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Children's Center Gives By Example

February 17, 2020 by Tracy Vogel | photos by Kathryn Dulny

Staff donations and participation propel Radiothon’s success

In the pediatric emergency unit of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, capes and tutus bolster kids’ courage. In the neonatal intensive care unit, more mothers have access to breast milk pumps. New tools augment stethoscopes to better identify heart murmurs, or make insulin injections less painful for diabetic children. Soothing virtual reality and interactive toys calm children during frightening procedures.

These improvements, and many more, are thanks to gifts made during the annual Mix 106.5 Radiothon, the Children’s Center’s largest single fundraiser. Last year, this longest-running Children’s Miracle Network radiothon pulled in $1.3 million, with Children’s Center employees providing critical support with $45,000 in donations as well as volunteering throughout the event.

“I think we see firsthand what our babies and our families need, and what we need to take care of the patients,” says Christy Richter, lead clinical nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “We can make such an impact on the families.”

“We’re here to help the kids feel better, to help them feel safe, to help take stress away from the parents who have kids in the emergency room. One of the ways we can help is by contributing to this campaign.”

Peggy Leese Clinical customer service representative for the Pediatric Emergency Department

Richter benefited from Radiothon funding early in her 20-year tenure at the NICU, when her group purchased a camera to take baby pictures for the families. She recalls it was difficult to watch when mothers had to go back to labor and delivery while their newborns stayed in the NICU. “There was this heartbreaking feeling of ‘I have nothing to give to this mom [to hold on to].’ We got a camera so we could print out pictures, so when a family came over ― no matter what ― they could have a picture to take back with them.”

The first experience left a lasting impression on Richter. “That’s how it started for me, with knowing how the funds are used.”

Today, Richter helps assemble a pile of sticky-note hearts in the NICU breakroom that employees can plaster to the wall to show they deposited money into a Radiothon donation jar as a visual reminder and encouragement for participation. Similarly, in the Pediatric Emergency Department, night and day shifts are competing to fill up their donation jars with pennies and dollars to earn an ice cream party ― with contributions of silver coins being used to subtract points from the opposing team.

“Some employees are very competitive,” laughs Peggy Leese, clinical customer service representative for the Pediatric Emergency Department and campaign champion.

Four woman and a man wear costumes and hold props in front of a blue Johns Hopkins Children's Center backdrop during the Radiothon.
Children’s Center employees provided critical support during the 2019 Radiothon, making $45,000 in donations as well as volunteering throughout the event.

But competition aside, supporting children’s wellbeing is everyone’s goal. “Everything goes back to the kids,” Leese says. “That’s the main thing. We’re here to help the kids feel better, to help them feel safe, to help take stress away from the parents who have kids in the emergency room. One of the ways we can help is by contributing to this campaign. There are things that the Radiothon provides to us that help make our jobs easier and help the children and their families feel at ease.”

Employees can — and do — make gifts outside of jars, too. They can designate their gift to a specific department or choose to make unrestricted Radiothon gifts, which go to Innovation Grants that support a wide variety of research, education or improvement projects. Proposals supported by Innovation Grants last year included research on new treatments for lethal liver disease, bacterial meningitis, and brain bleeds in premature infants.

Noting the importance of seed money in getting new research off the ground, Douglas Mogul, assistant professor of pediatrics and medical director of pediatric liver transplantation, sees his contributions as an expression of leadership. “We know the limitations of current funding more than the patients and people in the community. If we know it and we’re not contributing money, it’s hard to expect people in the community to be inclined to give. The hope is that we lead by example.”

In the NICU, where recent Radiothons have provided swings and sleep sacks for infants, Richter has dreams for infant footprint molds for any parents who want them, and providing paid parking passes and meals to make the prolonged hospital stays a little easier. Throughout the Children’s Center, there are employees with similar visions.

“We see what the need is,” Richter says. “We know where we need money, we know what makes a family smile, we know what touches our hearts. We know those things, and I think we can all be a part of it.”

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Topics: Faculty and Staff, Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Promote and Protect Health