Protecting Children

Sick kids won't have to wait

Sick kids can't waitAs an American Family Insurance employee, I am proud of my company’s $1 million pledge to help finish the “Sick Kids Can’t Wait” capital campaign for American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH). As a mom of a kid treated at AFCH, I am simply grateful – because I can see what’s next.

American Family Children’s Hospital will add 26 critical care beds, an imaging center and additional heart services. Twenty-six new beds mean 26 more families to feed and support during their stays.

With current annual fundraising programs and the capital campaign nearly complete, dollars are now freed up to fund patient and family-centered programs.  The possibilities are many: Fellowships, nurse educators and enhancements to AFCH’s ongoing Child Life Services program – or, as I call it, “the concierge of AFCH.”

This program is what knits together patient- and family-centered care.

As a parent of a patient, I am amazed by the Child Life Service programs and happy this will be an area of focus once the capital campaign is complete. This area supports 24-hour playrooms and a teen lounge, a school, Tyler’s Place (play area for siblings) and Positive Image Center (where kids learn to cope with appearance-altering illnesses).

In addition, Child Life Service programs provide family meals, gas cards and lodging during lengthy visits. It also acts as a patient liasion and helps prep young patients or their siblings for their stays in the hospital.    

As the mom of a kid with a chronic illness, I have been this family – more than once. I’ve been the family who gets admitted at midnight after being in the emergency room all evening and there is an offer of a hot meal, laundry service or entertainment for an anxious kiddo.

These services, along with exceptional medical care, make American Family Children’s Hospital the world-class facility it is today. And, with the capital campaign complete, even more can be done to assist patients and their families.

Many have asked if I am surprised by American Family’s $1 million pledge. Not a bit. Since American Family’s original flagship gift ten years ago of $10 million, our employees, agents and retirees have continued to donate money and give their time as volunteers, and board and committee members.  

At a minimum, my son, Jack, visits the hospital quarterly for check-ups. From American Family’s namesake out front to the names of friends, family and co-workers adorning clinic rooms as a result of their donations, I am reminded to be grateful… for world-class care for my Jack; for a company that gives back so generously and supports my dream of what’s next for all sick kids cared for by American Family Children’s Hospital.

Editor’s note: Join our support of American Family Children’s Hospital. Donate to the hospital’s campaign, or get involved with these upcoming fund-raising events:

Wisconsin Dance Marathon
American Family Children’s Hospital Radiothon
Mike and Jessica McCarthy Golf Invitational

Sick kids can’t wait! 

Posted by Susan Pierce Jacobsen on Fri, Mar 07 2014 7:02 am

Teaching – and learning – through Big Brothers Big Sisters

Britt and Je'KyahI was matched with my “little sister” Je’Kyah in June 2007 through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County in Madison, Wis.

The first time I met her in person was at her house. We ate monster peanut butter cookies and talked about what we liked to do. When I told Je’Kyah I liked to go shopping, bake cookies and watch movies, her eyes lit up. She smiled and I knew we’d be a great match.

That was more than six years ago. My little sister is now 16 and has her learners’ permit. For her 16th birthday, we got facial treatments together and went for coffee afterward. It was her first facial (and to be honest, only my second).

As she was driving us back from our appointment, she mentioned that she’s experienced a lot of “firsts” with me. That got me to thinking I’ve had many firsts with her, too. From feeding the geese at the Henry Vilas Zoo on our first outing to sailing and jet-skiing to watching an opera to Take Your Child to Work Day at American Family.

JeKyah and I have a long list of firsts we’ve experienced together.

She introduced me to Tyler Perry movies and taught me how to use a hot glue gun and tried to teach me dance routines. I introduced her to my childhood favorite movies, like Pretty In Pink, picked up books to read together, and took her shopping at the farmers’ market.

Do we have all the same interests? No. But that’s one of the best parts of our relationship. Our differences have helped each of us learn and grow over the years. I’m confident that will continue as we grow up together.

If you’re interested in finding out how you can make a difference in a child’s life for just a few hours a week, contact your local Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. School mentoring programs may also be available. 

Editor's note: American Family Insurance is a long-time community partner of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County. And for 32 years, the Bowl for Kids' Sake event has supported dreams of children. Visit the Big Brothers Big Sisters website to learn more about this important event, which raised more than $160,000 in 2013. 

Posted by Britt Kinder on Fri, Jan 24 2014 10:08 amBritt Kinder is a strategic communications specialist with American Family Insurance.

Make the holidays safe for pets and children

Keep Kids and Pets Safe During the HolidaysOne of my most vivid childhood memories of the holidays was the year I knocked over the tree. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. I was maybe four or five years old and went after a toy that had rolled behind the tree. Not knowing any better, I went after it and in the course of my diligent toy retrieval efforts, managed to knock the tree down.

Unfortunately, I broke several ornaments that had a lot of sentimental meaning to my parents, spilled the water in the tree stand and broke a few light bulbs as well. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it scared the heck out of me.

Fast forward several years to when I had children of my own. Not wanting history to repeat itself, I always made sure our tree was secure. In addition to being solidly in the stand, I also used clear fishing line to secure the tree to the handles on the windows behind it. I also kept a close watch on my kids whenever they got to close.

In the years since, I’ve picked up a few other tips to help my family safely enjoy the holidays and not be afraid that someone will get sick or hurt. Some of these also apply to families with dogs or cats.

I’m sure there are things you do around your home to keep children and pets safe. Here are a few of the tips I’ve picked up that may help this holiday season.

  • Avoid decorations that look like food and could tempt little ones (or pets) to try to eahc.
  • Limit rich, fatty holiday foods which can easily lead to an upset stomach.
  • Holiday plants like holly, mistletoe, lilies and poinsettias are poisonous.
  • Keep lit candles away from little hands and wagging tails.
  • Keep hot pots and pans on back burners to prevent them from being accidentally knocked over and causing a burn.
  • Make sure toys are age and ability appropriate and don’t contain small parts that could be a choking hazard.

If you haven’t seen it, there’s also a great article in this month’s @dvisor with additional holiday safety tips for children and pets.  

From my home to yours, I wish you all a happy, healthy, joyous – and safe – holiday season!

Posted by Eric Wolf on Tue, Dec 17 2013 9:13 am

Coming together to support our communities

United Way logoAttending the United Way of Dane County's annual celebration lunch on Nov. 21 reminded me of all that is right in our community. Hundreds of people came together to celebrate the success of this year's fund-raising campaign, and learn more about the causes and agencies the United Way supports.

Raising kids is hard. It's hard enough when you're in a home with two parents and decent jobs. It gets exponentially harder when you're a single parent, or living hand to mouth. The stories shared at the luncheon reinforced for me how the United Way supports the organizations trying to make it a little easier to help all children pursue their dreams.

At the luncheon, teen girls got on stage to talk about how they've used United Way-funded services. One had been sexually abused. Another was an immigrant from a war-torn country. Another needed extra tutoring. All had this in common: they have dreams -- to be teachers, to be counselors -- they're getting help through United Way services. And, they are succeeding.

I got choked up listening to their stories; feeling so grateful for the support our community provides the United Way agencies, through volunteering time, talent, and providing financial support.

The Dane County community raised $18.1 million for the United Way this year. It's an impressive amount for a community of 500,000 people.

At American Family, we're committed to protecting dreams. And that starts with inspiring dreamers. It’s a value our employees and agents live every day, and it's evident in our United Way support. I'm proud of our American Family agents and employees for leading the way this year in Dane County and across the country, contributing $1.2 million to United Way overall. And, more than 1,000 American Family employees donated time to the United Way Days of Caring.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the support my colleagues and our community provide the United Way, and I'm so proud of all the young people who are working hard and taking advantage of the services from United Way agencies, so they are on a sold path to pursue their dreams.

Posted by Michele Wingate on Thu, Nov 21 2013 9:47 pm

Simple mealtime prep can bring your family back to the dinner table

Back to the Family Dinner TableIt’s a typical night after work. I go home briefly, pick up my son, and then rush to get him to baseball or another activity. On another night, I might be rushing to a parent/teacher conference, or to finish some errands. On the weekends we are often traveling to see family, or at an event for one of our children. Sound familiar?

The reality is that most families are on the go. This can make mealtime challenging - especially if you aren’t at home to eat together. Dining out frequently gets expensive, and depending on the choice of food, it can be unhealthy. When we stopped to look at what we were spending on eating out, it really hit us that we were wasting a lot of money! So - we took action and turned things around.

Here are some things my family did to change our old habits and become more prepared for meals with our busy lifestyle. Even when you are short on time, you can still eat together and make healthy choices!

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
Preparation is key. We make the menu and prepare food a week or two in advance. I buy fresh meats and veggies and then assemble simple freezer bags filled with the ingredients.  Everyone participates in the process, so even though we can’t always eat together, we still get to have fun in the kitchen as a family. We play music and the kids love to use the scale to weigh out the meats! The bags go into the freezer and then we take them out as needed.

Use the crockpot!
Crockpot meals save so much time. You can find blogs and websites that are devoted entirely to crockpot cooking. Before you go to bed, put your ingredients into the crockpot and turn it on. In the morning you will have a home-cooked meal that is ready to go. Pop the crock in the refrigerator and heat up your meal when you get home, or freeze portions of the meal to save for another time.

Take it to go!
Buy easy finger foods such as nitrate-free sausages or brats, cheeses, fruits, and veggies and make kabobs with them. You can also cook chicken breasts and cut them into strips. Be adventurous!

Keep a cooler in your car to store your snacks, and pick up a bag of ice along the way. You can also buy natural fruit juices and add protein powder or gelatin to them for extra nutrition. Store some stainless steel water bottles in your trunk to fill with water for drinking or washing up.  

Back to the Family Dinner TableEditor’s note: Share your favorite family recipes on our entry form, which you can find on the American Family Insurance Facebook page. We’ll include some select recipes and stories in our upcoming Back to the Table electronic cookbook. 

Posted by Kate Collier on Mon, Sep 16 2013 6:33 pmKate Collier is a performance learning specialist with American Family Insurance.
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