The Niswonger Children’s Hospital Radiothon will be held Monday and Tuesday. The second annual event aims to top last year’s highly successful fundraiser, which raised $125,000.
It’s surprising how many folks don’t realize we have a dedicated children’s hospital right here in Johnson City. Adjacent to Johnson City Medical Center, Niswonger Children’s Hospital opened five years ago. Local philanthropists Scott and Nikki Niswonger donated $10 million to help fund the facility; they continue to volunteer their time to help with events there.
In addition to serving children in a four-state area, the hospital is also home to a St. Jude’s Affiliate Clinic for kids requiring cancer care. Last year, officials announced a new affiliation with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, offering families more options for treatment close to home.
A large number of the patients served by Niswonger Children’s Hospital cannot afford to pay for their care; donors help bridge the gap.
Donations also help pay for extra equipment used to treat patients properly. One of the unique qualities of a children’s hospital is the use of medical equipment that is child-sized instead of adult-sized. Those more specialized items often cost more money. Children’s hospitals also cater to the needs of youngsters — they provide playrooms and entertainment to help make hospitalizations more pleasant and ease anxiety for kids enduring tests and procedures.
WTFM-FM, along with seven other Holston Valley Broadcasting stations, will air the radiothon. Folks can listen in and hear stories of families who have been impacted by Niswonger Children’s Hospital interspersed with regular programming. Morning host Taylor Morgan will broadcast live from the hospital’s lobby, where volunteers and local celebrities will answer phones, taking donations from callers. Groups or individuals can also bring donations in person to the lobby.
Why should we donate to the radiothon? For one reason, helping this hospital is helping our community in a tangible way — it’s our neighbors, friends and coworkers whose children are treated there. Money donated stays right here in our community. Also, it’s imperative to remember it could be any of us with a family member being treated there. A simple bout with of the flu with complications could land a child in the hospital, any newborn could experience health issues requiring a NICU stay and any child could need to visit the emergency department. We never know when we might be the ones who need the care and services of this hospital.
I know this from experience; my youngest daughter was treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Niswonger Children’s Hospital as a newborn in 2011. This amazing place holds a special place in my heart. For many months after bringing Charlotte home, just driving by the hospital would bring tears to my eyes. I am so grateful this hospital was available to my baby, who was born with holes in her lungs and resulting breathing difficulties. Our experience there was life-changing for my family — the highly qualified medical staff not only healed Charlotte, they walked us through the entire ordeal with kindness, patience and loving care.
Our story is one of many — thousands of families’ lives have are impacted by this hospital every year. It’s these families who are helped through the radiothon and other fundraisers.
Of course, many of us don’t have wiggle room in our budgets for extra charitable giving. The Mountain States Foundation has many suggestions for raising money that go beyond reaching deeper into our wallets. Some school children have collected pennies in their classrooms, older kids have saved money from doing chores or pet-sitting and others have held car washes or operated lemonade stands. Adults can help by assisting kids with planning, counting money and submitting donations.
If a monetary donation to the radiothon isn’t an option, the hospital also has a wish list of items for patients. Items include board games, stuffed animals, dolls, video games, movies on DVD, batteries, card games and simple art supplies. (Because of concerns about infection control, many items must be new, not used. You can check the hospital’s website for more details.) As a way to help families stay close to their kids, the hospital also stocks snacks for parents; they always need donations of items like packaged crackers, cookies, fruit cups, bottled water, soft drinks and paper products.
Several corporate sponsors are again offering generous pledges, but it is regular folks who will help the radiothon to be a success. Please consider how you might help families in our community through this valuable cause.
Rebecca Horvath of Johnson City is a wife, mother and community activist.