Tag Archives: Utah

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.


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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Giving Time.

Last fall, it was easy to get bogged down and think that the brink of economic disaster was upon us. At the same time, it was easy to become jaded as story after story ran about companies and people serving their own self interests, which helped spiral into one of the worst economic recessions in world history.

Nine months later, there are glimmers of hope – Standard and Poor reported today that the housing market might be showing the first signs of coming back, stocks have stabilized and the job losses have slowed some. What gives me the most hope, however, is realizing that humanity is still alive – that we as people aren’t letting the economic times get us down, but rather are reaching out to lend a hand to others.

Earlier this week, The Corporation for National and Community Service issued a report on the state of volunteerism throughout the U.S. in 2008. Last year, 61.8 million Americans donated 8 billion hours of service to organizations, neighborhood causes and community action groups, up 1 million from the prior year.

What is most startling – and exciting – however, is the number of people who joined together to solve community problems in less formal ways. Last year saw a more than 30% increase in the number of people joining with neighbors and community members to solve local problems – at a time when many were likely on less-than-solid economic footing themselves.

It is inspiring to hear, it is even more inspiring to see. We are lucky to be based in the state that had the highest rate of volunteerism among every state in the nation – 43.5% of residents donated their time in some fashion to a cause or community endeavor. More than a third of the population of Salt Lake City were actively engaged in volunteer work in 2008 – the third highest rate among large cities. The spirit of people helping people is contageous, and we’re grateful to be based in a community that is so committed to helping others.

Another thing that inspired me as I read this week’s report was the increase in the number of teens and college-aged youth who are volunteering – kids giving back to communities that have raised and nurtured them as they begin life on their own. These survey results and others indicate that the millenial generation really means it when they say they want to see change – they are willing to roll up their sleeves and work alongside everyone else to make an impact in their corners of the world.

With the economy and traditional nonprofit funding sources still on shaky ground, nonprofit organizations are more dependant than ever on people giving of their time – helping keep operations and programming viable as charities shore up reserves and work to help an fill an ever-increasing need.

I have been involved in a number of community organizations over the years – from literacy to helping the blind to youth programming – and my life has been richy blessed as a result. I issue a challenge to all of our readers and supporters to take a few hours of time out of your day this summer and volunteer – in your neighborhood, your community or for an organization that could use your help. Besides the warm fuzzies and feeling of accomplishment you get, it is also a great way to network, meet others and become more aware of what difference you can make as a single person.

Let’s make August a month of giving back – in gratitude and appreciation for everything we have.

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Running for Healthy Kids

Tanner  Bell (Ragnar Co-Founder), Chad Iverson, Curtis Bennett (OC Tanner) and Don Stirling (Operation Kids)

Tanner Bell (Ragnar Co-Founder), Chad Iverson, Curtis Bennett (OC Tanner) and Don Stirling (Operation Kids)

Since 2005, Operation Kids and Ragnar Events have partnered to try and make an impact on youth health and fitness. Over the past year, the partnership has developed into a national campaign, where Operation Kids partners with Ragnar Event for each Ragnar Relay to benefit local youth health and fitness campaigns.

For the 2009 Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back, we tried something new – several generous businesses donated some wonderful gifts to those runners and supporters who raised funds or donated toward this year’s cause – Best Buddies Utah, where we worked to raise funds for the  Best Buddies 5k walk/run for intellectually disabled children.

We had hundreds of donors – giving anywhere from $5 to $500, who were excited to run for a cause. One of the donors, Chad Iverson, was the lucky winner of the grand prize – a $3,200 Tag Heuer watch from OC Tanner.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to present Chad with this gift and thank him for his generosity at the OC Tanner store downtown. It was a great experience to meet him and thank him first-hand. We don’t  often get to meet our donors face-to-face, and when we do, it is always wonderful.

On behalf of Ragnar Events, Best Buddies Utah and Operation Kids, I’d like to say “thank you” to all those who donated who helped us raise thousands of dollars for a worthy cause – to help intellectually disabled kids stay healthy and fit.

We can’t wait to see you in Logan next year for the 2010 Wasatch Back race! For those of you from out of state – we will see you at several of the upcoming Ragnar Relays between now and November.

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A Tribute to Parents

There are many things about a 24-hour marathon relay like Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back that leave an impression: the crazy vans, the physical demands on each team member, the beauty of the Wasatch Back course, but this year I was so touched with one aspect of the race, that I feel the need to pay tribute, individually and collectively, to the parents of children with special needs.


Operation Kids benefits all kinds of worthy charities in its partnership with Ragnar Relays. This year, we chose to benefit a health and fitness initiative of Best Buddies; a mentoring program for children with intellectual disabilities. As a result, we had a number of great children and young adults at the start and finish line who shared their infectious spirit of enthusiasm and friendship. One of these great young men was in our tent at the finish line doing his part, and I had the chance to speak with him and his mother.


The total commitment for a special-needs parent is difficult to describe. The near constant care is always coupled with the additional worry of, “who will care for my child of something happens to me?” Even when families find those great organizations like Best Buddies who can give even greater meaning and purpose to these young lives, it is the parents who must take their child to events, stay all the way through and then get them home again. I will keep names out of it because I am sure this kind mother is not looking for recognition, but as I spent time talking with this dedicated and very tired lady who loves her son, who would make any sacrifice for his well-being, I felt strongly that she, along with all parents in similar situations, deserves to be thanked.

May I just extend a tribute and thanks to the many mothers and fathers who care for special needs children on a daily basis. I realize fully that you do it because you love them, but I also realize that you do it because you must; because your children need you. You adjust your life to their needs in an effort to make their lives better, often sacrificing much of your own in the process. It is remarkable to see first-hand those people who make significant sacrifices that enable their children to experience a fuller, richer life.  In turn, that sacrifice enriches people like me – who walk away with a greater appreciation for life in general.

Thank you, to all of you.


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Bringing a Smile & A Hug to Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back

Operation Kids had a blast this past weekend at the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back! Our morning started at the break of dawn along with our friends at Best Buddies. Best Buddies actually camped out in their RV, and came ready to roll up their sleeves. And man did they!

Brett, from Best Buddies, handed out flyers and gave hugs to the ladies, while the rest of the Best Buddies crew manned their booth. Brett worked the crowd with his magnetic charm and warm smile. While it’s hard to keep your mind off the pre-race jitters, our friends at Best Buddies helped ease everyone’s minds and made everyone remember that there is a great cause to run for.

Several members from our team took snapshots of the runners and the Ragnarian fans throughout the race.  We even managed to capture a few photos of our Best Buddy pals while they were working. As the first day ended, Operation Kids and Best Buddies anxiously awaited to serve breakfast/lunch at Exchange 30 in Heber City, UT, for the next day.

On Saturday, breakfast started out busy! We were on a roll and then the torrential rain caused the runners to stay in their vans. However, we were not going to let that stop our fundraising efforts for the breakfast/lunch. With the help of Best Buddies and the Best Buddies volunteers we brought the food to the runners! 

After serving breakfast/lunch at Exchange 30, our crew moved to the finish line in Park City, UT. The weather turned into a storm straight out of the Wizard of Oz! Operation Kids along with Best Buddies hung in there until the crowd started dwindling down in numbers due to this unusual weather.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time interacting with the all of the runners and spectators. Operation Kids would like commend and thank our Operation Kids volunteers, the Best Buddies volunteers for all of their hard work, and of course Ragnar! Most of all, our fundraising efforts were for Best Buddies of Utah, and we cannot thank them enough for their contagious energy and “never give up” attitude.

 P.S. Here are a few flickr photos from the Wasatch Back, more will be posted soon! And don’t forget to check out who won in the Operation Kids/Best Buddies drawing.

-Brandon aka “the intern”

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Sun, Rain, 188 Miles and Best Buddies

If you happened to be in northern Utah on Saturday, you might have thought you had gotten your locations mixed up. Never have I seen such a deluge of rain in Utah’s high desert country than I did on Saturday during the last half of the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back. I’m not sure who ordered up the weather, but it only added to the adventure that Ragnar races always promise to be.

The entire Operation Kids team spent the weekend hanging out with the 9,000 or so crazy Ragnar runners at this year’s Wasatch Back, helping runners and teams raise money for Best Buddies Utah. What a weekend! There will be more updates to come, but the most important is the 40+ generous donors who won gifts as a result of the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back/Operation Kids charity giveaway … our sincere thanks to those generous people who donated to help Best Buddies Utah produce a 5k walk/run for intellectually disabled children.

Prize winners (and prizes won) include:

*Those in orange denoate those names/teams whose donation status achieved Ragnar Raiser status – giving a minimum of $30 an individual or $360 as a team.

Prize First Name Last Name Team Name  
Hires Big H James Sorenson Norwesters Runners Not Winers


Olive Garden Justin Manning Where’s The Finish Line


Tucanos Terry Wright Jacobsen Construction Turtle Crew – The Turbo Tortoises


Merle Norman Shanna Futral Performance Under Pressure


Tucanos Chad Iverson Strong Women, Strong Men meet Gym Class Heroes       


Red Rock Bryan Tagge Bourne to Run


Red Rock Dave Brooks CTR


Wasatch Touring Shawn Christiansen Rose Clydesdales & Athenas


Sun Valley Shanna Futral Performance Under Pressure




Tin Angel Cafe Chad Iverson Strong Women, Strong Men meet Gym Class Heroes       




Best Buy Shane Shupe The Gimps


La Caille Molly Nicholes    
La Caille Josh Winward Second Timers


Salt Lake Running Co. Warren Duff Team Chusqui


Sinclair Trent Wade One Less Appendix


Sinclair Molly Nicholes    
La Caille Missy Collard Collard Chiropractic


Sinclair Denise Rager UTANG MILI-pedes  


Happy Sumo Molly Nicholes    
Happy Sumo Nathan Flaim Whiskey Militia


Utah Museum of Natural History David Dunkley Slowskys


Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company Nick Woodward Mach Trauma


Repertory Dance Theatre Terry Wright Jacobsen Construction Turtle Crew – The Turbo Tortoises


Utah Museum of Fine Art Bill Ricks Rage


Lagoon John Spicer Doggie Paddlin


Odyssey Dance Theatre Shawn Christiansen Rose Clydesdales & Athenas


Utah Symphony/Utah Opera Rich Simmons Honey Buckets


Hogle Zoo Shayna Paul Ultra Team + 6 Guys


Hogle Zoo James Borden Victorious Secret


Evolve Salon & Day Spa Shawn Christiansen Rose Clydesdales & Athenas


Evolve Salon & Day Spa Jan Bernhisel Broadbent Vaguely Related


Evolve Salon & Day Spa Teresa Reed Falcon


Flemings Michelle Green 12 Oxen


Utah Jazz Bryan Tagge Bourne to Run


Utah Jazz Molly Nicholes    
Real Salt Lake Robert Smith Strangers in the Night


Anniversary Inn Jody Worthen Family Friends & Fools


Grand America Joyce Wall Got Pain


Gold’s Gym

Gold’s Gym


Mark & Christy




Road Crew



Ragnar Relay Free Team Denise Rager UTANG MILI-pedes  


Tag Heuer Watch – OC Tanner Chad Iverson Strong Women, Strong Men meet Gym Class Heroes       


Check back tomorrow for more adventure stories, photos and charitable giving updates!



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14 Days and Counting … Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back

This week has been quite the week at Operation Kids, as we prepare for the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back – which starts in just two weeks.

Four years ago, Operation Kids began working with Ragnar Events in a joint effort to improve children’s health and fitness along the Wasatch Back relay route. When Ragnar launched the Ragnar Relay Series and began to expand nationwide in 2006, they asked us to join them as their national charity partner.

Over the last year we’ve really ramped up our efforts with a goal of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for children’s health and fitness programs in the 11+ metropolitan areas through which a Ragnar Relay runs. This year, we are celebrating our biggest Ragnar fundraising effort yet at the Wasatch Back relay – which runs 188(ish) miles from Logan to Park City, Utah.

It is significant because it’s virtually in our own backyard, but also because the charity to which we’ll distribute funds is one of our long-standing “OK-Approved” charities, Best Buddies, where the funds will go to provide opportunities for kids with intellectual disabilities and their buddies along the Wasatch Front to participate in their own Best Buddies Utah 5k Walk/Run (scheduled for spring 2010), as well as to provide seed money for new chapters along the race route.

It’s easy to take for granted that I (were I in good shape and desired to do so) could enter a race – virtually any race – or lace up my running shoes and run out my door and down the street – but many kids with intellectual disabilities never get those same chances. I am so excited to work to try and make that possible for hopefully thousands of kids next spring.

As we gear up a great fundraising effort, we have generated dozens of spreadsheets, checklists, e-mails, field trips and a lot of formal and informal meetings. Operation Kids is helping Best Buddies put on a spectacular breakfast at Exchange 30 Saturday as one of the fundraising initiatives. I can’t wait until I can share the menu – it’s not your typical fundraising breakfast, for certain!

I love working on projects like this – to see everyone so energized about an event that is going to help raise money for such a great cause. There is a vibe around the office that is almost like what you felt just before Christmas or summer vacation as a kid – a sense of great anticipation and eagerness to see it all come to fruition.

You can keep up on all the crazy progress by following us on Twitter @OperationKids or keep an eye out on the  blog for pictures, updates and a recap of the fundraising success.


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