Children’s Miracle Network – PediaCast 543

Show Notes


  • Nikki McCool visits the studio as we explore the Children’s Miracle Network. Learn how this organization began… and the many ways it supports patient care, pediatric research, and education. We hope you can join us!


  • Children’s Miracle Network




Announcer 1: This is PediaCast.
Announcer 2: Welcome to PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for parents. And now, direct from the campus of Nationwide Children's, here is your host, Dr. Mike.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to PediaCast. It is a pediatric podcast for moms and dads. This is Dr. Mike coming to you from the campus of Nationwide Children's Hospital. We are in Columbus, Ohio. 
It's Episode 543 for August 29th, 2023. We're calling this one, "Children's Miracle Network". I want to welcome all of you to the program. 
So today, we are going to explore the many ways in which the Children's Miracle Network supports children's hospitals throughout North America. And you've probably seen the balloons hanging up at places like Walmart, Costco, Dairy Queen, and many other corporate partners of the network across the country. 
But who exactly is the Children's Miracle Network? How did it get started? What are the founding principles of this organization? 
And does donated money stay local or is it shipped off to other locations? 
And in what ways does the Children's Miracle Network support care of patients, research and the education of future pediatric professionals at its member hospitals? 
We will have answers to these questions and many more as we journey through today's episode. And as it turns out, this was a really fun one for me to research because I grew up in an age of a network TV. Yeah, we didn't have cable or the Internet. I know, gasp. 
It's really actually difficult imagining that world today, but they were simpler times, I guess. And there were far fewer entertainment options.
But one piece of entertainment that I always look forward to back in that day was the telethon. Do you remember those? If not, ask the more senior members of your family about them. 
The telethon, and I sort of feel like I have to explain what it was, it was this long overnight event, in many cases over 20 hours of programming. And it featured a star-studded lineup of entertainers. There were musicians and comedians. And all the while, viewers could phone in donations. 
And in the absence of all the entertainment options we have today, you can imagine these were pretty special events that happened once a year. And I think the granddaddy of all the telethons I had to have been the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon to benefit muscular dystrophy. 
But there were other national telethons as well. Easterseals had an annual one. And in 1983, the Children's Miracle Network began its annual national marathon to benefit children's hospitals across North America. And we'll talk more about how that all got started because the history of it is pretty interesting. 
So anyway, researching this episode was a bit of a walk down memory lane for me. And it turns out, even though telethons aren't the big draw they once were, The Children's Miracle Network has found all sorts of opportunities for raising money and continuing their important work of supporting medical care for children.
We have a terrific guest this week as we dig deeper into this organization, Nikki McCool. She is assistant director of the Children's Miracle Network at Nationwide Children's Hospital. 
Before we get to her, let's cover our usual quick reminders. Don't forget, you can find us wherever podcasts are found. We're in the Apple and Google Podcast apps, iHeartRadio, Spotify, SoundCloud, Amazon Music and most other podcast apps for iOS and Android. 
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So, let's take a quick break. we'll get Nikki McCool settled into the studio. And then, we will be back to explore the Children's Miracle Network. It's coming up right after this.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Nikki McCool is assistant director for the Children's Miracle Network at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She joins us today to raise awareness of the important work this organization is doing to support children's hospitals across North America, as these institutions provide care for sick and injured children, conduct research, and provide training to the next generation of pediatric healthcare professionals. 
Before we get to these details, let's give a warm PediaCast welcome to our guest Nikki McCool. Thank you so much for visiting us today. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Thanks so much, Dr. Mike, for having me. It's great to be here. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: I really do appreciate you stopping by. And actually, you used to work in our division of Emergency Medicine before you moved on to a bigger, bigger things. And so, it's great seeing you again.
Nikki McCool: Thank you. Great seeing you.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And I think a great place to start would just be a sort of a definition. When we say the Children's Miracle Network, there are going to be folks out there who are quite familiar with it. Those who maybe have heard of it, but aren't quite sure what it is and then those who maybe never even heard of it. So just for everybody's sake, let's just, so we're all starting at the same place. What exactly is the Children's Miracle Network? 
Nikki McCool: Absolutely. Well, some of you may have seen the balloons or be familiar with the Children's Miracle Network balloons that you see in some of the local businesses around. Basically, the Children's Miracle Network is made up of 170 children's hospital across the U.S. and Canada. 
CMN was founded in 1983 with a goal of helping sick and injured kids in local communities. Donations support the health of more than 10 million kids each year through local children's hospitals. So, CMN hospital funds are usually unrestricted and they're directed to local member hospitals so that they can be used where they are needed the most. And Children's Miracle Network hospitals have raised more than $7 billion dollars between 158 hospitals. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, that is really amazing. So, since 1983, $7 billion, with a B, dollars that's been raised for children's hospitals. And I think the really sort of unique thing with it is that local donations stay local, right? 
Nikki McCool: Absolutely, yes. So, when you go into your local Costco or your Dairy Queen, your Panda Express, wherever that may be, and you make a donation and whether that is a roundup donation, a dollar donation, those funds actually go to the local children's hospital. 
And that is how the Children's Miracle Network, how that organization sort of works and how the local member hospitals work actually as part of that structure, part of that organization. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: So, when you see those balloons, those paper balloons that say Children's Miracle Network, and you can round up a donation or really give any donation, but even a dollar. I mean those dollars really add up when we're talking about millions of people potentially donating there at the point of sale at local retail places. And then, that money gets funneled into the local children's hospital.
Nikki McCool: Correct. They add up so quickly, yes. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: So how did this get started in 1983?
Nikki McCool: Right. So, it really began as a telethon in 1983. Mick Shannon and Joe Lake, two out of four of the founders, they began, they were kind of sitting and thinking, "How can we make something here?" They were so passionate about raising funds for kids.
And as they were thinking about who can we get involved in this? Who's well known, what celebrities could really bring this to something? So, they thought up John Schneider who was Dukes of Hazzard celebrity. Who didn't love this? Kids loved him. 
So, they thought, let's give him a call. And Marie Osmond, who at the time was 19. And so, they got those two on board and thought those two would be the greatest hosts for this telethon. 
So, then the Osmonds actually were also friends. And they, at the time, were incredible television studio and they were able to get them on board and start this big telethon. 
The four of them agreed together that they wanted to keep funds local and unrestricted. And so those were kind of the founding principles. And then, they were able to get some of these bigger Delta Airlines and Marriott, these partners, and Disney to get involved and really get this to take off quickly. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: You know, when I was a kid, you've heard these stories. We didn't have the Internet. Really, we didn't even have cable TV when I was like in middle school. And telethons were so much fun. I mean, cause you got to see celebrities. You got to stay up late. I didn't have a bedtime when there was a telethon on. 
And so, folks, remember, the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon for muscular dystrophy, the Easterseals telethon, and the Children's Miracle Network telethon kind of rounded out those three. And it was an event, I mean, I feel like the country kind of came together around these telethons because there weren't other entertainment options, right? 
Nikki McCool: Right. People got so excited and totally engaged in this. And that first telethon raised $4.8 million for 22 hospitals. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Wow. 
Nikki McCool: That's huge. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: In 1983, that's really impressive. Now, how do hospitals become affiliated with this? So, we say Children's Miracle Network, so that would suggest that there's a network of hospitals. And it's not just any hospital, right? You have to become a member.
Nikki McCool: You have to want to join this network, right? You choose. And you choose to pay a lot of money. It's a significant sum of money to be a part of this network. Nationwide Children's is part of this network amongst other. 
So, there are 170 hospitals that are part of this network across the nation and Canada. And you have access to resources, to tools, to all of these partners and programs. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: So, the member hospitals have access to programming, as you mentioned. And we'll talk more about what that programming looks like, more into the nitty gritty of it in just a few minutes. 
But I wanted to focus on the money first and the donations. Those can come through the Children's Miracle Network website or at the point-of-sale as folks are rounding up or spending a dollar on one of those paper balloons that get hung up there near the cash registers, or it could be through a fundraiser. And we'll talk more about fundraising campaigns that folks can do locally. 
As those donations flow into the hospital, the individual member hospitals do have some responsibilities in terms of how they spend that money. You say it's unrestricted, but there are still some guide rules in place, correct? 
Nikki McCool: Yes, that's correct. We have six key areas of funding within the network and all of the funds that are raised if they're unrestricted, considered unrestricted, let me kind of explain what that is. So that for those that are unfamiliar with that term, it's sort of undesignated, unrestricted, which means they go to the need that is the greatest at that time. 
And basically, those key areas, it would fall into either charitable care to patients, improving health-saving equipment, education for patients, families, and the community, enhancement services that support innovative programs and projects, research and treatment for how we care for children, and patient services for patients and families and their overall well-being. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: So, it's the funds that end up being donated and then stay locally are unrestricted as long as they fit under one of those buckets. But each individual children's hospital can decide what their kind of priority list is and where they need those funds to go the most. So, there's flexibility and yet, there's also accountability because you don't necessarily want to use those funds to shovel snow.
Nikki McCool: That is absolutely correct, Dr. Mike, yes.
Dr. Mike Patrick: So that's really cool. And I would imagine that Nationwide Children's Hospital has a pretty strong relationship with Children's Miracle Network. I mean, we have staff at the hospital that really are sort of liaisons between the Children's Miracle Network and our hospital, like what you do. So, this is something that's really developed into quite the system, so to speak.
Nikki McCool: Correct, yes. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: And that's the way that it is at the member hospitals all across the country? 
Nikki McCool: Yes, very true. And it varies from hospital, from each organization really, depending on the size of the organization. Here, we have five staff that are designated for CMN at our hospital and our foundation. But each hospital is different. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Now, one of the things that I think is really interesting with this whole setup is, of course, there are individual donors in communities that then that money goes to the Children's Hospital. But you also have corporate partners as well that act regionally, because any money that gets donated let's say at your local Costco or Dairy Queen goes to your local children's hospital, but these are national corporations. 
And so how do those corporate partners kind of get on board and get connected with the network? 
Nikki McCool: What makes it so awesome is that these national corporate partners, the funds remain local. I love that when you go and donate at your Costco, your Dairy Queen, your Credit Unions for Kids, your Great Clips, Panda Express, Marriott, all of these corporate partners, because of them being a partner with us and with all of their local member hospital, those funds always stay local. So, they are always connected and funneled to that local area hospital which makes it a local national partner. And they do always go to the member hospital, of course. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, and so they basically just see which member hospital would be closest to their area for that particular retail location?
Nikki McCool: Correct.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And then that's where the money is going to end up going?
Nikki McCool: Correct, yes. They are assigned certain staff within their area. And they're called program directors within our network. And everyone within that organization, the employees, the associates within their business, they receive a list of who that person or who those people are. And then they can connect with them, and they do.
And so, it's nice they have that support. They are familiar with us. We work with them directly. We visit. We do store visits with their locations. So, we're out in the field. We're supporting them in their stores. 
So, it's great because we have that relationship established with them. We are supporting whatever it is that they need. 
A lot of times, it’s marketing, different marketing needs. It's maybe we take a patient champion out to visit them to help engage with their employees, to help them make sure that their cause connected. So that they're excited about what they're doing and they feel connected to us. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. As I look at the website for Children's Miracle Network, and of course we'll put a link to the website so folks can check it out over at, but there really are, I think at last count, like 97 corporate partners nationwide. And just a few, I mean, these are all names that we've all heard, Dairy Queen, Costco, Walmart, Panda Express, Ace Hardware, 7-Eleven, Speedway, REMAX, Coca-Cola, Marriott, as you mentioned, so lots of big names.
What about at the local level? Like if a business wanted to be a corporate partner, but maybe they don't have national reach. Maybe it is three or four mom-and-pop restaurants in town. Is that something that a local business could become a partner? 
Nikki McCool: They can still become a local partner, yes. It is a little bit more complicated, I believe, but it is still possible, yes.
Dr. Mike Patrick: So, if there are businesses out there that maybe are not current corporate partners and you would be interested in learning more information, I'm sure there's contact information through the website at Children's Miracle Network. 
Nikki McCool: Yes, and our market directors are very helpful with that. You can reach out to any of our market directors to find out more information.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And then how do you find out if your local children's hospital is a member hospital?
Nikki McCool: So, there are actually two ways to find out. One is through the website. There is, if you go to the, you can find out that way which is probably the easiest way. 
Also, if you've ever seen the yellow balloon or the CMN logo, you can usually walk into a local member hospital or a local hospital and see if you see the balloon hanging anywhere, sometimes that's a good indicator whether they're a member or not. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: You had mentioned a patient champion. What exactly is a patient champion? 
Nikki McCool: Oh, patient champions are great. They are basically ambassadors for our organization. It's a child who has either is still receiving or at some point has received care. And, they feel blessed with the type of care they received and they want to share about that type of care and feel like they want to get involved and just kind of be an ambassador on behalf of the organizations. 
So, in no way are we having them go out and just sit there. They're not on display. It's to get them involved and really kind of champion our efforts and to be involved and engaged in whatever's going on in an opportunity. 
So, a lot of times, they're participating in an event. And they love to, whatever is going on, if there's popcorn to pass out or there's some sort of things to pass out or be involved in, they love to go on tours or do whatever. But they like to be part of the events and get engaged with the employees. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Having a chronic illness is difficult. And, I mean, there are a lot of challenges both personally at the family level. There are mental health challenges that go along with the underlying disease. So, you may have diabetes, but that might also lead to anxiety and depression and other mental health stuff.
And these kids go through a lot. And so, I think, as you said, it's not to put them on display. I think it's really to recognize their courage and their tenacity and to give a little back and to say, you are going through all of this, your family is going through all of this and of course, you appreciate the care that you're getting. 
And so, there's really that being an ambassador for your local children's hospital. So you can help other families understand what kind of services are available and what the hospital's done for you and how you've excelled because of the support that you've received. Really fantastic program. And again, those are the patient champions. 
So, I know we've talked about the unrestricted nature of the donations, meaning that children's hospitals can determine where the needs are the greatest. But at the same time, there are some instances where specific programs get put into place at the local level and then money gets earmarked to support those programs. Is that correct?
Nikki McCool: Yes, that's correct, Dr. Mike. We do have three specific programs that we sort of designate the CMN funds each year. And I'll kind of go over what those are. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: And this is for our Nationwide Children's Hospital because each hospital could determine what their special programs are going to be. 
Nikki McCool: Yes, exactly. Yes, so specific to Nationwide Children's. All 14 primary care centers receive 20,000 per year for the programmatic advancement. This would include book bag drives, winter coat drives, hygiene care kits, toys for well-visits, bike helmets, etc. So that's one of the areas. 
Then, we also have the search program that receives 25,000 to sponsor three students each year. These funds support their stipend, housing, and various activities throughout the program.
And then, also our inclusion and culture team, they receive funding for their various DEI efforts. Recently, CMN funds supported the MLK Week activations. So, they created roughly 500 care packages for five different underserved schools in the area. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: One other thing I wanted to talk about with the Children's Miracle Network is there's the corporate partners. There are the individual donations like at the point of sale. But folks can actually create fundraisers. Is that right? 
Nikki McCool: They can. They can create their peer-to-peer, different types of fundraising, yes. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yes, and at the website for Children's Miracle Network, there's much more information about that process and how you can do it. But just as an example, there are colleges across the country that might have a dance-a-thon.
And they have their students and faculty and staff dancing and raising money. Kind of like a walkathon, but it's a dance-a-thon. but you can create that and then even kind of earmark, I believe, correct me if I'm wrong about this. But like you're doing this, maybe you want the money to go to cancer research at your local children's hospital. So, you can kind of pick a little bit where that money, so then it's not quite unrestricted in that case. 
Nikki McCool: Correct, yes. There are student-led dance marathons. They're year-round philanthropic movements. It's fantastic. And you don't even have to be a dancer at all. You don't have to dance at all.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, you just watch.
Nikki McCool: But the focus is completely on fundraising for local children's hospitals. They can be started by anyone. You can create your own fundraising page. It's fantastic. There's more information on our website about it. 
And high schoolers can do this. College students can do this, as long as you're of high school or college age, it can really be any student-led. But it's fantastic and these kids are raising tons of money.  
Actually, the Our Dance Marathons bring in between 1 and 2 million a year. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, that is incredible. 
Nikki McCool: It is. It's fantastic.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Our local level, as I recall, those are kind of earmarked toward the kids with cancer?
Nikki McCool: Generally, yes. Generally.
Dr. Mike Patrick: But again, that's up to anyone who would come up with a fund-raising idea. It's not only fund raising, it's also fun raising. 
Nikki McCool: It is. It is. It's very fun. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: I was chomping it a bit to get that out. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: We really thank you so much for stopping by today and talking about the Children's Miracle Network and the wonderful things that you guys are doing. 
There are going to be a lot of links in the show notes for you, of course, to the Children's Miracle Network, how to find your local hospital, more information about the history of the Children's Miracle Network.
As I was looking at that before this show, it was really interesting how they did end up getting Marie Osmond on board and John Schneider. Really interesting because those folks who started it were actually, I believe, working with the March of Dimes and wanted to start a telethon for the March of Dimes. And they want do it quite the exact same way. And so, then they broke off and made their own philanthropic organization. 
And it's really quite fascinating. And so, if you want to learn more about that whole story, it's really spelled out nicely over at the website, the Children's Miracle Network website. And I'll put a link to that. Also, a list of your corporate partners, ways that you can donate, how to start a fundraiser, all of those things, we'll put in the show notes so folks can find them very, very easily. 
Nikki McCool: That's great. Also, some more about our programs even, we have Radiothon program. We have Play Yellow, Extra Life, some of those as well. So, if anyone's interested in hearing about those or are reading more about those, we have some more information on our website about those as well. I'm happy to talk more about those. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. So let's go through some of those individual programs. Are those ones that are just here at Nationwide Children's Hospital or those nationwide? 
Nikki McCool: So actually, they are our nationwide programs. So, we have a radiothon program, it's pretty much designed to invite corporate partners to come on air, thank them publicly. That's what it was designed for. It's really a stewardship opportunity. 
It used to be a two-day event that has kind of evolved, for us in particular at NCH, more into a one-day event. But really, it varies across the country. Everyone sort of does that differently. So, radiothon is done differently everywhere. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: That's just on local radio where you are. Maybe a patient champion might get an interview and folks can donate money and it's just part of the local radio landscape. 
Nikki McCool: Correct, there are many different ways to do it. And they have sometimes local champions. But it's really designed to thank corporate partners primarily. It's really that stewardship opportunity to really support. And so, it's doing that on air and then asking for money in doing so. 
So, there's that. Then also Play Yellow, which you may or may have not heard of Play Yellow. That is, it really means you're supporting kids in your local children's hospital. It's led by Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, the PGA Tour, and CMN Hospitals. 
And Play Yellow for Children's Hospitals strives to bring golf world together to help, basically, 10 million kids each year. So, you may have heard of Play Yellow's Birdie Bash, where club professionals from the Southern Ohio PGA compete in a two-person scramble to raise money by making as many birdies as possible. And so, that's what the Birdie Bash is. 
And then also we have Extra Life which is gaming to raise funds. So that one is amazing. They have large conventions. 
The ones here in town are held at the convention center. It is so fun to see the gamers. There are so many gamers there. They dress up. They do in-person competitions. They have baskets that are auctioned off. 
It's become huge. They raised approximately $14 million nationally. So, yeah, just gaming and doing what they love. But they are super passionate about raising money for kids. So that's pretty amazing. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. So, big, big, huge question. 
Nikki McCool: Sure.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And one that's probably on a lot of people's minds and that is, children's hospitals, why is this a need to raise money. So, you're asking folks for donation, isn't the cost of care enough? So, in other words, someone goes and they have maybe had a surgery that the insurance company gets billed, the patient and family have a co-pay, and that money goes to the children's hospital? But that's not enough, is it?
Nikki McCool: No. Unfortunately, there are so many procedures that are not covered. There are so many people that don't have insurance. But really, in so many cases, Dr. Mike, there are just many procedures that are not covered. 
There are so many instances where this specific procedure that this child needs is just not covered, but it's a needed procedure. Or for a better outcome, they need something that is just way too expensive. And so, for a better outcome, a better life, a better quality of everything, they need to have care that they wouldn't be able to have without these funds. 
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, it's really so important, because when you think about running a children's hospital, I mean you have to pay for the electricity and the water and all of the support staff. And unfortunately, just the way that our medical industry works today, you have negotiated prices. The insurance companies want to be able to pay the least amount. And there's a discrepancy in terms of the ins and the outs.
And it's really donations like this that fill that gap so that we can continue to care for all kids, regardless of their ability to pay, that we can conduct research to find out what the best ways to treat those kids are, and that we can train new generations of pediatric health care professionals to take care of kids long into the future. And all of that costs money. And really more money than you can bill out. 
And so, it's so important to support your local children's hospital. And even if you don't have kids, you are supporting your community when you give those dollars at the point of sale, with all the corporate partners. You really are, especially since those funds stay local, supporting your local community and all the kids that live within your community, even if they're not your kids. 
Nikki McCool: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, our goal is for our funds to help as many kids as possible. And we don't have the need for corporate sponsors necessarily. We sort of touched on this a little bit before in the fact that we have corporate partners. 
We do not have corporate sponsors. We sometimes have opportunities for sponsorships within different events. But I wanted to just mention that sometimes the nice thing about our relationships with our partners is that they allow for us, because of our really great relationship with them, that we are able to have like in kind donations between ourselves. 
So, for example, Dairy Queen will sometimes offer an in-kind donation so that when we're having an event with another partner, they might bring in Dilly Bars or something like that. So that we don't necessarily have to rely on an actual sponsor for an event. So, that is really helpful in our fundraising opportunities with our partners.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yes, absolutely. And again, if you're interested in becoming a corporate partner, you can find out more information about that at the Children's Miracle Network website. 
All right, well, Nikki McCool, once again, thank you so much for stopping by and chatting about the Children's Miracle Network with us. She is the assistant director of the Children's Miracle Network for Nationwide Children's Hospital. And once again, thank you so much for stopping by today.
Nikki McCool: Thanks, Dr. Mike. I appreciate you having me.
Dr. Mike Patrick: We are back with just enough time to say thanks once again to all of you for taking time out of your day and making PediaCast a part of it. Really do appreciate that. Also, thank you to our guests this week, Nikki McCool, assistant director of the Children's Miracle Network at Nationwide Children's Hospital. 
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Thanks again for stopping by. And until next time, this is Dr. Mike saying stay safe, stay healthy, and stay involved with your kids. So long, everybody. 
Announcer 2: This program is a production of Nationwide Children's. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time on PediaCast.


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