Gaining Perspective Through enCourage Kids Foundation
We all have those days -- the ones where basically everything goes wrong. The storm door and refrigerator both break at the sight of you. Your favorite mug leaps to its death and takes the last of the coffee with it. And DCF becomes convinced that you are indeed Lucifer for failure to record an actual fingerprint the twelve times they asked you to place your mitts on their monitor.
Yes, you want to crawl back into bed but you don’t. Instead, you prop yourself up through some positive self-talk and listen to a Les Brown motivational video on your way to the hardware store where you are hoping that they have the one piece to the storm door that you need to prevent it from being carried away by the unexpected tornado that will most definitely bypass everyone of your neighbors’ but hit your yard as the night wears on.
Then suddenly - amid the many problems, lingering chaos and sinking hopefulness - the salesperson at the hardware store not only finds you your needed storm door part but jumps hurdles to retrieve it for you and then gives it to you for free (yes, I said "free") coupled with a sincere invitation to come back and do business with them again soon. One single act of compassion from a caring soul can do wonders to restore hope and optimism.
Now imagine what it can do for sickly and terminally ill children and their families? Michele Hall-Duncan and her band of twelve understand this quite well. They face that reality everyday through enCourage Kids Foundation, where real problems aren’t so easily solved and bare a great deal more significance. How they cope and comfort? Well, those answers are revealed in Michele Hall-Duncan’s interview below.
Share the mission statement of enCourage Kids Foundation.
We help sick kids lead their most awesome lives.
Share your position with EKF as well as the length of time you’ve been involved. What made you want to become involved?
I am enCourage Kids Foundation’s Executive Director. I’ve been with the organization for twenty-six years, beginning as a volunteer when my son was one year-old.
What percentage of last year’s raised funds comprised that operating expense?
82% of the money we raised this past year went to programming.
What locations do you serve?
We are a regional organization --specifically, the Tristate area. That said, we are beginning to expand nationally.
What makes this program different?
We follow the children throughout their medical journey. We don’t leave them once we’ve engaged them through one of our programs. For many families, we become the glue that helps to keep them together -- to give them hope and provide relief to allow families to bolster their resilience and fortitude.
Share the pie chart of care in relationship to funding.
Most of our work is done in the hospital less one program, the Escapes program. The program I love the most is the Pediatric Hospital Support program, where the hospital tells us what they need. We just passed the $15m mark to help fund this program.
How much has demand increased for you regarding the PHS Program over the last ten years?
Supporting key projects for the hospital has increased two-fold, forcing us to turn away approximately half of all requests.
What percentage of those children that you comfort are terminal?
That I don’t know. Many of them suffer from Cancer though. This reality compelled us to partner with Mount Sinai Hospital. There we help fund Kidzone TV, allowing terminally ill kids to engage and be entertained even though they can’t leave their rooms. We’ve contributed $810,000 in direct funding to Kidzone TV since 1996.
Share a story you could barely believe yourself. How did it turn out?
In the beginning of my career, when we were fulling wishes for kids, we had three kids die in a short period of time from brain tumors. I didn’t think I could continue. One mom told me her child wanted a swimming pool even though the child was going to die in a short period of time. We could not do that and the mom got angry. Her anger nearly sent me running away from the organization. My supervisor righted me. Twenty-years later, I was approached by another mother who lost their child at that same time. She did so to share her gratitude and appreciation for what we did for her, her child, and the rest of the family. The meaning of that exchange inspires me daily.
When all is said and done, how would you like enCourage Kids Foundation to be remembered?
I’d like us to be remembered as a transformative force that supports sick kids and their families in their journeys with illness.
Needless-to-say, the next time I encounter one of “those” days again, perspective will, undoubtedly, be much easier to maintain. The remarkable work enCourage Kids Foundation is doing coupled with the first-hand reminder of the healing powers of compassion, selflessness, and genuineness will see to that...I am certain. And if all else falls, there is always the hardware store for a bit of emotional re-tooling and sage-like wisdom. Who knew?
Many thanks to Michele Hall-Duncan and the O’HARA PROJECT for making this interview possible