Pennsylvania District Kiwanis International &
Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger
Challenges come in all types. Sometimes they are extremely delicate in nature. Take the one that Geisinger Medical Center faced. Pennsylvania Kiwanis had a long-standing relationship with the hospital specifically in the area of supporting pediatric cardiac care. Geisinger provided medical services to children afflicted with cardiac problems that Pennsylvania Kiwanis brought to them. Many of the children were brought to Geisinger from Jamaica where there was a jointly sponsored pediatric cardiac outreach program. Most of these children would have ultimately died without the benevolent intervention of the two organizations.
The Pennsylvania Kiwanis clubs had pledged, in addition to their generous ongoing support, to give the soon-to-open Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger an additional two million dollars for a Kiwanis Children’s Heart Center. But the delivery of actual funds compared to the pledges was lagging behind schedule. Everyday demands of a volunteer organization and other parallel commitments within the Kiwanis list of priorities were taking away from a most well-intentioned goal.
Nothing short of a win-win solution would be acceptable. Murphy/Carpenter took up the challenge of keeping a vital long-term relationship intact while catalyzing a volunteer force to unify their efforts in a concentrated period of time to achieve their pledge. A multi-faceted plan was proposed around a public relations program featuring a statewide walk bringing large puzzle pieces together from the five corners of Pennsylvania to heart of the state in Danville. Along the way, the walkers would pick up checks from the local Kiwanis Clubs and garner highly desired media attention for both the Kiwanis Children’s Heart Program and the first new children’s hospital in Pennsylvania in over a century.
The plan involved thousands of elements: hundreds of walkers traversed thousands of miles across the commonwealth, safety escorts and support personnel were activated, hundreds of media events organized and managed, tally boards and recognition letters were sent, photographs and video were supplied to the media in synch with the progress made each day. Miles ticked off at an amazing pace, both organizations renewed their commitments and recharged their enthusiasm for the project. As the walkers closed in with their huge puzzle pieces, an additional plan was executed that included a reception and a presentation program of national notables, Pittsburgh Steelers, Geisinger doctors, public television personalities, and the stars of the efforts—the children and their families whose lives were changed forever. The media was assembled, satellite feeds and uplinks were aligned—the event was covered by every radio and television network across the state and several from neighboring states. Private planes carrying the guest speakers took off from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and Erie. Everything had gone along according to plan. It was to have been the perfect orchestrated event. It was, until lines of thunderstorms marched across the Central Pennsylvania Mountains turning back the planes and their VIP passengers. There are times where fate intervenes in a most miraculous manner. The “outside guests”—as important and generous as they would have been—were not really the story. It was, after all, a celebration of “insiders.” Instead of dignitaries, the microphone was manned first by the Kiwanians who helped the doctors. The doctors, in turn, spoke of the medical miracles performed. Then the mic was taken over by the families of the children who wiped away tears between their multi-colored and accented expressions of profound gratitude. Ultimately, after a joyous parade of thanks from the children whose lives were saved, one very small voice from a just recovering cardiac patient in his mother’s arms leaned forward and said “I love you, everybody!” turning to his mom he said “I want to go home now.” Thanks to an incredibly generous partnership, he did. Some projects do work out perfectly.
To anyone reading this who was involved in that project, we are forever grateful for having the privilege of working with you. To the dedicated Geisinger doctors and the Kiwanians who made the miracles happen, make no mistake, the lives you saved and changed numbered far greater than those of the surgical patients.
A multi-faceted plan was proposed around a public relations program featuring a statewide walk bringing large puzzle pieces together from the five corners of Pennsylvania to heart of the state in Danville.