"THE HEART OF THE MATTER"
a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)


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Week: 575.6

Guest: Mick Shannon, CEO, Children's Miracle Network

Topic: Raising money for children's hospitals

Host/ Producer: Steve Girard

NEMA: Do you know about the Children's Miracle Network? It's a year round effort to raise money for 165 children's hospitals around the country...which begins or ends each year with a 21 hour television program...on 200 TV stations...of wonderful stories of kids and families overcoming health adversity, sports figures, and uninterrupted mini-concerts from some great musicians. This year it's 9 p.m. Saturday, May 31st through 6 p.m. June 1st. We're happy to have the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Children's Miracle Network, Mick Shannon, with us today. Let's begin at the beginning...the genesis and history of the Children's Miracle Network....

SHANNON: Well, it was fun...my partner, and myself...Joe Lake....had worked for March of Dimes for a couple of years, and done some things with them - and had done a local telethon in the Utah area - and felt like we'd gotten good enough at it, that we ought to do it everywhere. (laughs) So, we pulled a bunch of our people together and asked them what they thought, and went around the country and asked a few people what they thought, and went down and met with the Osmonds, and they wanted to get involved, and then we met with John Schneider, and Merlin Olsen and Mary Hart and Marilyn McCoo and in 1983 they all thought that it was a good idea and a good thing to do. So we kind of put out team together and took off and started raising money for children's hospitals.

NEMA: And that same team is still there, 15 years later...and more than a billion dollars raised for those hospitals...

SHANNON: ...it's a little over that, yeah...for the ahh...I think we've done 13 or 14 shows now, and a little over a billion dollars. We're doing about 150 million a year for 165 children's hospitals. And the real advantage to what we do is that 100% of what is raised in every market stays in every market to benefit the kids who live there...kids down the street, kids in the neighborhood. All the money stays local to take care of local kids, and that's the real advantage, and a principle that we are absolutely committed to here at CMN.

NEMA: And that's something that most people don't know about the Children's Miracle Network...

SHANNON: It is...and it's an advantage because no one needs to question where or how the money is used - we don't see it here in Salt Lake City. We don't touch it. People write out their checks directly to the hospitals, send them directly to the hospitals, and all of our corporate friends that make contributions send their money directly to the hospitals. And then those hospitals and the boards of those hospitals determine how that money is used in every market - we're not that smart - and they know what their needs are, and what their kids' needs are, and the money is sent directly in to those hospitals.

NEMA: This seems to be a success story that continues to grow...while it seems other, similar efforts are falling back. Why do feel it's happening?

SHANNON: Oh, an awful lot of good people, first....we've been fortunate to have some very powerful, visionary type leadership on our board, that has demanded that we stay ahead of the game. That we change and improve who we are and what we do and how we go about our business. Not unlike your business...the broadcasting industry has undergone dramatic changes, and an evolution over the last few years. The non-profit sector has, as well. And certainly, we believe that telethons, and that image of telethons, as we have known them over the years, is a dinosaur...has little or no future - you don't see musical or variety programming on television anymore. And we haven't for years, so it didn't seem to make a whole lot of sense that we would try to continue to do that. So we have determined, with our celebrity leadership that we have, the board leadership that we have...our corporate friends, and these are some of the most ethical, most successful business people in the country who have taken us in the direction we're now going...which is to bring the entire sporting world together once a year to do this effort for kids. And put kids first. So we're building a team centered around sports and the sports theme and using sports figures as our spokespeople, to send a message that kids ought to come first and that these hospitals ought to be supported. It's been a lot of fun, and I think it has put us in a position to continue to grow and flourish and generate more money to take care of more kids.

NEMA: I know....the sports theme is a natural and productive one...my son, seeing the list of sports celebrities said, are you gonna talk to Brett Favre? I said maybe next year.... But it's a long way from a small studio in Salt Lake City and 30 stations to 200 stations and doing the show from Walt Disney World.....

SHANNON: (laughs....) I'm sorry, I have to chuckle when I think of the history of that. We actually wrote a letter to some folks at Disney in May of 1983, before we even did the first show. Before the first one ever got off the ground, and kind of suggested to them what we had in mind, and what we were trying to do was so terribly consistent with their corporate image and their corporate culture, and what they do for kids that we really ought to get together. And it took 4 or 5 years of letters and telephone calls and meetings before we finally got it done, but it's been a marriage made in heaven, obviously, they're so incredibly generous. And again, they have served, had representatives serve on our board, and provided leadership, and vision, and direction for us that has been very valuable. It really doesn't get much better than having the Disney organization behind you, and willing to join us in putting kids first.

NEMA: You mentioned the 'dinosaur' of the old song and dance kind of telethons, and I noticed that your effort has a strong structure to it...every top of the hour there's a real strong programming piece. And the corporate involvement, having their own time to put together a piece showing their perspective in helping raise money for the children's hospitals...

SHANNON: What we've done is develop a format that allows us to create and produce programming that is consistent with a sponsor's target demographic audience. Mattel is involved, Nissan is involved...Marriott, Wal-Mart....I could go on and on and on. But many of these companies have a corporate culture and business and marketing objectives that we can help meet through very specific programming that is good for kids. And again, it has enabled us, because of this flexibility and this direction, to generate a lot more money for kids.

NEMA: I'm getting some videotapes ready, because some really good performers are going to be on the show....Kenny Loggins is one of my favorites, a new jazz musician I've heard a lot about, Kurt Bestor...they'll be giving at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted performance...a John Tesh mini-concert, too...and of course, Marie Osmond and John Schneider perform. But there are also some different types of features, like Stephen Covey, who will have a couple of hours to cover his new effort, and what it brings to families...how did that come together?

SHANNON: Stephen's been a friend of ours for years, and he is taking a whole new direction with his Seven Habits for Highly Successful Families , and our hospitals have clearly sent the message that they want to be perceived in their communities as more than just the place that provides acute care. They've have the image and the reputation over the years that if you have a really, really sick kid, this is where you ought to be. But they really want to spend money, energy and effort improving the lives of kids through education and through preventative measures...through caring for the whole child and the whole family. So, bringing Stephen Covey on with his Seven Habits for Highly Successful Families , and having our hospitals support this message, has broadened the base, and again, been appealing to a couple of corporations who want to be seen sending that message and caring about communities, families and kids. So it's again kind of a natural evolution from where we've been to where we are to where we're going, that we would stop and spend a couple of hours providing real, substantive materials and resources and education for parents...to teach them how to talk to their kids, how to build self esteem in their kids, how to get close to their kids, how to take more time with their kids. And that's totally consistent with our hospitals' philosophy of caring for the whole child and the whole family and preventing disease and keeping kids our of their hospital.

NEMA: With the term "Champions" now attached to the name of Children's Miracle Network, and the affiliation with the sports world, you'd think it was because of all the sports celebrities that are working with you....but it has a broader meaning...

SHANNON: Well, it does give us a sports feel and a sports identity, but as we met with these high profile athletes and coaches, and broadcasters...and started looking at what direction we wanted to go, they said, "you know what...? The real champions are the kids who overcome these diseases...their parents, their families...who go through tremendous distress when their children are afflicted with something or are injured somehow, and wind up in one of our hospitals....those are the real 'Champions', and we, as sports figures, want to send a message that these people have overcome some real odds and have achieved some real accomplishments, and that we ought to look up to them". And then they also suggested that we would feature people in communities who have made sometimes life-long commitments to kids. Volunteers who have gotten involved in the lives of kids, and set them up as the real heroes, the real 'Champions'. So, the 'Champions' theme would really refer to anybody who gets involved, anybody who contributes, and anybody who makes a difference in the lives of these kids. And the kids themselves, in terms of their efforts to overcome whatever affliction they may have had to put them in one of our hospitals.

NEMA: May 31st, June 1st....beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday, and running through 6 p.m. Sunday evening. I plan to be with you....

SHANNON: We'll be there this Saturday and Sunday...look for us. You won't be disappointed. Great programming, great information, some real compelling, powerful, compassionate material that we'll have...and anybody that tunes in will be glad that they did. And Steve, we appreciate the opportunity to talk to you for a few minutes.

SPOT: Small pages....big advice on parenting...from infants to teens. What to expect, emotionally and physically, as your child grows. How to develop positive discipline,how to deal with kids and TV, adolescent issues, drug education, fighting, single and step parenting...it's all in the 'Little Book of Parenting, available through the National Emergency Medicine Association. Call 1-800-332-6362 for more information.

NEMA: Thanks for joining us for today's program. If you have any comments or suggestions, contact this station. Or visit our home page at: www.nemahealth.com/ ...for a look at transcripts of this or past programs, or to find out more about the National Emergency Medicine Association. I'm Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.

 

 

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