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Golf tourney raises over $100K for UVa Children’s

It’s not rare to see dozens of golfers out on the Boar’s Head Birdwood Golf Course on a sunny weekday morning. But this past Monday, golfers had another goal besides a par: $100,000 in donations for the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital.

The annual fundraiser, called Fore the Kids, aims to raise money for family support services and expenses not covered by insurance. That includes housing support, vouchers for food, transportation costs and training for families on how to care for children at home, said Richard Long, director of development UVa Children’s.

“Child Life specialists work with families and help train them on how to be with the children when they go back home, and deal with the aftereffects of the treatment themselves,” Long told The Daily Progress.

The economic impact on families, as well as the personal strain, is “extraordinary,” said Paul Sartori, UVa Children’s advisory board member and chair of the Fore the Kids committee. “That’s what these funds are all about. There’s no other way to get those covered.”

Ashley Michaels received that training for her son Luke, who nearly drowned 6 1/2 years ago. After spending a month in the hospital, she and her husband brought their son home with a neck brace, feeding tube and medications. They learned how to use the feeding tube, how to wean him slowly off his medications and how he could sit in his carseat.

“I thought about when we first had him and they teach you how to put the baby carrier in the car and what that’s supposed to look like,” Ashley Michaels said. “We never felt ill-prepared.”

Now, her husband cares for their son full-time, something Ashley Michaels attributes to the training they both received from UVa Children’s Hospital.

The Child Life Program is fully funded by philanthropy, Long said. “The need for that is essential, that’s why this event is so important for us.”

More than 90 golfers kicked off the tournament at 10 a.m. Monday, and by the end of the day, the $100,000 goal had been surpassed. Donations accumulated from entry into the tournament, a raffle and multiple corporate sponsorships helped boost those numbers, Sartori said.

Donors tend to be those with a family member or friend being treated at the hospital, or those who are passionate about treatments for children and understand the difficulty families go through, Sartori said. “If we don’t experience the need for treatment ourselves, we sometimes don’t think about it. It’s easy to think about cancer treatment if you’re at my age, because we all know it comes with age.”

In addition to supporting the Child Life Program, UVa Children’s is hoping to expand the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Currently, the hospital has to turn away between 12 to 14 patients a month for capacity reasons, redirecting them to other hospitals, Long said.

“We want to be able to accommodate that need,” Long said. UVa Children’s was recently named the No. 1 hospital in Virginia by U.S. News and World Report for the third year in a row.

Now, UVa Children’s is hoping to expand its brand.

“People need to know that we’re not just a regional hospital, we’re a statewide hospital that also facilitates care to people outside the region,” Long said. “And we want to continue to enhance that to bring the best faculty and the best care to our patients.”

Ashley Michaels recalled her son’s initial hospital stay at UVa, when he was being trialed to be extubated. She and her husband went downstairs at the hospital, where they were having a radiothon to raise money for a baby doll with a feeding tube. The baby doll would be used to train parents on how to feed their child with a feeding tube, including Michaels and her husband.

“We knew he wasn’t gonna be cured. But [UVa Children’s] gave us a landing strip, or a takeoff,” Ashley Michaels said. “We got the opportunity to actually be able to do things for him to support him. And now he’s trying to walk, and he crawls and he laughs, and he’s in school and he’s happy, and that would not have happened without UVa.”


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