BURLINGTON, Vt. - In an effort that stretched from the Green Mountain State and into the North Country, the Big Change Roundup for Kids has raised a substantial amount of money to help children.
The four-day collection event, sponsored by WOKO 98.9 FM and Wal-Mart, collected more than $145,000 across the two states March 13-16 to benefit Vermont Children's Hospital.
Laura Simmers, the hospital's director of development, said she was "overwhelmed" with the generosity of people making contributions this year, especially during the time of a troubled economy.
"We were hopeful that in spite of the economy, people would continue to participate in and support the Big Change Roundup for Kids," said Simmers. "The entire premise of the event is that with just a little bit from a lot of people, we can make a big difference. That is clearly what we saw this year."
Simmers said she continues to be impressed by how the level of dedication and support continues to grow for the event, now in its fourth year. "Change bandits," people who collect change in weeks leading up to the final collection events throughout New York and Vermont, and people making donations in the final days of the roundup have shown great support, she said.
"I was also delighted by the number of schools and youth groups that got involved in the event," said Simmers. "We had schools from Enosburg to Fair Haven and from Rouses Point to Crown Point participating in the event."
The money raised year after year, said Simmers, is "essential in keeping Vermont Children's Hospital a high-quality, family-friendly hospital."
"The funds we raise are used to provide the many things that make Vermont Children's Hospital unique," she said.
The money is used for a host of things, explained Simmers, including implementing new programs and expand existing programs such as Child Life Services, which helps young patients and their families adjust to extended hospital stays. The money is also used to purchase state-of-the-art equipment such as monitors for the hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit or an incubator to transport infants from New York and central and southern Vermont.
"The funds also help to support ground breaking research into many childhood diseases such as cystic fibrosis and cancer," Simmers added.
Now the money has been collected, designated hospital committees will begin the process of determining what programs and services, research and equipment needs will be funded. The committees include nursing staff, physicians, and community members.
Steve Pelkey, operations manager for Hall Communications Inc., which owns and broadcasts WOKO 98.9 FM, said he, too, was unsure how this year's fundraiser would turn out. However, he ended up being pleasantly surprised.
"We were unsure where the economy would leave us ... but we were optimistic about the energy we saw in individuals, groups, schools, and civic organizations," said Pelkey. "They helped us see the possibility of an uptick and indeed in the end we finished up by a few thousand dollars."
"As a group of radio stations we are involved in fundraising all the time," Pelkey continued. "Across the board, the good in folks has been shining through in a tough economy. They know needs still exist, and they seem to be working harder to help."
"Whether it was a young boy emptying his piggy bank, schools supporting their students or Cub and Boy Scouts working together to raise money, the community demonstrated their compassion, caring and support of our patients and families," added Simmers. "Every single person that participated in this event has made a difference in the life of a child in our community."
And, for those who missed out on this year's Big Change Roundup, donations are still being accepted. The initiative's Web site, www.bigchangeroundup.org, allows people to make a donation on-line or donations may be made payable to the Big Change Roundup and sent to Fletcher Allen Health Care, Development Office, 111 Colchester Ave., Burlington Vt. 05401.