The ever-changing downtown skyline is only one indicator of Nashville’s growth over the last 20 years, yet it is an important one. Just a short mile or two from the main location of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, a slew of new downtown towers represents the corporations that chose Nashville as their home.
Fortunately, doing good is also good for business.
Across various sectors, from finance to retail to insurance and beyond, corporate leaders have joined the cause to advance children’s health. “Our corporate partners have made a tremendous difference to our patients and families,” said Meg Rush, MD, MMHC, President of Monroe Carell. “It’s incredible to think about our growth as a city and the resulting impact at Monroe Carell from corporate support. We are so grateful for the creativity, enthusiasm and energy brought forth from our partners and their employees.”
40 Years of Miracles
Last year in 2023, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt celebrated 40 years of partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals®, a collaboration of 170 children’s hospitals across the U.S. and Canada.
Monroe Carell’s connection with CMN began in 1983 as one of the 20 founding CMN hospitals. In the four decades since, support from Monroe Carell’s 30 CMN partners has been life-changing for patients and families at the hospital.
Walmart, one of CMN’s largest corporate partners, has exceeded $1 billion raised for CMN Hospitals nationwide over the last 36 years — more than any other corporation has given to pediatric hospitals. Locally, Walmart/Sam’s Club has donated more than $13 million to Monroe Carell, or approximately $500,000 annually.
Through their annual communitywide fundraising effort, with customers asked for donations during a four-week period, Walmart associates and customers support the needs of children who receive care at Monroe Carell. Always listening to the hospital’s greatest needs, Walmart has supported important programs, services and initiatives at Monroe Carell. This includes support of pediatric rehabilitation efforts, as well as the Growing to New Heights Campaign, including the construction of Seacrest Studio and multiple patient consult rooms and nurses’ stations.
“Walmart’s longtime partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in support of Monroe Carell has grown into an incredibly special experience for our associates and our customers,” said Jason Schwindt, Walmart Regional VP of Operations and a member of the
Monroe Carell Advisory Board. “We truly believe that when you change kids’ health, you change the future. We are proud to make such a positive impact on the lives of children across Tennessee and beyond who depend on Monroe Carell for their care.”
– by Sydnie Hochstein
Fans know a high-stakes hockey game captures attention, builds crowd excitement and rallies community support for the team.
For almost 20 years, the Nashville Predators and its players have brought this same energy to their partnership with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
The Nashville Predators support patients and initiatives at Monroe Carell through the Nashville Predators Foundation.
“The Preds Foundation is devoted to serving the community and helping those in need,” said Nashville Predators Vice President of Community Relations Rebecca King. “Our mission and values align so well with those at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where children and their families receive support and care when they need it the most.”
The NHL team regularly hosts pediatric patients and their families at games. And at Hockey Fights Cancer games, child ambassadors are invited not only to take part in a luxury suite experience but also to participate in special activities during the game like the puck drop and riding the Zamboni. Off the ice, players visit young patients at Monroe Carell, making memories for children who are experiencing a challenging health journey.
Leveraging fan support to advance health care is also a key part of the Predators partnership. The 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund presented by Twice Daily, founded by former Preds players Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber, creates opportunities for fans to make contributions that fund childhood cancer research and improve outcomes for patients. This initiative has raised over $4 million in donations and in-kind contributions for the pediatric cancer program at Monroe Carell.
Looking forward, a partnership extension of 10 years between Vanderbilt Health and the Nashville Predators was announced in 2023.
“Every season we ask ourselves, ‘How can we do more?’, ‘Where can we get involved?’ Through the years of collaboration, it is easy to measure goals scored and dollars raised. But the real impact becomes evident when talking with patients and families who benefit from this partnership,” King said.
“Our most treasured memory is the very first time we were escorted down to the locker room area to meet the players after a game,” said Margaret Lantz, whose daughter, Caroline, receives care at Monroe Carell. “The players have always been extremely gracious, engaging with the children and families in a way that makes everyone feel so special. The Nashville Predators walk the walk — they are an organization that truly cares about their local community and how they bring positivity into fans’ lives.”
– by Jay Carnes
Hope on Wheels
At an event in September 2023, 1-year-old Edo Beeri, with the help of his parents, Kelse and Tom, dipped his hand in paint and placed his palm print on a Hyundai white sport utility vehicle.
Each handprint on the vehicle represented a different pediatric cancer patient like Edo, who was diagnosed and treated at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Every handprint on the vehicle tells a story, from diagnosis through treatment, of each child’s cancer journey. Hyundai Hope on Wheels and Hyundai Motor America hope one day that the vehicle is void of handprints as they work to raise funds and award research grants to prevent and improve outcomes of childhood cancer.
Since 2007, Hyundai Hope on Wheels, which includes funding from Hyundai Motor America and local dealerships, has awarded nearly $2 million in funding to pediatric cancer researchers at Monroe Carell. Each year in September during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, representatives from the automaker and local dealerships celebrate grant award recipients and pediatric patients with a handprint ceremony, representing their personal stories of courage and hope.
“We could not do what we do every day to advance research and improve outcomes for pediatric cancer patients without the tremendous generosity of businesses like Hyundai Hope on Wheels and Hyundai Motor America,” said Debra Friedman, MD, MS, holder of the E. Bronson Ingram Chair in Pediatric Oncology. “We cure 85% of patients, but until that number is 100%, we’re not going to stop doing what we’re doing and trying to learn.”
Friedman, director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Monroe Carell and deputy director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, has been a repeat recipient of Hyundai Hope on Wheels grants/impact awards, including in 2015, 2018 and 2023. Her work includes researching survivorship, physical and psychosocial effects of cancer, and targeted cancer therapies.
Every 36 minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer in the United States. With advancements in research, diagnosis and treatment, childhood cancer survival rates have improved to 85%, but a lot of work remains to improve outcomes and reduce long-term side effects.
“Our goal is to help kids grow and succeed in a world that is free from pediatric cancer. We won’t stop until we find a cure,” said John Fratianni, senior merchandising manager for the Hyundai Motor America Southern Region.
“Every handprint tells a story in the fight against pediatric cancer. That’s the theme of this annual initiative. It reflects the idea that there are many hands involved in the fight against pediatric cancer — patients, researchers, doctors, parents, supporters and more. And each one plays an important role in this fight. It’s an enduring symbol of our collective hope and progress.”
– by Christina Echegaray
Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital
Kathy Rolfe still tears up when she recalls the day Monroe Carell Jr. moved the first patient into the new pediatric hospital that bears his name.
As president of what was then known as Friends of Children’s Hospital, Rolfe had been involved, along with other Friends, in the planning and fundraising for the new building — and the big moment had finally arrived.
“It was a special day,” Rolfe said. “I was so excited to see a freestanding hospital that would serve so many children and their families for the surrounding Middle Tennessee region. I was also so proud of the community. They were so generous and encouraging to the team that was charged with funding and building the hospital.”
The volunteer organization was started in 1972 by a group of forward-thinking women who saw a need to support families with young children in the hospital. In 1974, they held a fundraiser featuring Lawrence Welk at the Grand Ole Opry; proceeds were used to buy 57 recliners so parents could stay in the hospital with their children.
As the hospital has grown, so have the size and scope of the Friends organization — always aligned with its core mission of fundraising, outreach and programs for patients and families. Funded largely through events like Friends & Fashion, philanthropic gifts have touched a broad range of departments and programs, including an endowment for prematurity and support for palliative care, music therapy, diabetes research and complex care.
Hands-on volunteering brings a personal touch to families. Friends’ volunteers distribute thousands of free meals to families each year, run bingo games and put on special events like a Fourth of July picnic.
When the COVID-19 pandemic put in-person fundraisers and in-hospital volunteering on hold, the Friends were quick to meet the challenge. They took some events online and created new ones to sustain fundraising momentum. And although they couldn’t personally deliver meals, they continued to provide them.
From its beginnings with 150 members, the Friends organization has grown to more than 3,000 supporters today.
“Friends is a very special organization,” said Rolfe, who remains an active Friend. “From my first day as a volunteer in the playroom to now, I have loved every minute of being part of it. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this very special place and the Friends organization.”
– by Peggy Caldwell