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Aug 05, 2015

From the Mouth of a Miracle Mom

Jessica, mother of 2015 Pa. Champion Caden, shares her family experience during the 2015 Champion Ambassador Tour. Every year, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals identifies a child with a remarkable medical story from each state. These “Champions” serve as the face for the millions of children treated at Network hospitals every year. Champions and their families travel to Washington, DC, and Orlando, Fla. on an official Ambassador Tour to highlight the vital work of children’s hospitals.


In early June of this year, my husband Frank and I escorted our son Caden on the first of two trips for the 2015-2016 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion Ambassador Tour. 53 children representing each state plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia traveled together to Atlanta and Washington, DC to raise awareness of the charitable need of children’s hospitals.


Caden was nominated by our beloved Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital to represent all the pediatric patients of Pennsylvania. We were deeply humbled by the honor and excited to participate in this extraordinary opportunity to help CMN Hospitals make more miracles happen.

We had our first opportunity to meet the other Champions and their families in Atlanta. Though each medical journey differed, the undeniable similarities of spending any part of a childhood in a hospital immediately bonded us. Whether our child was treated for a sudden illness or a lifelong condition, we all experienced that initial soul-shattering moment of diagnosis. We had shared the helplessness of placing the care of your child into the hands of others. We had fought unthinkable challenges and were ready to take a celebratory breath together.  

Each event during the trip was planned to make the Champions feel special and I was often moved to tears. I was not prepared for the thoughtfulness and appreciation woven into the tour by the incomparable CMN Hospitals staff and the generous sponsors of the Champions program: Delta Air Lines, Marriott International, and Chico’s FAS, Inc.


In Atlanta we received a royal welcome at the Delta Flight Museum followed by a memorable luncheon under a jet.  We took an unforgettable charter flight to Washington, D.C. where we visited Capitol Hill and dined in the Hart Senate Office Building. One group of Champions had the opportunity to meet with the Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell and others had meetings with their Senators.  One evening, there was a private viewing of Rio 2 complete with concessions and a red carpet arrival area and on another day we returned to our hotel rooms to find a lovely gift collection waiting for the mothers. Much to Caden’s delight, we were joined in both cities by Disney star Zendaya and Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev. If there weren’t photos to prove it, I would hardly believe this trip really happened.




Some Champions, including Caden, also participated in TV and radio interviews at the National Press Club with Miss America. Since donations made to CMN Hospitals stay local, it was simply amazing to hear other Champion stories and how funds made an impact on them. From life-saving equipment to life-supporting programs, these vital services and in turn our Champion’s stories would not have been possible without the support donations given locally to CMN Hospitals. I was in awe watching everyone share this powerful message. What a moving way to end our time together!


Back at home, I miss the Champions and their families and am forever changed by having been in their company. I feel blessed to have this unique network reaching every part of our country and cannot wait for our reunion in Florida for the second leg of our Ambassador Tour. For the health of all the children our Champion represents, we cannot wait to continue highlighting the invaluable work of CMN Hospitals.

The 2015 Champions program is presented by Delta Air Lines, Marriott International and Chico's FAS, Inc.

Images provided by Jessica Capitani and Kirstin Roper Photography

Jul 29, 2015

CMN Hospitals Champion Takes the Pixels Movie Red Carpet

On July 18, celebrities took to the red carpet to celebrate the premiere of Sony Pictures’  movie, Pixels, about gamers saving the world from aliens attacking Earth through classic arcade games. Extra Life, a fundraising program within the gaming community that has raised more than $14 million for CMN Hospitals, teamed up with Sony Pictures for the release to raise awareness for the 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals throughout North America. The organization added their own star to the red carpet — 2015 Tennessee Champion Jessica Meyer. Jessica stole the spotlight with her quick wit and charming personality as she interviewed celebrities during the event.

Jessica spent months being treated at her member CMN Hospital, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, after an inoperable tumor was discovered behind her eye following a visit to a health screening kiosk at a local Walmart. During the next few months, despite Jessica enduring chemotherapy, weekly blood transfusions, 24 rounds of radiation, and other painful procedures, she never once lost her smile, telling those around her, “I choose to stay positive. I choose to fight.”

Jessica rocked the red carpet with that same dazzling smile, making friends and melting hearts during her time in the Big Apple. This is her account of the experience she had on the red carpet.

I can’t believe I was in New York! This past weekend I was a reporter on the red carpet representing Extra Life, a fundraising program for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Yes, a 12-year-old girl from Nashville, Tennessee, visiting the Big Apple.

Let me start by saying this was my first time in New York City. Yep, first time ever! Wow, there really is a lot of people and very tall buildings. I made the most of my NYC experience by riding a taxi cab and taking the subway. I had the best pizza and ate late night take out Chinese food. I saw many landmarks and took a stroll in Central Park. And I picked up a Hard Rock T-shirt to add to my growing collection. Did I mention I had the best pizza?

Here are some of my experiences that I had while representing Extra Life at the Pixels movie premiere:

Adam S

Adam Sandler was so cool and happy to wear the Miracle Band. It was very exciting to meet him.

Kevin J

Kevin James was so much fun to talk to. He made me laugh during the interview.

Michelle M

Michelle Monaghan was so friendly and very pretty too. She even held the microphone while I put on her Miracle Band.

Josh G


Josh Gad is hilarious. I said, “Hi, I am Jessica Meyer from Extra Life.” Josh Gad then responded, “Hi, I am Josh Gad from life.” Too funny.

Peter D


Peter Dinklage was great to talk to. He told me that he would love to challenge and beat President Obama in Centipede for a 24-hour gaming marathon.


Check this out, Waka Flocka wore a Miracle Band too.

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Me, the microphone, the red carpet, and the best crew ever (Ed Nescot and Sally Gilotti!)

Jessica 3

I am 4’5”, so I had to stand on an equipment box to interview all the celebrities that I look up to (wink, wink – no pun intended).

Jessica 4

Even though I had to add a few extra inches, I enjoyed talking with professional reporters that were next to me on the red carpet.

It was totally awesome talking to Adam and other celebrities whom I had only seen in the movies and on TV, and I was so happy to be representing an organization that has helped me beat brain cancer. Just remember to put your money where the miracles are and to always play games to heal kids. Join me (player name Jessica Meyer) and fellow gamers at for the 24-hour gaming marathon on November 7, 2015.

Jessica Meyer

If you would like to donate to Jessica’s Extra Life fundraising page, visit:

Jul 22, 2015

First Tech Federal Credit Union Helps Raise $930,000 for CMN Hospitals

Guest Author: Meggan Low

Earlier this month, Northwest credit unions, business partners, sport celebrities and others came together for one of the largest credit union-sponsored charity golf tournaments in the nation. Held at Portland, Oregon’s premier golf course, Pumpkin Ridge, this Credit Unions for Kids event marked end of First Tech Federal Credit Union’s three-month fundraising campaign that also included employee and credit union member donations. Altogether, they were able to raise more than $930,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Left to right: Dennis Schrag/Children’s Hospital Oakland, Greg Hill/Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Elijah Diggins/former Doernbecher Children’s Hospital patient, Jim Ervin/Doernbecher Foundation

Funds raised help kids like sports fanatic and former Doernbecher Children’s Hospital patient, Elijah Diggins. In 2012, Diggins was diagnosed with Burkitt's leukemia and endured 54 bags of chemotherapy. While he was scared and unsure what would happen, his strong network of family and friends helped keep Elijah happy and relaxed. Doernbecher staff extended their consideration and kindness to his visitors. “I don’t know what I would have done without the doctors, nurses and other staff. They cared about the little things.” He added, “Doernbecher put me back on my feet as quickly as possible.” During the event, Elijah shared his treatment story and left the audience inspired by his courage, perseverance and positivity.


Impressed by Elijah’s integrity, bravery and class, he was selected as a 2013 Doernbecher Freestyle designer. Following his treatment, Elijah returned to playing soccer and baseball and plans to be a scientist someday.


“First Tech and the entire Oregon and SW Washington credit union community, really outdid themselves at this year’s Dave & Dan Classic. The event is unprecedented among CU4Kids golf tournaments and is one of the top single-day fundraising events among all our corporate partners,” remarked Joe Dearborn, Senior Director, CMN Hospitals. “More importantly, these funds are critical to providing the best care possible for sick and injured kids. We are truly fortunate to have such wonderful partners like First Tech and the entire credit union community to help insure every child has an opportunity for a healthy and happy life.” Named after Hall of Fame greats Dave Wilcox and Dan Fouts, the tournament has raised more than $4.4 million over the last 15 years. This year’s tournament proceeds will benefit the following CMN Hospitals: Doernbecher Children's Hospital (Portland, Ore.), Sacred Heart Medical Center (Eugene, Ore.), Seattle Children's Hospital (Seattle, Wash.), Children's Hospital Oakland (Oakland, Calif.), UC Davis Children's Hospital (Sacramento, Calif.), and Children’s Hospital Colorado (Aurora, Colo.)

2015 Dave & Dan Classic celebrities


Meggan Low is a Marketing Manager at First Tech Federal Credit Union. First Tech supports Credit Unions For Kids, which benefits Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Photos courtesy of Molly Lehrsch and Russ Johnson.

Jul 09, 2015

Carrie Swidecki Set to Dance 140 Hours for 170 Hospitals

Carrie Swidecki has set numerous marathon world records, and she’s gearing up to dance her way to the top once again. She’ll be dancing starting Saturday, July 11, as she attempts to play Just Dance 2015 for 140 hours to benefit 170 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, setting a new world record and continuing her fight against childhood obesity in the process.

Carrie will be partnering with Extra Life, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals fundraising program, to raise money for children’s hospitals across North America. Extra Life is a fundraising program within the gaming community that has raised over $14 million for CMN Hospitals through participants’ year-round fundraising and a 24-hour gaming marathon each fall. 

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Carrie is proud to be partnering with CMN Hospitals for this event, as it is her goal to help ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. Ever since losing 75 pounds and 10 dress sizes while chasing her dream of competing in a local Dance Dance Revolution tournament, Carrie has been an avid advocate in the fight against childhood obesity, running three Just Dance programs at the school where she teaches second grade.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 15 years of exergaming, chasing a dream that changed my life, and my 39th birthday than setting a 140 hour world record that impacts children’s lives in ways that I never imagined dance video games could,” says Carrie.

Supporters can donate through Carrie’s Extra Life fundraising page to a children’s hospital of their choice, keeping donations within their local communities: They can also witness history in the making by catching every moment of Carrie’s record attempt on CMN Hospital’s Twitch channel.

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We want to thank Carrie for her support helping make miracles happen for children across North America, and we wish her luck this weekend as she takes to the dance floor! 


** UPDATE: (July 23, 2015) Carrie Swidecki danced to Just Dance 4 at Otto’s Video Games for 138 straight hours, raising more than $7,305 for CMN Hospitals, and broke three Guinness World Records while also setting a record for the longest marathon on a dance or rhythm game. Carrie personally knows the power that video games have after she survived obesity from chasing a dream of 3rd place in a local Dance Dance Revolution tournament where she not only lost 75 pounds, but became an advocate to fight childhood obesity, and a multi world record holder. Thanks to Carrie, with every hour that she danced, 67,500 kids were treated and saved in a children’s hospital.***


Jul 07, 2015

Teaching Kids to Be Active and Give Back with Miracle Challenge

Miracle Challenge is a 27-day wellness challenge that helps individuals and families achieve fitness goals while raising funds for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Participants choose one of five fitness tracks (running, walking, cycling/spinning, boot camp or studio classes) and, over the course of 27 days, accomplish 27 different mini-challenges related to the selected fitness track or fundraising. Tailored messages from fitness experts, celebrities and Miracle Kids make Miracle Challenge a meaningful and motivational experience.

Lori-Ann Marchese, fitness coach for the Miracle Challenge boot camp track, owner and fitness instructor at Body Construct LLC and Bravo TV cast member on ‘Game of Crowns’, offers a few tips to help your kids get involved: 

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As a fitness trainer, I love to see my clients bring their children along with them to my gym. Children learn their eating and fitness habits from their parents, so it’s a great idea to start encouraging them to enjoy fresh air, healthy food and being active outside with their friends while they’re young. Here’s how you can use Miracle Challenge to get your kids up and moving with you:

1.     If your Miracle Challenge includes running, jogging or walking, try bringing your small child in a stroller while you complete these challenges. You’ll get more of a workout by pushing your child, and you’ll get them out of the house and into the fresh air.

2.     If you’re participating in cycling/spinning, invite your young children to join you for a bike ride. If you have teenage kids, bring them along to a spinning studio and spend some quality time together while getting fit.

3.     If you select the studio track for your 27-day challenge, you’ll be able to complete studio-style challenges either at local studios or at home. Classes like yoga and Pilates are a great way for you and your teenage children to relieve stress while being active at the same time. 

4.     If you choose boot camp exercises like weight training and cardio, try having your kids count each rep of pushups, sit-ups or jumping jacks. They’ll have fun getting involved and will push you even further. If they participate in your workouts, make sure they are not using any sort of weights during these exercises. 

5.     If you’ve completed your fitness tasks for the day and are sitting around watching television with your kids, try turning each commercial into a fitness break. Come up with silly names for pushups and jumping jacks while pretending you’re their coach. Joke with them and challenge them to get moving and/or competing against one another.

It can be so simple to get your kids involved with your exercise program. Not only will it get them out of the house and participating in fun challenges, it will also help shape them into healthier and fit adults. After all, this 27 day Miracle Challenge is all about the children! 

Marchese first became familiar with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals when her sister was diagnosed with celiac disease at the local CMN Hospital, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, at a very young age. Her sister is now grown and healthy, and Marchese has been inspired to give back to other kids in need, setting a Miracle Challenge personal fundraising goal of $2,500 and a team goal of $5,000.

For more information about Miracle Challenge or to register to participate, visit Follow the #MiracleChallenge hashtag on social media to get involved with the community.


Jul 02, 2015

Alli Simpson Announced as Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Teen Ambassador

On June 26, Children’s Hospital Orange County was the first to get in on a little secret—Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals announced Alli Simpson as their new teen ambassador. Co-founder of CMN Hospitals Marie Osmond joined Alli in visiting the hospital for Alli’s first official appearance as ambassador. A visit to Seacrest Studios by the dynamic duo allowed all CHOC patients to hear the big announcement from their rooms via podcast.


As the grand unveiling continued, it was easy to see just how perfectly suited Alli is for this role, as she and Marie delighted patients with personal visits to hospital rooms and handed out special photos autographed by Alli. The new teen ambassador lists making others smile as one of her hobbies—the more than a few ear-to-ear smiles at CHOC on Friday proves she has quite a knack for doing so.

CHOC patient Charlotte was beaming a smile of her own as she, Alli, and Marie showed off their Miracle Bands together. At age 3, CHOC specialists diagnosed Charlotte with glycogen storage disease 1A, a rare metabolic disease preventing her liver from producing glucose properly. Charlotte’s condition requires constant maintenance, as left untreated it can lead to life-threatening complications.


 “It’s the beautiful souls like Charlotte who inspire me to give back,” Alli described in a Facebook post about the event. “I am happy to announce that I am the teen ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I am honored to be a part of this with Marie Osmond. I loved visiting the Children’s Hospital of Orange County today, many more to come. Let’s all get amongst it, help these children and make them smile.”


Alli will be serving as teen ambassador for the one in 10 children across North America treated by 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals each year, and she will be raising awareness for hospitals like Children’s Hospital Orange County. We are particularly excited to have Alli feature a miracle child on her Radio Disney show “The Alli Simpson Show” each week, and we look forward to her joining us at future CMN Hospitals fundraising events, including Miracle Treat Day and the Champions Ambassador Tour. 

We are so excited to welcome Alli as the newest member of the CMN Hospitals team and are grateful for her commitment to helping make miracles for children across North America!

Jun 30, 2015

President and CEO John Lauck Receives the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals President and CEO John Lauck recently was named the Ernst & Young 2015 EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Utah Region (in the social category).

The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. They are stand-out innovators, job creators and risk takers, and they inspire us all to want to build a better future. All of these leading entrepreneurs, including John, were selected by an independent judging panel made up of previous award winners, leading CEOs, private capital investors and other regional business leaders.


John accepted the award during a ceremony held at The Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. John immediately thanked all Children Miracle Network Hospitals employees from across North America for their commitment to innovation and the 10 million kids treated at its 170 hospitals each year. “This recognition is directly tied to all their hard work and dedication towards Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals,” John said. “This award shows that we are not only making a difference in those children’s lives, but also in their communities.” 

As a regional award winner, John and CMN Hospitals are eligible for consideration for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year National Program. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the EY Entrepreneur of the Year National Overall Award winner, will be announced at the annual awards gala in Palm Springs, Calif., on Nov, 14, 2015. The awards are the culminating event of the EY Strategic Growth Forum, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.

“This award is just the beginning for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals,” John said. “We will keep innovating new ideas to reach our goal of raising a billion dollars annually by 2022 so children’s hospitals can keep their doors open.”

Congratulations, John and to all CMN Hospitals employees!


Jun 23, 2015

Chris Pratt Teaches Children's Hospital Patients How to Train Velociraptor

On June 20, 2015 actor Chris Pratt, best known for his role in Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy, took time out from filming his new movie The Magnificent Seven and paid a visit to Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, La.

The children were all smiles as Pratt signed autographs for the patients, had fun conversations with them by their bedsides, and posed for pictures. The hospital offered thanks to Pratt for lifting the children’s spirits by visiting and handing out Jurassic World goodies. He even reenacted his now-famous raptor-training scene from the movie for the kids and taught them how to train a velociraptor.

This is not the first time Pratt has visited a children’s hospital. Last year he surprised kids at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles by showing up dressed as a character from another role. He also participated in a Super Bowl bet with fellow Marvel star Chris Evans, which resulted in visits to children’s hospitals in both Seattle and Boston, earlier this year.





Jun 18, 2015

Extra Life program hits Los Angeles, Calif. for E3 2015

Every June, game developers from around the world descend in Los Angeles, Calif. for three days of industry conferences, demonstrations and networking. For the last five years, CMN Hospitals fundraising program Extra Life has been on the front lines, spreading awareness for the charity and the community of gamers that play for children's hospitals.

Nestled in the West lobby, where tens of thousands pass by as they enter one of two show floors, the Extra Life booth was staffed with participants from local area "guilds" who helped recruit registrants while informing visitors of the program's mission. A custom flip book station, graffiti wall and photo booth completed the Extra Life Experience for guests dropping by.



Managing Director and Extra Life founder Jeromy "Doc" Adams also met with several international media outlets - including Forbes, Fast Company and Yahoo! Tech - to explain the grassroots program that has raised more than $14 million for children's hospitals to date.

As the show wore on, gamers' interest in giving back became increasingly prevalent. By the time the doors closed on Thursday afternoon, Extra Life had become a hot topic amongst industry leaders on the expo floor and more than 1,000 attendees had registered.

Special thanks are due to: the ESA Foundation and IDG World Expo for their generous support of Extra Life and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Los Angeles and Orange County Extra Life Guilds and sponsoring partners Twitch and Sony Pictures.





Jun 13, 2015

Maaco and Meineke Launch “Fathers Going Further”


We'd like to congratulate Miracle Dad James for being selected as the Father Going Further.

Driven Brands is honoring three Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals' Miracle Dads for Father’s Day this year. Now through June 21, Maaco and Meineke are asking the public to vote for one deserving dad to win an overall paint job from Maaco and a year’s worth of car care and maintenance from Meineke. Visit and to learn more.

Let's take a look at these three Miracle Dads:

Miracle Dad Michael

As a dad, Michael always puts his family first. He has an immense amount of strength and courage that his wife and son depend on every day. He has supported his son through more than 20 surgeries and procedures, driving three hours at a time to get him safely to Riley Children’s Hospital, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, and back. Michael is by his family’s side as much as possible, but works hard in his profession to ensure they have everything they need.


Though it breaks his heart, Michael continues working during the week and visits his son while he is in the hospital on the weekends. While his son’s sickness has been a tough and terrifying experience, Michael has never given up hope. Even when he’s three hours away, even when he’s wanted nothing more than to be with them, he works hard so that he can provide the best life for his family.

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Michael is a Father Going Further for his dedication to his son, his wife, and always going the extra mile – even when it’s the hardest mile he’s ever known. 


Miracle Dad Chuck

When Chuck’s first-born daughter was transported to Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, for treatment, he had absolute faith that she would be in the hands of doctors and staff who truly care. Chuck has known Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals since college, when he raised funds for the organization during a charity golf tournament.


Chuck rarely left his daughters side throughout her treatments and procedures, even when it meant spending extended time away from the rest of their family. He was there for her during four open-heart surgeries, and is described as the family rock, as his constant love and support got their family through tough times. 


Fortunately for Chuck and his family, his daughter is alive and healthy. She is a dedicated older sister who loves gymnastics. Chuck is a Father Going Further who held his family together as they faced unimaginable challenges, and continues to do so today.

RJJ LR BW-3680-2 

Miracle Dad James

James is a 20-year Army veteran who started a family with the love of his life. They had two children, a son and a daughter. Just two weeks after their little girl was born, James’ wife was diagnosed with stage four skin cancer. She died a year later. 

James and Addison 2

Before James’ wife passed away, the family learned that her cancer had been transferred to their baby girl, Addison. Faced with the hardest situation of his life, James didn’t give up, and dedicated his life to his daughter’s care. 

Addison lost her hard-fought battle when she was two-years-old. Today, James continues her legacy by fundraising and volunteering for Phoenix Children’s Hospital, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. He also is going to school to become a social worker to help other families.

James and Addison

James is a Father Going Further who overcame heartbreak and tragedy and continues to inspire other children and their families who are going through similar journeys.  

James Cox

You can vote once per day, per page, now through June 21. Visit and to learn more.

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