US News ranked the American children’s hospitals for 2013-14, and recognized 10 as being on their “Honor Roll,” for receiving high marks in multiple categories of pediatric care. One thing all these hospitals have in common is that they partner with Children’s Miracle Network.
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN), founded in Utah and based in Salt Lake City, is a decades-old organization that is among the most effective American philanthropic bodies in the United States, leading the charge for better children’s medical care at local and national levels. Their unique approach to giving, combined with a precise understanding of need, make CMN a powerful force in the world of medicine.
In 1983, Marie Osmond, John Schneider and others founded the organization, and launched a telethon from Orem, Utah, which raised $4.8 million. Now, more than $300 million is raised annually for 170 member children’s hospitals across the nation ($4.7 billion total), and CMN is the largest children’s charity of its type in North America.
“We were excited by that start, but knew it was just the beginning,” Osmond says.
CMN’s success for the last 30 years comes from a number of things, one of which is that hospitals can spend the money they receive wherever they see the greatest need. The local decision making means the money goes where it is needed, which doesn’t always happen in the field of philanthropy.
Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Florida, for example, used CMN funds to purchase a “premie” transporter. John and Luke Edwards, 6, each weighing under three pounds at birth, benefited from this purchase, and are alive and well today. Shodair Children’s Hospital in Montana used CMN funds to help start Shodair’s Medical Genetics Program. Landen Phillips,11, who has a rare combination of diseases, got his diagnosis at this center. The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in New Hampshire uses CMN funds to support their pediatric oncology clinic. Alex Anderson, 12, has leukemia, and was treated there.
The millions of dollars donated go towards the purchase of needed pediatric medical equipment, finding cures and providing child-friendly environments for kids undergoing treatment. They go towards paying for uninsured care, towards building children’s hospitals and attracting quality pediatric specialists.Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals are filling a need, explains John Lauck, President and CEO, by supporting child medicine. Children’s hospitals are a relatively new phenomena of the last 30-40 years, a phenomena spurred by the discovery of an important medical truth: children should not be treated as adults.
“What the medical science didn’t appreciate then, that it appreciates now, is that children are not little adults,” Lauck says. “They are in fact very unique.”
Lauck gives morphine as an example, which is a powerful treatment for pain. It was, for years, used on infants and adults alike, until researchers discovered that morphine doesn’t treat pain in infants at all.
Cancer is another field where treatment differs tremendously by age.
“Every year they’re discovering new things about how to treat cancer in a 3,7, 9 year old,” Lauck says. “There may be 3 different kinds of treatment. For adults, it might be the same for all ages.”
These discoveries about how to care for children mean the need for new protocols, new drugs and different approaches to medicine, all of which are needs children’s hospitals hope to meet.
“Whenever I visit one of our member hospitals, I do so with hope and encouragement — knowing that we just might find a cure for cancer or fund the needed equipment to make surgeries less painful and more precise,” Osmond says.
According to Lauck, CMN fills many gaps left by other philanthropic organizations. Over the decades, CMN and their iconic balloon have teamed up with the nation’s largest corporations, like Wal-Mart, IHOP and Kroger.
Why are these businesses so eager to join? Lauck says it’s because corporations have an increasing desire to be socially responsible, and because the CMN structure makes the impact locally felt. All money raised by partners in Utah, for example, goes to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
“We are a national charity in terms of awareness, but we’re really not a national charity in terms of impact,” Lauck says. “We are local in our impact.”
Despite their success, CMN sets their goals high, and has some hurdles to overcome. They asked their member hospitals how much money they would need donated in 2022 to function and fulfill their roles to children in their communities, and the answer was a staggering $1 billion.
Lauck says some of these hospitals will close their doors without outside funding. Many of these children’s institutions are not-for-profit, and run at a deficit, for various reasons. A central issue is that children’s healthcare is simply not as profitable as adult medicine.And many Americans are hesitant to donate to children’s medicine, with a growing distrust in the healthcare industry, and hospitals specifically, with rumors of ten-dollar Band-Aids and the like.
Surveys show that 2/3 of America does not believe or is not aware that their local children’s hospital needs financial support. In another survey, people were asked what local children’s charity they would give to if they had a dollar to give. Children’s hospitals were surprisingly low on the list.
Lauck and CMN have a plan in place to increase awareness and be better at what they do. And from the sound of it, lives could be saved based on how well they do.
Part of their plan is finding ways to expand the demographic of who donates. One inspiring group video game players organized an event called Extra Life!, which is a gaming marathon dedicated to raising funds for CMN. They’ve raised millions, according to Lauck.
CMN questions established ideas about giving, like who gives, the best ways to give, and effects of giving. Their answers are making a difference.