Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Children's Health Fund

Tonight my friend and colleague, Wayne, took me to the annual meeting for Children's Health Fund (CHF). Knowing my interest in and past experience with nonprofit organizations, he knew I would be interested. What he didn't know, and frankly what I didn't know, is that CHF would be a perfect match for my interests on a variety of levels.

Personally and professionally, the mission of CHF to provide and advocate for quality medical care for every child resonates with me. Due to a drastic change in my family situation when I was a young child, my family lived below the poverty line and without health care for a good number of years. As an undergraduate, I did my senior economics thesis on the quality of healthcare for children below the poverty line living in West Philadelphia; the paper was based on my work-study job assisting one of the lead pediatricians at Children's Seashore House (now a part of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia). Additionally, I am considering the Public and Urban Policy PhD program at The New School because of my growing interest in inner-city education, and inner-city education requires caring for the whole child, healthcare included. There are certain points in our lives when the stars perfectly align, and tonight felt like one of those nights.

I had the great honor of hearing Karen Redlener, the Executive Director, and her talented staff speak about the 2008 accomplishments of CHF. 70,000 children received medical care through 210,000 patient visits and 613 medical professional received training through CHF's programs in 25 cities across the country. In a time when so many organizations, for-profit and non-profit, are pulling back and remaining cautious, CHF is stepping up their game.

Jane Pauley, one of CHF's dedicated board members and someone I greatly admire, explained why CHF is continuing to push forward and grow their goals as opposed to cutting back. In this recession, fear is everywhere. And while it might at first seem inconceivable that any organization could maintain their funding during this recession much less grow it, CHF keeps looking up and reaching higher.

Why, you ask? The sound barrier. Jane Pauley told the story of the first pilot to break the sound barrier. Previously, when pilots came up against the intense shaking caused by approaching speeds close to the sound barrier, they would pull the throttle back. A fatal mistake. Chuck Yeager did something different - when his plane approached the sound barrier, shaking badly, he pushed the throttle forward, went faster, and broke the sound barrier altogether. He is literal proof that if we press on, despite adversity, there are great rewards to be had when we come out the other side. CHF and Chuck Yeager are of the same mind.

Healthcare has been front page news every day this week; it's been at the top of the Obama agenda for months; it was a major issue in the 2008 Presidential campaign. This is healthcare's moment; this is CHF's moment. For over 20 years, Irwin Redlener and Paul Simon, the co-founders, along with their dedicated, passionate team have been working tirelessly on behalf of children and their right to quality healthcare. The debates are raging on Capitol Hill and across this country. The plane is shaking, and we cannot pull the throttle back. We are so close to breaking through, so close to having quality, affordable care for every American. CHF is continuing to stand its ground with dignity and grace, fortified by the simple belief that all children everywhere have a right to be healthy.

We need them to succeed in this mission. By the end of 2009, 1:5 children in the U.S. will be below the poverty line. 1:5. Of all the facts and figures we review every day, that might be the scariest I've heard. We can't afford to have 20% of our nation's children grow up poor and unhealthy. Think the healthcare of others isn't your problem? Think again. Their future is our future. And they need us. All of us. Someone has to stand up for them if we are to have any hope at all in the future of our nation. CHF is giving it everything they've got, and they need more. They need us. To find out how you can help, visit the Children's Heath Fund website.

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