A helping hand from ‘Friends’

Incoming Friends president Tricia Ericson (left) and outgoing president Heidi Garber.

When Heidi Garber’s first child was born, her new baby needed specialized care. Fortunately, Vanderbilt’s expert neonatology team was on hand to respond immediately.

Nearly 25 years have passed, but Garber says her appreciation for the care her daughter received has not waned. This appreciation, along with her passion for quality pediatric care, is why she is an active member of Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Friends is a volunteer organization that conducts fundraising and outreach to support the hospital and its patients and families.

“Both of my daughters and I are members of Friends because we recognize the treasure we have in Middle Tennessee to have more than 400 outstanding physicians dedicating their lives and research to premium pediatric care,” said Garber, 2015-16 Friends president. “Having four relatively healthy children, I see my opportunity to advocate for children’s health for my neighbors in greater Middle Tennessee. While we live in a great and growing area with a shining present, we need to remember our future, which lies with developing healthy children now for the Nashville to come.”

Garber’s family is among nearly 2,000 households committed to Children’s Hospital through membership in Friends.

Friends provides funds and volunteers for weekly dinners for inpatients’ families and a variety of hospital activities including bingo nights, pizza parties and seasonal celebrations.

In addition, Friends holds large-scale events to raise funds for transformative gifts that have funded such initiatives as a new ambulance or $1 million endowment for prematurity research, education and care.

Most recently, Friends committed an additional $150,000 to the Growing to New Heights Campaign for the hospital’s forthcoming four-floor expansion on top of a prior $500,000 pledge that has already been fulfilled.

“We were delighted to be able to complete our original pledge to the Growing to New Heights Campaign early, and even more excited to consider adding to that,” Garber said. “It is an honor to be part of this collaborative effort to raise both funding and awareness to champion the cause of children’s health through this great hospital.”

The $50 annual Friends membership fee goes directly toward programming for patients and families of the hospital, and many Friends members choose to give at even higher levels. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities, but those are not required for membership.

“Every member makes a difference, whether you can volunteer time or not,” said Cindy Comperry, director of Friends. “Proceeds from Friends’ fundraising events go to large transformative gifts such as the Growing to New Heights Campaign, while membership dues go to support programs within the hospital that have a direct, immediate impact on patients and families.”

– by Jennifer Wetzel