Author Archives: Operation Kids

About Operation Kids

Operation Kids is the leader in providing customized philanthropic services for individuals, families and companies.

Join Us at Our New Blog Site

If you have been reading A Voice for Children via e-mail, you may have wondered why you haven’t received one lately. We switched to a new platform in mid-December. You can visit the new blog here: http://blog.operationkids.org. If you want to continue receiving posts via e-mail, please click this link to sign up.

-Sara

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The Best Holiday Gift

The Children’s Organ Transplant Association is an organization to which we have guided many of our donors over the last several years. Last week, they provided us with a beautiful holiday story about one of the children that donor funds helped. In the spirit of the season, I thought it appropriate to share here.

-Sara

During a season filled with lists and wishes, the holiday gift one Utah couple hopes for is one often taken for granted: a healthy family.  For this family, one wish has already been granted.  Now they wait for the ultimate gift … the gift of life.

Last November, Brian and Emily Hoopes received a precious gift in the form of a long-awaited adoption.  Their story began on Halloween 2008 when Baby Patrick was born in Michigan.  The young Salt Lake City area couple adopted Patrick when he was just one-week-old, bringing him home to Utah a month later.  From the outset of the adoption process, Brian and Emily knew Patrick was a very sick infant.  They were told the baby only had a few centimeters of small intestine and until he could get an intestinal transplant, Patrick would require constant medical attention.

“Beyond knowing he would need lots of medical care we also knew Patrick’s life had been a series of miracles up until that point. We hoped those miracles would continue and we decided to forge ahead with hope, despite an uncertain future,” said Emily.

Knowing the road ahead would be rocky given Patrick’s diagnosis of short gut syndrome, Brian and Emily joyfully initiated the adoption process and returned to Utah to their large network of family, neighbors and church friends.  Their network of acquaintances expanded rapidly to include Patrick’s medical team of gastroenterologists, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, developmental specialists and many more medical professionals.  This couple’s dedication and commitment to a tiny infant remained unwavering even as they discovered the harsh realities that laid ahead for each of them. 

The specialists at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, told Emily and Brian they would need to go to Seattle Children’s Hospital, an 840-mile trip, to further investigate the possibility of a life-saving small bowel transplant.  They made their first trip to Seattle in early 2009.  That trip was successful and Patrick was listed for a small bowel transplant. That’s when the waiting began. 

Just to maintain Patrick’s health while he waits for his transplant, the Hoopes’ pay co-pays for every doctor and therapist visit, and for every trip to the hospital emergency department in Salt Lake City.  Sometimes Patrick is in the doctor’s office more than once each week.  There are also co-pays for his medications; deductibles, and the costs of living at a hospital for a week or more at a time.  According to Emily and Brian, the Hoopes family has had to tighten their belt because Emily’s current full-time job is taking care of Patrick.

Intestinal transplants are a fairly new procedure.  With Patrick being listed for transplant at Seattle Children’s, Emily and Patrick need to travel to Seattle every three months for evaluations.  Each visit involves airfare and food and lodging for at least a couple days.  They also pay charges associated with seeing doctors outside of their insurance network.  When the transplant call does come and they need to get to Seattle quickly, Emily and Brian may need to charter a $10,000 flight to get Patrick to the hospital within the narrow time frame allowed by the surgical team.

It became very apparent, very quickly, that Brian and Emily Hoopes needed help.  Even though the Hoopes’ have health insurance coverage, they soon realized that regardless of how ‘good’ their insurance is, they are facing a huge financial burden — in addition to the stress of Patrick’s medical care they face on a daily basis.  In the midst of these difficult days, Brian and Emily heard about the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA). 

“With the amazing assistance that COTA provided, we were able to pull together a group of friends and family who are working together to raise funds for transplant-related expenses, and to raise awareness of the transplant journey our family was facing,” said Emily.  Almost immediately, Emily became a regular contributor to Patrick’s website journal at www.COTAforPatrickH.com.  And, just as quickly, bloggers got online and started reading, and responding to, this mother’s riveting words of gratitude and hope.

After Patrick’s transplant, he and Emily will need to stay near the hospital in Seattle for about six months.  This family will split Brian’s income across two households in two states.  Undoubtedly, their out-of-pocket insurance costs will skyrocket and they will have co-pays for bi-weekly biopsies; for anti-rejection medications, and for IV nutrition, feeding therapy and home nursing. 

“When I consider the price of Patrick’s transplant journey, it is overwhelming.  However, COTA has given us hope, making it seem that one more miracle is possible,” said Emily.

Emily continued, “We have witnessed many little miracles since we found COTA.  Family, friends and neighbors have come together in amazing ways.  Strangers in our community have reached out to us.  Every little miracle gives us hope that a bigger miracle — a transplant — is in our future.  We’ve always considered Patrick’s life a gift.  We feel privileged to be his parents.  Some may think we gave our baby a gift by adopting him, but the reality is that he is giving us the ultimate gift by being our son.” 

The Hoopes family is getting ready for the holidays.  They are grateful for the ongoing support their COTA team continues to provide; they are grateful for their COTA website Journal readers and Guestbook visitors, and mostly, they are grateful for the selfless gift an anonymous family will soon give to Patrick … the gift of life. 

Truly the best holiday gift that can be given.

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The Littlest of These

Last April, after attending a business function downtown, I was stopped by a woman as I approached my car. She was tousled and a bit unkempt, though clean. Strapped to her chest was an infant.

April weather here is incredibly unpredictable and on that day there were snow fluries in the air. She looked cold and desperate as she explained her situation. she asked for a few dollars to help her find shelter and food for her and her baby that night while she waited for her name to rise to the top of an affordable housing waiting list. Her baby slept peacefully on – unaware of his circumstances.

I ached to give her more than I had – a few dollars and a clean fleece blanket from my car’s emergency kit – yet she received them as if I had given her far more. Tears misted both of our eyes. I returned home that day deeply changed.

That incident has stayed with me the last seven months, especially since I gave birth to my second child in August. As the weather begins to turn cold again, I find my thoughts frequently turning to that young woman – so desperate to provide for her baby that a few dollar bills and a blanket were received as if they were life’s grandest treasures. I have since learned that with the economic turmoil of the last year, shelters, food banks and other providers of basic necessities are in dire need of supplies for infants and young children – formula, diapers, wipes, blankets and the like. As a group, babies are among the most overlooked by those donating items to emergency shelters and clinics – and yet they are among the most vulnerable, especially during the harsh winter months.

As a result of last spring’s experience,  my husband and I have decided this holiday season to provide some much-needed necessities to the local March of Dime’s Teddy Bear Den – a community based prenatal health program for low-income pregnant women – in lieu of gifts to family members. I cannot fathom the hollow ache that must fill one’s soul when the necessities are beyond one’s grasp.  I don’t want to have to meet another mother and her baby on a snowy afternoon with nothing to eat and nowhere to go.

As I put my children down to bed tonight – in a warm home, with their bellies full – I am thinking again of the woman and the baby who are wrapped up somewhere in my purple fleece blanket. This year, my Thanksgiving holiday is dedicated to them and others like them – may this winter bring better fortunes, a warm place to sleep and enough food to not have to put your little one to bed hungry.

If you have a warm place to sleep and enough food to satiate your hunger during this season of giving, count your blessings and join me in sharing what extra you might have with the littlest of those among us.

-Sara Brueck Nichols

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Perfection Not Required

I’m well aware of the pressures parents put on themselves to be perfect – though fortunately my children are too young to roll their eyes at me or tell me that I humiliate them every time I put the trash out in my bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. Yet, as I potty train my toddler or get up to feed the baby at oh-dark-thirty, I am constantly critical of how well I’m playing the role as the adult who shoulders the incredible burden of bringing up the next generation.

I have a laundry list of parenting faults – I’m a little high-strung, I hate to mop the kitchen floor (negating any 30-second-rule for fear my kids will die of whatever has taken up residence there), I don’t find the emptying of an entire roll of toilet paper or tube of toothpaste particularly humorous and sometimes I put the pillow over my head and mutter, “if I ignore you can I sleep just 20 more minutes?”

And yet, my kids are lucky – they have parents who love them and are fiercely devoted to giving them the best life we possibly can. And that is enough perfection for them.

It is also the reasoning behind this month’s National Adoption Month theme: “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent: There are thousands of teens in foster care who would love to put up with you.”

Last month, President Obama declared November as “National Adoption Month”, to “honor those families who have strengthened America through adoption, and we recommit to reducing the number of children awaiting adoption into loving families,” and to “renew our commitments to children in the foster care system.”

The observance of National Adoption Month is more than just a celebration of adoption, it is a cry for more than 120,000 children who are in foster care awaiting a permanent family and an end to a life of turmoil. These are children who are not in the “system” by their own choosing, but have become without permanent home, family or support through tragic circumstances and the unfortunate choices of others. National Adoption Month aims to focus on the needs of these children, nearly 25,000 of whom age out of the foster care system each year and to remind each of us of our responsibility to the rising generation.

Every year, we are losing alarming numbers of these young adults who have “aged out” to cycles of poverty, crime, incarceration and death at far above the rate of their peers. Without a support system to prepare them for life on their own, many face an uphill battle that is rarely won.

It is this alarming fact that has lead AdoptUsKids, a  cooperative agreement between The Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children & Families and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, to highlight the message of “anti-perfection” – that even the quirkiest of us have something to offer a teen in foster care. Their PSA campaign reminds us all that each of us – foibles included – can make a difference in the life of a child in foster care by being a mentor, a foster family or by giving a foster child into a permanent, loving home.

We work with many individuals and organizations who champion this same message. This past year we helped Christmas Box International with their Lifestart initiative to help arm teens aging out of foster care with basic necessities. We champion the ideas set forth by Judy Cockerton of The Treehouse Foundation for their ability to make an impact. And we embrace the idea of reminding us all about the “forgotten children” who live among us.

At the very least, we ask that you hug a child in your life today. You’re a far greater parent, example or mentor than you realize. After all, you don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.

-Sara

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Giving to China? Here’s What You Should Know

Planning on becoming involved in the philanthropic sector in China? Here are two things you should know before you start.

The National Intelligence Council’s 2008 report states that “China is poised to have more impact on the world over the next 20 years than any other country”. China’s impressive rise on the world stage has created intense international interest, both politically and economically. This interest has only strengthened amidst the turmoil of the recent financial crisis: in 2008 alone, China received $82.7 billion in foreign direct investment, a 13.8% increase since 2006. It makes sense that many individuals and corporations with interests in China would also be interested in becoming involved in philanthropic work in China.  Becoming involved in philanthropy in China is, however, subject to many of the same issues and complexities that are faced by those seeking to make a profit there. Here are two key points that anyone hoping to work in the philanthropic sector in China should know:

Government relations are the key

While having a good relationship with the government is important for charitable organizations everywhere, in China it is absolutely vital. You cannot successfully operate in any way in China without the full approval of both central and local government officials. After the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan province, the non-government organizations that were able to have the greatest impact in the relief efforts were not the groups with the most international funding or the best organizations but rather those with the closest ties to government. This is a consequence not only of the stricter regulations in place in China relating to philanthropic activity and organizations, but also to the dominance of the Chinese government in the economy. While the private sector has grown significantly in China during the last 30 years of economic reform, the government continues to make up 60-70% of the whole economy. Even in the private sector, nearly a third of the funding comes from the government.

The Chinese government, in sum, not only exercises political dominance but economic dominance as well. Thus individuals or groups who fail to cultivate good relationships with government officials not only risk being shut down but also are losing access to the largest sector of the Chinese economy. It is also important to understand the surprisingly heterogeneous nature of the government in China. Policies and regulations may differ significantly from city to city, and may sometimes even be in conflict with policies of the central government. Be aware also of the potential ethical issues this point may raise, as gaining the confidence of some local officials may involve practices that are viewed as inappropriate by US standards.

Politics and philanthropy don’t mix

It is vital for charitable organizations and individuals to have a thorough understanding of the political boundaries which exist in China. Failure to grasp the political realities can completely derail even the best intended programs.  Consider the example of a philanthropic group that wanted to hold an event to benefit children orphaned in the Sichuan earthquake. As well intentioned as the group was, they failed to consider that the involvement of a well-known personality who was critical of the Chinese government would make it difficult or even impossible for the money to be accepted in China. As a consequence, the group was unable to accomplish its goals.

The Chinese government places a premium on maintaining social harmony and invariably takes strong measures against that any organization or individual that seems to threaten that goal. Political matters to avoid include obvious issues like Tibetan, Taiwanese or Uyghur separatism or the 1989 Tiananmen protests but also may include seemingly innocuous issues like poverty or education. Philanthropic groups and individuals interested in working in China today should take great care not to be involved with any activities or individuals that even appear to threaten social order, the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy, or have an adverse impact the influence of the government. It is just as important for philanthropic groups or individuals to gain the trust of local officials and show that that they plan on working as a complement, not a substitute, for government.

-Britton

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Stopping Internet Predators

Operation Kids presents $200k to ICAC to catch online predators

Operation Kids presents $200k to ICAC to catch online predators

Money changes everything when it comes to stopping Internet predators. That is why Operation Kids was proud to present Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff  $200,000 on Monday to help fund undercover operations targeting online child abuse.  Shurtleff accepted the donation from Operation Kids on behalf of the Utah Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.

It is easy to forget that there are children being victimized in our own neighborhoods. The Utah ICAC Task Force initially received $50,000 from Operation Kids and used it to mount two month-long undercover operations.  These two operations resulted in charges against 33 suspected child predators and child pornographers. Now when ICAC ran their sting operations this spring, we were not so much shocked by the number of arrests, as saddened to learn they could achieve equal results during most any 30-day period of the year.

Unfortunately, the ICAC Task Force is experiencing the same budget reductions as other state agencies. Notwithstanding, the task force has logged a nationally unprecedented 40% increase in arrests and convictions over the previous year.  This increase is due to the dedication of ICAC investigators to protect children and families and to the additional staff hours funded by these donations.

For those you of you who attended our gala honoring John Walsh last year, this donation is result of private and corporate pledges made that evening. Walsh, as we all know, is the dedicated host of America’s Most Wanted and has been instrumental in the apprehension of over 1,050 dangerous fugitives and in bringing home more than 50 missing children in the past 22 years. And we made a decisions that all funds raised during that night would benefit organizations serving child safety initiatives, as a tribute to Walsh.

Through this second donation to the Utah’s ICAC Task Force, we are honored to support  law enforcement and are proud to do our part in capturing more of those who prey on our most vulnerable citizens…our children.

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Keeping Children Safe

Now that kids are back in school, authorities are asking parents to be extra-vigilant about their children’s activities online and via text. Our local Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce reminded residents that “Back to School” also means a spike in Internet crime targeting children and teens.

“Every year when school starts back up and goes back in session, we always see a spike in crimes where children are targeted or children are contacted by individuals,” said ICAC Capt. Rhett McQuiston. “Sometimes they are other kids who are contacting them; a lot of times they are adults who are pretending to be kids.”

I mention this, because Sunday, September 27, is Internet Safety Day – a day set aside for parents to discuss Internet and texting safety with their children. This year, the organizers have a goal of getting 100,000 parents to pledge to talk with their child or teen about staying safe online.

One of the components of the “Whole Child” is safety – as an organization who has been close to several organizations and individuals involved in cases of missing and exploited children or Internet crimes against children, we are all-too-aware of how little information it takes for a predator to strike.

If you are a parent, or know a parent, Sunday is a good time to sit down and talk about safe boundaries online and via text. Talk about what information should not be shared, talk about photos and the impact that sharing a photo with someone – known or unknown – can have. Talk about blogging and “sexting” and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Talk about where to turn if something seems “off” about an online friend or contact. Most importantly, just talk. Be aware of what is happening and what your children and teens are involved in.

Need more resources? You can download a free Internet Safety Parent’s Guide to get you started.

-Sara

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