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Mar 29, 2013

A Touching Torch Relay

This is part of a monthly series of "Miracle Memories", personal experiences shared by the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals staff. Sara Van Winkle, South Region Director, shares her experience attending Torch Relay, a multi-day event that traverses the country each fall via participants walking, running and cycling to raise funds for their children’s hospitals.

One of my most favorite Miracle Memories from 2012 is attending the Torch Relay event when it made a stop in Atlanta. Numerous volunteers worked hours and hours to get the event ready and then, once it was over that afternoon, they began tearing everything down to travel to their next destination and do it all again. I had heard a lot of great things about the event and was thrilled to attend and finally experience the relay first-hand.

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As a regional director for CMN Hospitals, I get to work closely with all of the Program Directors in the 21 markets in the South Region. But not often enough do I get to work as close with the families as I’d like. This event provided me with a great opportunity to spend time with one of the Miracle families from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA).

Just before the relay started, Sharon Robinson, Manager, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals for CHOA, was introduced to explain how the funds raised during the relay benefit their patients and also to thank everyone for participating and supporting the event locally.

Parker Grelecki, a former patient and Miracle Child from CHOA, along with his parents, cut the ceremonial ribbon after sharing their miracle story, officially starting the relay. Parker was super excited and performed his duties very well.

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The donations collected from the 2012 Torch Relay in Atlanta helped fund the Rehabilitation Services department at CHOA. Specifically, the funds raised help further work in the Prosthetic Fabrication Lab and the Robotics Center at CHOA.

In the Children’s Prosthetics Laboratory, experts custom make artificial limbs to restore a child’s function and appearance. Each prosthesis is designed according to the parents’ and child’s preferences – whether that means natural-looking hands with nails that can be polished or legs decorated with Tinker Bell or Nemo.

The Robotic Center at CHOA provides therapy that helps children with brain and spinal cord injuries, stroke or neurological or orthopedic conditions. By participating in robotic therapy, kids will improve their ability to walk. And the kiddos love the robot, of course!

These are just two departments in one hospital that dollars raised by the Torch Relay have helped fund over the years. It was very touching to witness first-hand how a community could come together for the greater good of its children. The experience left me inspired and I look forward to attending Torch Relay next year. To learn more about the Torch Relay or to register for the next event, visit


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Raising funds for artificial limbs for kids - as sad as the thought is that such are needed, what a worthy cause.

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