Abigail Leggio, 2, is one of the many patients being helped by Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Photo by Susan Urmy.

Friends Press On

Since 1972, Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has been supporting the hospital through fundraising, outreach and patient and family programs. Friends members were not going to let a novel coronavirus derail that steadfast commitment.

With social distancing, public health safety measures and limited visitors allowed at Children’s Hospital, the group, which has a roster of 3,800 members, knew it had to get creative and pivot to maintain its mission.

A typical year’s support from Friends includes lunches for families whose children are in the hospital; art and music supplies for patients to engage in therapeutic activities; sensory supplies for the Emergency Department; bingo for patients; sponsored visits of Disney characters; and more.

Friends has also made several large philanthropic gifts over the years to support programs like care for premature babies, diabetes research, palliative care, pediatric cancer and care for children with complex medical conditions.

With large gatherings cancelled due to COVID-19, Friends’ fundraising and recruitment events like Friends & Fashion, An Evening with Friends and the annual kickoff luncheon all went virtual. And members didn’t let the new online format hinder their support, as they continued to donate to these new initiatives, further bolstering the group’s commitment to keep doing its work from outside the hospital walls.

The 2,000-plus meals that Friends provides monthly to families at the hospital also did not stop. While the group couldn’t come into the building to deliver meals, volunteers wearing masks have dropped off meals in the garage of Children’s Hospital to a staff member to be distributed to families inside. Individual members also made and donated cloth masks to Vanderbilt for doctors, nurses and staff to wear during the pandemic.

“Friends support adds a special touch for patients, families and staff in the hospital, and even though we’re not able to be inside the hospital walls during the pandemic, we’re hoping our presence can still be felt,” said Friends President Wendy Gatto. “Amidst COVID when hospital visitors and activities are limited for health and safety, we know that the mission of Friends is even more crucial to advance.”

– by Christina Echegaray

Hope – Winter 2021

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