the lives of children with heart procedures just like him.

A Sweet Victory in the Fight against Cancer

army baking On a cold winter day, Christina Worrell stopped  at Helene Fritschi’s house to make an announcement. Christina would be entering The Cookie Challenge baking competition on behalf of Helene’s son, Kyle, who had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If Christina’s team won, she would donate all proceeds to Children’s National, where Kyle was being treated.

“It took my breath away and the tears rolled down my cheeks,” recalls Helene. “Honestly, Christina didn’t even have to win the competition because in my eyes, she had already won for her thoughtfulness and kindheartedness.”

The Cookie Challenge, held by Appliance Builders Wholesalers, was held in Silver Spring, Md. Each of the 14 teams of four bakers had to bake five dozen cookies in 90 minutes and present three perfect cookies to the judges. Christina’s team, named “Bake My Day,” donned aprons and went to work.

An hour and a half later, the judging began. The judges listened to each team discuss the charity they would give donations to if they won. One of Christina’s teammates introduced Kyle, who stood quietly, nodded his head, and smiled. “What the judges didn’t know,” says his mother, “Is that Kyle had been through a very difficult day. He was extremely fatigued and in a lot of pain. But he rallied for this event. I was so proud to be his mom.”

After careful evaluation, the judges ruled that Christina’s team had made the best cookie of the night. Their victory means that nearly $10,000 will go directly to Children’s National’s oncology program.

“I wish I could describe all that I felt that evening, but it is impossible,” said Helene. “If you take a dash of decency, a sprinkle of strength, a tablespoon of thoughtfulness, a cup of compassion, gallons of generosity, and bake it with love—you have the recipe for success. Christina’s team and everyone involved made my son, my tough cookie, feel like he won a million dollars.”

Guardian Society: Protecting Generations of Children


Nearly 100 attendees gathered at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC, for the 8th Guardian Society Annual Luncheon on April 16, in celebration of those who have committed to help future generations of children through a legacy gift. Members of The Guardian Society have included Children’s National in their wills or other planned legacy gifts, making an important and thoughtful statement of their values.

“I’ve always thought the members of The Guardian Society have a particularly special relationship with our institution,” said Dr. Kurt Newman, president and CEO. “When you make a legacy gift, you help us plan for the future health needs of children. There’s never been a more exciting time to be in the field of pediatric medicine and, with supporters like you, there’s so much more we can do.”

He then introduced Dr. Catherine Bollard, pioneer in the field of immunotherapies and director of Children’s National’s Program for Cell Enhancement and Technologies for Immunotherapy. As experts in cell therapies, her team’s research has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat cancer and other viruses. Specifically, she is focused on T-cell therapy, which trains naturally occurring T-cells in the body to kill the cancer without the toxic side effects associated with traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

“Children’s National is one of the few hospitals in the world to offer cellular therapy to treat life-threatening infections in patients with immune deficiencies,” said Dr. Bollard, “as well as preventing or treating relapse in children with cancer. T-cell therapy tackles the immediate problem and also aims to protect patients for the rest of their lives.”

For more information about planned giving and The Guardian Society, contact Cindy Barrington.

Tours Now Open for DC Design House

DC Design House Front Exterior (Photo by Angie Seckinger)
DC Design House Front Exterior (Photo by Angie Seckinger)

Tickets and tours are now available for the 2015 DC Design House benefiting Children’s National. DC Design House is an annual designer showcase event where top interior designers transforms a home in the Washington area. This year’s featured home is a country estate in McLean, Va., with 28 rooms created by 24 design firms. Tours will run until May 10.  Learn more about the event or purchase tickets.

The DC Design House began in 2008 as a single event in which top area interior design2014-dc-design-house-logo-stackeders showcased their talents into a “flowing-themed design home” to raise money for Children’s National. The event was so successful that business partners Skip and Debbie Singleton, principals of DC Living Real Estate, LLC, along with Sandy Steele and Taylor Wells, formed a 501(c)3 non-profit entity to continue the event annually. In the first seven years, over 55,000 visitors have attended the event, helping to raise more than $1,250,000 for Children’s National in support of the children and their families in our communities.

Register Now for the 2015 Race for Every Child!

Kirsten Lewis-397Be among the first to register for the 2015 Race for Every Child. Our event website is up and running. The third annual 5k run/walk and Kids’ Dash will take place on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, DC. The Race for Every Child is one of the largest community events focused on children’s health in the Washington region and helps ensure that every child treated at Children’s National can receive the same level of world-class service and expert care. “Children’s National is always here for our community,” said Race Director Ashley Husich. “The Race for Every Child is an opportunity for our region to rally around children, have fun, and make a difference.”

Proceeds from the event will help fund specialized medical care, the development of innovative treatments for childhood diseases, and important wellness and preventive services to keep children healthy. Last year, nearly 4,700 people from 27 states, the District of Columbia, and four countries laced up for the race and raised more than $1 million. This year’s goal is $1.2 million.

This year’s Race is co-chaired by Casey and Nick Seidenberg, whose daughter Pippa continues to receive treatment at Children’s National. “There’s nothing that compares to the feeling of crossing the finish line at the Race for Every Child,” Casey Seidenberg said. “It’s a time to celebrate, express gratitude, and have fun. But we know the finish line is just the beginning. Together, as a community we can do more. We can give more children the chance for a healthy life. That’s what the Race is all about.”

Registration is now open at You can sign up as an individual, create or join a team, or simply donate.

Van Metre Companies Help Advance Pediatric Cardiology

2015 03 24 Van Metre Professorship in CardiologyChildren’s National installed Charles I. Berul, MD, as the inaugural Van Metre Companies Professor of Cardiology on March 24. As division chief and co-director of the Children’s National Heart Institute, Dr. Berul and his team improve outcomes for children with congenital heart disease through early detection, complex surgeries, and devices customized for small patients.

“This professorship is an honor,” Dr. Berul said. “It will help my team and me by pushing the envelope of pediatric cardiology research and innovation. It allows me to say ‘yes’ when our cardiologists and team members propose new ideas that may not yet be ready for prime time, but have exciting potential.”

Dr. Berul’s research goal is miniaturization of pacemakers for children with heart rhythm abnormalities. His team is more broadly focused on innovative cardiac device development and clinical and population health for children with heart disease. Dr. Berul’s clinical expertise in heart rhythm disorders has tripled the number of electrophysiology procedures in the catheterization laboratory.

The professorship was made possible by the Van Metre Companies, which has provided top quality homes and investment properties to clients since its founding in 1955. Longtime supporters of Children’s National, the Van Metre Companies and its employees host the annual Van Metre 5-Mile Run, which celebrated its 23rd race in March.

“We are honored that the Van Metre Companies name will be forever associated with Children’s National,” said Mark Batshaw, MD, physician-in-chief and Fight for Children Chair of Academic Medicine. “Their gift will last as long as the hospital lasts — and let me assure you, we will always be here for children.”