As 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:
I 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.
"No person has the right to rain on your dreams."
This is one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It because it reminds me although the rain will come, by doing for others, you help to protect their dreams and fulfill yours.
I am so lucky, because as a claims care center manager, I work in the dream department. Really, you say? Yep. I get to help protect my customer’s dream every day, along with the other claim care center folks. We are fortunate to be in the position to help others at a time when they are most worried about the deferment of their dreams.
As a "dream protector," if you will, I truly find satisfaction walking through the doors at American Family Insurance knowing today, just like every day, my job is to help my customers protect their dreams. We all know life surely will bring the rain, but if I am doing my job right, I will be a little sunshine, keeping life’s rain from pouring down on you.
Just as I get satisfaction in my professional life from being part of the dream-protecting fabric at AmFam, I try to apply the same principles in serving my community through Women in Focus, Inc. (WIF), a Madison, Wis., organization serving others with gratitude.
Dr. King said, "Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" Others have helped me through my journeys and "rain" of life. This inspired me to join Women in Focus, an organization whose charge since 1983 is to help young men and women of color to fulfill their dreams. It helps them pursue education opportunities beyond high school. This is a dream of many, I’d say.
Each year, through fundraising efforts of this extraordinary bunch, of which I am proud to say American Family faithfully supports, these educators, business owners, doctors, lawyers and moms get together and volunteer at the YWCA as part of a literacy program. We also plan the group's largest fundraising effort, which is the annual "I have a Dream Scholarship Ball" honoring Dr. King.
Over the years, Women in Focus has awarded 240 scholarships to Madison-area youth -- to help fund their dreams of education. I like to think we are truly women, in focus.
"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." This quote, also by Dr. King, reminds me the efforts flowing from organizations like Women in Focus, and the contributions from companies like American Family Insurance, or simply doing my job with the goal of being a dream protector, do become a small but meaningful part of people's life fabric -- woven into a dream realized and protected.
The gracious part is when you realize in doing things for others, in small but significant ways, whether in your professional or personal life, you are blessed with the opportunity to become, momentarily, part of someone else’s dream.These dream-building moments become the protective fabrics that are then continuously rewoven into another’s, and then yet another.
So as we celebrate Dr. King, who had so many dreams -- for all of us -- I am going to celebrate in the spirit of continuing to do what I can to be a small but great part of someone else’s dream.
Dream with me?
This is the time of year we hear a lot about traditions – spending time with family, participating in holiday activities and helping others who may not be as fortunate or who have fallen on hard times.
One tradition my family eagerly participates in is giving to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Toys for Tots program. We started several years ago when my two children were little.
Each year, they’d pick out toys or books that they’d want, and then donate them to Toys for Tots. Because my kids were making the decisions what to donate, I knew the toys were something that would be well received.
At first, they didn’t always understand why I asked them to pick out something they would like just to turn around and give it away, and, to someone they didn’t even know. However, as my children grew, this became an opportunity to talk about the importance of appreciating what we have and helping those less fortunate.
It’s now something they eagerly look forward to.
This year, in addition to our annual donation, my children joined me as volunteers at American Family’s Toys for Tots collection at the Employee Holiday Breakfast. We greeted families as they entered the breakfast and thanked them for their donations. It was a heartwarming experience to see the generosity of so many people.
The toys donated at American Family will join others in the area for distribution throughout Dane County.
Tracing its roots back to 1947 when the wife of a Marine Corps Reservist wanted to donate a doll to a needy child, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve has been providing toys to children who might otherwise go without.
Since its beginning, the Toys for Tots Program has distributed more than 469 million toys to over 216 million less fortunate children.
In 2011, American Family launched the “Dreams Protected” advertising campaign. My work team decided to take it one step further and help others build dreams.
The East Property Survey Team recently spent an afternoon working with Habitat for Humanity of Dane County. Although the organization was chosen because of the nature of our work, it quickly became clear we would be getting a lesson in much more than construction. It was a lesson on building dreams.
We were able to meet the recipient of one of the homes under construction. The gentleman was an inspiration to us all.
In 2006, he fled Kosovo in search of a better life for himself and his daughter. His profile on the Habitat website indicated he had “dreamed of owning his own home for many years.” He is determined and has been working very hard to make it happen.
He is currently working two full-time jobs and is a single parent to his 9-year-old daughter. Although he already has a full plate, he must also spend 325 hours working for Habitat for Humanity. This is what is called “sweat equity” and ensures recipients are invested in the home that eventually becomes theirs.
His busy schedule doesn’t seem to bother him at all. He is simply happy that he and his young daughter will have a place to call home; something others often take for granted.
The afternoon was spent working with this wonderful gentleman under the direction of a Habitat for Humanity supervisor. Some of us were able to contribute a bit more skillfully than others, but we all had enthusiasm and willingness to lend a hand.
Our job that day was to help install the second story walls. The pre-assembled walls had to be lifted from the ground to the second level, carefully placed, and nailed together. A few others were busy helping to frame the first floor of another home in the area. It was great to see how quickly the home’s frame came together! The recipient’s determination and excitement was even better! We could literally watch his dream coming true before our eyes.
While our arms were sore by the end of the afternoon, it was a good pain. We were grateful to have the opportunity to contribute our skills to make a family’s dream of home ownership come true.
Several of us plan to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity again. If you are interested in helping others achieve the dream of home ownership, you can contribute financially, shop at their wonderful Habitat Restores, or volunteer your time individually or with a group. Check out Habitat for Humanity of Dane County for more information.