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2019 Resolution #3: Empowering Me Fine Ambassadors

Ahead of an impending wintry mix, our staff wants to share our third resolution for the year ahead. If you have missed our first two, you can find them here and here. This third commitment is all about creating more opportunities for you.

The Me Fine Foundation can’t fulfill its mission without the involvement of community members. Whether as donors, volunteers, promoters, or partners, each of you play a role in helping to shine a bigger spotlight on the plight of families struck by pediatric illness.

In 2018, we stepped up our commitment to bringing greater attention to the gaps in financial assistance and emotional support resources through our friendraisers and reviving our blog. Yet, we’ve only scratched the surface of how this work and the stories of children and families get reverberated across our state and beyond.

This year, we commit to creating more ways for you to provide feedback and serve as a Me Fine ambassador. We will do this by better leveraging digital tools to give you insights into the organization; adding more informal in-person gatherings for connection and problem-solving; and establishing more formal ways for you to raise the necessary resources to meet our ongoing referrals for assistance.

Communication.

Connection.

Funding.

These three pillars require a rock-solid foundation for any nonprofit organization to be successful. That foundation is made up of people like you: people who care; people who have taken their own personal journey through critical care or know someone who has.

Thank you for being a part of our Foundation. Hold us accountable for giving you ways to amplify how everyone can be a part of an extended Me Fine family!

Recap: Takeaways for Me Fine’s work from 2018 Institute for Healthcare Improvement conference

Written by Joey Powell, executive director of the Me Fine Foundation

I really enjoy being around sharp people (read: “People smarter than me”), especially people who are at the forefront of their fields. There’s something really invigorating when over 5,000 humans’ worth of brainpower is in the same place. Thus, you can imagine the rush that carried me when I had the privilege to attend the 2018 Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) National Forum last December.

Because of my involvement with the UNC School of Medicine’s IHQI Department and the UNC Children’s Hospital Patient and Family Advisory Board, I was afforded the opportunity to join some of the UNC team members t for the conference. The vast array of breakout sessions allowed me to create my own learning track for the week. I opted to map my track around the core concepts of Diversity/Equity and Leadership Through Change. (Both of these tenets have been really prevalent themes through Me Fine’s work as well, so two birds…one stone, and whatnot.)

Three adults standing in front of a banner reading Institute for Healthcare Improvement
Joey Powell (center), with Patience Leino (left) and Susan Marks (right)

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the conference was the power of the Plenary/Keynote sessions. I realize that most of these events try to set the Keynotes as their pinnacle, but IHI really nailed this. In order, the lineup consisted of:

Rather than try to rundown all of the amazing concepts and knowledge that I soaked in over the three days, I’ll share with you some of my major takeaways, hopefully in digestible form.

Social determinants influence about 80-90% of health outcomes in the real world. “Your zip code can affect your well-being more than your genetic code.” – Zubin Damania. Please do yourself a favor and check out some of his music videos. They’re only outdone in quality by how compelling they are. Check HERE.

ZDoggMD actually founded Turntable Health in Las Vegas, a health clinic focused on social determinants. The clinic had a flat fee with no copays for patients. It was widely successful until one of its major funders put more emphasis on dollars rather than human outcomes.

We (in healthcare) need to change the opening question to patients from, “What’s the matter,” to “What matters to you?” – Leitch

Current best practices in healthcare are created by a few (people), and aren’t diverse nor inclusive. Knowledge should not be power…SHARING (that knowledge) is power. – Feeley

Derek Feeley showed a photo of a patient in a hospital gown, using the gown as an example of a healthcare “best practice.. He showed the view of a patient in the gown with the patient’s derriere exposed and questioned from whose perspective it was deemed “best practice.”

Leitch shared a quote from President Barack Obama about how power can be shaped by inclusion. The premise was how implementing change can be much easier when there’s inclusive buy-in from the group of those affected by it. Independent of politics, it’s pretty prescient: “If you have a community that stands behind you, you’ll have more power. If you don’t, you won’t.”

“Don’t let external pressures shape delivery for a short term result: Stick to a constancy of purpose and coherence over time.” – Pedro Delgado

On the Women in Action panel, Mona Hanna-Attisha was absolutely amazing. You may know her as the pediatrician whose research led to the discovery of the Flint water crisis. Her approach to patient visits is holistic but so simple: she screens for ear infections, sure. But she also screens for safety, poverty, food insecurity, etc. Her story shows how hospital professionals can take a stand in a community to protect the patients they serve and live alongside.

Finally, Father Boyle was captivating. Upon seeing his name and knowing nothing about him, I was skeptical of hearing a priest open the final day: I anticipated a soft monotone delivery. Plus, what could a religious figure have to contribute about outcomes in health care? However, three minutes in, you can tell that he’s not only a major change agent in the Los Angeles gang culture, but an incredibly accomplished speaker. Check out his book “Tattoos on the Heart”, which I’m currently reading. There was also a documentary about Homeboy Industries and his work that you can watch on Amazon Prime called, “G-Dog.” I may or may not have gotten some water in my eyes, if I’m being honest.

I took away quite a few powerful perspectives and some personal challenges that I want to work with in the coming year. I’m definitely excited and hoping to attend next year.

Do you want to ask questions or hear more about the forum? Shoot me an email: jpowell@Mefinefoundation.org. Thanks for your support of Me Fine and our work!

2019 Resolution #2: Collaboration

As outlined in our first blog post, the Me Fine Foundation staff set nine resolutions for 2019. These resolutions stem from our mission of providing hope and support for children and families in the throes of pediatric illness and medical crisis at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. Our first resolution focused on a commitment to highlight specific social determinants, such as housing and transportation, that contribute to the physical and mental health of the children and families we serve.

Our second resolution is all about collaboration. In 2019, Me Fine will collaborate more intentionally and frequently with other nonprofit and community-based organizations. As you may already know, there are dozens of causes committed to serving families undergoing treatment for critical illnesses, or families who are experiencing medical crisis. In order to best serve these groups, we, as a nonprofit, need to understand our role as well as the role of other organizations, and be able to help connect the dots for families when possible to ensure they have access to the resources that best fits their circumstances.

You may have thought to yourself: “I wonder if the Me Fine Foundation partners with…” groups like the Ronald McDonald Houses, Be Loud! Sophie, Bridges Pointe Foundation, SECU Family House, Arts For Life, and other outstanding organizations whose missions and populations served are either similar or closely aligned to our own. The short answer is: sometimes, but not enough.

In the year ahead, we will be proactively building relationships with our fellow do-gooders to identify ways that we can elevate each other’s work and celebrate in mutual successes. This may also look like Me Fine encouraging you, our supporters, to also make financial gifts to these other organizations. At the end of the day, we know that donors to Me Fine have big hearts; we also know that many of you want to see nonprofits like ours working hand-in-hand with others to be more efficient and effective. Resources like time and money are too limited to be wasted by duplication. We also know that when we put our heads together, better solutions and ideas will come. It’s a win-win!

As we move forward in the months ahead, we look forward to sharing more with you about these collaborations and shining a spotlight on these other amazing nonprofits and community-based organizations that are committed to providing hope and help where it is needed most.

Missed our first resolution about about discussing the intersectionality of social issues with pediatric illness? Read it here.

2019 Resolution #1: Highlighting Intersectionalities

A new year offers us an opportunity to dream big, set goals, and start the work of achieving them. At the Me Fine Foundation, we drafted nine resolutions for our organization in 2019. Thanks to our staff, Board of Directors, hospital partners, volunteers, corporate supporters, and donors, we’ve been able to address the urgent financial needs of families and provide the funding for emotional and psychosocial programs within the medical setting for thousands of pediatric patients, siblings, and caregivers. But, we know there’s more to do in order to truly meet the needs of children and families in medical crisis.

Between now and January 31, we’ll be revealing our nine resolutions for the year ahead. We invite you to join us on any and all of these commitments. You can share your own personal experiences, ask questions, and find ways to ensure these goals continue beyond this month.

Me Fine’s first resolution for 2019: we commit to communicating more about the intersectionality of pediatric illness and medical crisis with other systemic barriers experienced by countless families in our communities. This includes a lack of affordable housing and public transportation options; this also includes food insecurity and difficulties accessing childcare.

Why is Me Fine, a nonprofit focused on supporting critically ill children and families served by our partner hospitals, talking about these issues? Because we recognize that we have the responsibility of supporting families in a multitude of ways.

First, we provide assistance during the most extreme, urgent times. This aligns with our values that families come first, and parents/caregivers should be able to be with their ailing child as much as possible.

Second, we fund programs that equip pediatric patients, siblings, and parents with coping skills and relationships that support their emotional and social well-being far beyond their time of treatment and hospitalization. Trained social workers, psychologists, and Child Life specialists administer these opportunities.

Third, we see a new opportunity for us to shed light on underlying issues that tend to exacerbate further harm on families when pediatric illness and medical crisis occur. Over the last few years, hospitals, health insurance providers, and funders have brought much attention to these “social determinants” of health; specifically, these groups have shared evidence and research on how factors like housing, natural environment, transportation, and education impact physical and mental health and their outcomes. The research shows that until these challenges are remedied, too many people will continue to cycle through the healthcare system in ways that don’t ultimately address their specific needs and benefit the broader community.

This year, Me Fine wants to highlight these “social determinants” in the communities where families we support call home. Through no fault of their own, many individuals face seemingly insurmountable hurdles due to their zip code and other mitigating circumstances. Layering on a child’s critical or chronic medical condition tends to exacerbate an already precarious situation. For instance, in North Carolina’s rapidly-expanding urban centers such as Durham, there are few options available for truly affordable housing. Rising rent and mortgage costs may push families from their homes, forcing them to seek alternative housing with relatives or wait for nonprofit or public assistance programs. This waiting period is when families often find themselves living in cars or end up on the street; some may have to move further away from their child’s care center, thus adding even more strain on financial resources for gas, not to mention the emotional stress of being physically further away from your child.

The good news is that for many of these intersecting issues, local and state leaders are working with nonprofit and community-based organizations to identify solutions and create new systems. Until the root causes that lead to chronic poverty, underemployment, and hunger are addressed, there will continue to be children and families who must endure such outcomes on top of the already-difficult world of pediatric illness. We’re making a commitment in 2019 to talk more about and explore these varying issues, what’s being done, and how you can get involved.

Faces of Me Fine: Greg Rotz

Has it really been six years? I guess it has and what a six years it has been. The Me Fine Foundation has changed my perspective on life. Yes, that is a bold statement, but it truly has.

I came to Me Fine back in July 2012. At the time, the organization was in the beginning stages of a maturation process. One of the areas that required effort and formalization was Finance. Thus, given my background as a CPA, Tracy quickly pulled me into the fold to help support the organization on their newly formed Finance committee.

At the time, I really didn’t know much about Me Fine. However, I do recall vividly meeting the broader board and scratching my head at the level of talent and breadth of skill in the room. I wondered to myself: how did this organization recruit these outstanding individuals? After six years, I fully understand the answer to that question.

Me Fine is unique in its mission. We don’t serve just a child receiving care at Duke, UNC, or WakeMed Hospital. We serve their whole family. In a way, that is more emphatic and unmet than most people realize. It took me one Christmas in July to fully understand the power of the organization.

When you can touch, see, and feel the impact, it will take your breath away. It took mine away because I instantly tried to put myself into the shoes of the families I encountered and imagined what life would be like if our roles were reversed. Discovering your child has an incurable or disabling diagnosis is just the start of a terrible and difficult path. What these families endure over the course of time is unimaginable.

I remember being in the hospital with my son for a double ear infection where his temperature was 105 degrees and required a two night stay. Our family was spared in that instance, and we thought that was difficult. These families have not been spared. The toll of managing life outside of the hospital takes away from the emotional needs of their children. This is why I have dedicated the years and support I have to this great organization.

When my term is up here at the end of 2018, I will be leaving an organization that is strong and viable; it now has the foundation and structure to grow, thrive, and continue to address this critical need in our communitities.

The Rotz family sitting in a booth at the Angus Barn
Greg with his wife Leigh Ann, daughter Brylee, and son Hunter hamming it up.

Learning how to “Disrupt for Good” at 2018 NC Center for Nonprofits Conference

On paper, seeing the word “disruption” doesn’t usually elicit good feelings. Something has been taken off course. A plan has gone off the rails. As a former teacher, we crafted classroom management plans to mitigate such occurrences. But, at the NC Center for Nonprofits statewide conference in November, the idea of “disruption” took center stage, especially in the remarks of this year’s keynote speaker: Vu Le.

Vu Le standing on the stage at the NC Center for Nonprofits 2018 conference. Behind him is a screen with a photo of an adorable baby animal.
Vu Le during his keynote address at 2018 NC Center for Nonprofits Conference (photo credit: HIGOL)

Hilarious, provocative, and smart, Vu is the blogger behind Nonprofit AF (formerly Nonprofit with Balls). This online publication has earned him celebrity status in much of the nonprofit sector. His other points of pride include: Executive Director of Rainer Valley Corps in Seattle; consultant as to how the sector and its funding partners can accomplish their work in more equitable, inclusive, and just ways; a father of two; husband; vegan, and Pisces.

After more than a century of working to address and remedy community needs, the nonprofit sector doesn’t yet have its overarching success story. Individual organizations and coalitions have made incredible strides in achieving their missions. But, the identified gaps that prompted each nonprofit’s singular formation are largely still around. In fact, many of these gaps have grown wider and deeper due to changing demographics and stagnant policies.

“Power Play: Disruption for Good” was the theme of the 2018 North Carolina Center for Nonprofits conference.

At the NC Center for Nonprofits conference, Vu spoke directly to disruption in the philanthropic space. During his breakout, he introduced us to the notion of community-centric fundraising. He explained that such an approach could move the entire sector closer to fulfilling the visions we craft for the world we want.

Before we dive into the practice of community-centric fundraising, it’s important to take a step back and understand how nonprofits have historically approached raising the monetary resources necessary to carry out their missions. Initially, nonprofits crafted their messaging to be all about how the organization benefited from its supporters (organization-centric fundraising). This approach didn’t connect funders with the work, creating feelings of slight and dismissal (and rightly so!). Then, the sector made a thoughtful shift to sharing with donors how their contributions made a difference and impact. Because of their support, the nonprofit increased programs, expanded services, and served a greater benefit to the community.

What could possibly be the downside of this donor-centric fundraising approach? As a donor to multiple nonprofit organizations (yes, including Me Fine!), I do want to know how my dollars helped. But, I’m keenly aware that my gift alone isn’t what is going to alter the game or create a new playing field. Even if I had several more zeroes rounding out my bank account, I alone cannot change the tides to eliminate the systemic barriers preventing everyone from being able to live a full, enriched life. My resources will be pooled with others for the collective good. So, if it’s not just about the organization, and it’s not just about me, why not share how the broader community is moving the needle together?

Vu challenged those of us in the session to be on the frontlines of disrupting the was we donors and funders. He noted that we can still “be nice, even to ATMs.” It’s not about being nice to donors for the sake of making a second or third ask. It’s about treating donors and funders with dignity and respect. It’s about engaging them as partners. The causes championed by the nonprofit sector cannot be solved in a vacuum. It requires a more holistic, community-centric approach to eliminate social imbalances and inequities. It’s not about our individual mission; it’s about the collective good.

How does community-centric fundraising upend current development norms? Vu and other fundraisers of color crafted 9 Principles of Community-Centric Fundraising to offer a different take from the ingrained donor-centric model. Some of these proposals seem almost counter-intuitive to our professional training and expectations. Wait, sometimes I should advocate funding opportunities of other nonprofits or community-based organizations rather than my own? Hold up: I should push back on donors? Why should fundraising work be centered in Race, Equity, and Social Justice? This organization’s work has nothing to do with that type of work!

The truth is that all nonprofit work connects back to Race, Equity, and Social Justice. Intentional and unintentional decisions are what has led to holes that nonprofits seek to fill and resurface. Throughout the history of the United States, individuals in power used race as a proxy to determine who would benefit and who would be left out. Yes, other identifiers, including gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, language, citizen status, and others have also been used. However, across the board, race remains the number one determinant in a person’s outcome in America 2018, whether we’re talking about wealth and income; educational attainment; housing; jobs/employment; or access to healthcare.

In the vein of equity, we as nonprofit professionals have the opportunity to “see and treat one another not as competitors (for the most part), but as critical partners with the common mission of strengthening the community.” We can operate from the mindset of abundance, not of scarcity. This is far more than a mere one-time collaboration. This is an intentional commitment to lift up each other each and every day; to recognize and see ourselves as individual parts of a broader machine designed to create better outcomes across the board.

The ethos of the Me Fine Foundation mirrors this holistic approach. When it comes to serving critically ill children and families, there have to be supports available in the short and long-term. Providing assistance for pressing financial matters, whether housing payments, utility bills, gas, groceries, parking expenses, are ways to meet families’ needs in the short-term. This financial support could also take on a more long-term view; however, the emotional and pyschosocial support programs we fund in our partner hospitals speaks to this investment more strongly.

But, it’s not just Me Fine donors who try to help families navigating illness. The Ronald McDonald House of Durham & Wake and in Chapel Hill; SECU Family House; Love Is Bald; Alex’s Lemonade Stand; Be Loud Sophie; Fight Like Paxton; Headbands of Hope’ Just tRYAN It; Meg’s Smile; Zach’s Toy Chest; Super Cooper’s Little Red Wagon; Arts For Life; The Monday Life.

Shall I go on?

Additionally, countless other nonprofits touch on issues that directly impact the lives of families we support. Access to affordable housing; workers’ rights; children’s healthcare; environmental justice; public transportation; predatory lending. These intersect with our work daily. Under the principles of community-centric fundraising, we at Me Fine need to be lifting up the leaders and organizations who focus on these efforts. We want to empower and educate our donors to see the connections across multiple causes.

In reflection of what I took away from this session and shift in thinking, I also want us at Me Fine to do a better job in recognizing and appreciating the value of people’s time. Since its inception in 2004, Me Fine has relied heavily on the kindness of family members, friends, and neighbors to drum up the resources for families. The organization of today has more infrastructure than it did back then; but, the willingness of individuals to lend their expertise, open their networks, or roll up their sleeves to assist continues. Time is a finite resource, and whether a person is a volunteer or paid staff, their time matters.

I’m excited to see how we at Me Fine can incorporate community-centric fundraising into how we operate moving forward. All of us benefit from strong, resilient communities. Expect to hear more from us on how you are helping to build and shape those communities as well as learn about other organizations who are doing the same.

Written by Katie Todd, Development Director with the Me Fine Foundation.

Faces of Me Fine: Fall 2018 Interns

Once again, the Me Fine Foundation had the fortune to partner with Mindy Sopher’s Nonprofit & Leadership Development (COMM 466) class at North Carolina State University during the fall 2018 semester. Rima Patel, Abby Haywood, and Sophie Ritchie became a part of our team in mid-August. 

Nonprofit Leadership and Development “is a service-learning course in which students will be expected to make a 20-hour commitment to service in a local nonprofit organization. Students will critically examine theories of communication and leadership with concentration on issues pertaining to nonprofits such as working with executive boards, volunteer management, and resource development.”

Each student managed their own project over the course of the three months. Rima conducted research so Me Fine can better understand the underlying issues impacting families the organization serves through the Financial Assistance Program. Sophie built out profiles using publicly-available information so we can better understand the motivations, interests, and behaviors of individuals who support our work. Abby helped us to catalog the hundreds of varying diagnoses we have received and then identify potential pharmaceutical prospects whose treatments focus on those very critical and chronic medical conditions.

We asked each of them to share what they learned from their time with us, in their class, and about the nonprofit sector. Check out their responses below:

Rima Patel

“Working with the Me Fine Foundation, I’ve learned a lot about what values are important to me. Me Fine embodies so many great qualities, like transparency, prioritizing relationships, and having people who genuinely care about the cause, that I hope to bring with me throughout my career. The course taught me that no organization is perfect and that there is always room to grow and improve, and Me Fine has proven that good leaders are those that constantly aim to do that.” 

Rima Patel

“While working with the Me Fine Foundation, the main thing that I learned is that despite differing backgrounds, educational or career paths, or changes in someone’s life; you can always find something that you are passionate about. Joey, Meredith, and Katie all had different paths that somehow led them to the Me Fine Foundation. This gives me hope that I will one day find my passion and be able to contribute to helping a cause that I am passionate about. Being a premature child myself, the research I did with Me Fine really hit home. I am beyond grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with such selfless and caring people, while also being able to work towards something that I genuinely care about. I learned that Me Fine has accomplished many things and been able to help many families, however with the recent expansion of their board I believe that Me Fine can accomplish so much more. I believe now is a very pivotal time for the Me Fine Foundation and am beyond excited to see what comes next. I hope to continue research for Me Fine to help towards finding more treatments for patients.”

Abby Haywood

“During my time working with the Me Fine Foundation, I learned the basic components of a nonprofit organization. I learned how these aspects such as the mission and methods all connect to one another; each plays a major role in the future of the agency. With my time in this class, I became more aware of the organizations in my community and fluent with the work of a nonprofit.”

Sophie Ritchie

We wish each of them all of the best in their continued studies as well as the personal and professional opportunities to come! You can see what recommendations they provided us during their final presentation by reviewing their presentation here.

For Immediate Release: New Orleans Night Raises $220k for Critically Ill Children, Families at Triangle Hospitals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2018

New Orleans Night Raises $220k for Critically Ill Children, Families at Triangle Hospitals

Event supports Me Fine Foundation’s mission to provide financial assistance, emotional support

RALEIGH: More than 375 attendees filled the two floors of the City Club in downtown Raleigh last night to raise more than $220,000 for critically ill children and families served by the Me Fine Foundation at the nonprofit’s 2018 Gala. Me Fine’s annual Gala generates nearly 30 percent of the organization’s revenues.

In its 11th year, funding from this year’s Gala, sponsored by Centrifuge Media, will provide financial assistance and emotional support to families with children receiving treatment at WakeMed, UNC, or Duke Children’s Hospitals. Me Fine assists with expenses incurred after a child’s diagnosis which can accumulate throughout the duration of treatment: hospital parking, gas, and meals. Additionally, the organization assists families with ongoing major life expenses where a lack of payment may put a family at risk for eviction, food insecurity, or utility disconnection.

“Our annual Gala ensures that we can meet the constant flow of referrals from our hospital partners to address the individual needs of families in crisis,” said Joey Powell, executive director. “Through the generous outpouring of support from attendees at last night’s event, we will be able to do even more for families today and in the future.”

Dr. Jim Helm of WakeMed Health & Hospitals received the 2018 “Hero For Life” Award, which is Me Fine’s highest honor. The award recognizes those who go above and beyond to help critically ill kids and families in ways that align with Me Fine’s mission. Dr. Benny Joyner, Division Chief of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine and the Clinical Director of the Clinical Skills and Patient Simulation Center at the NC Children’s Hospital, moved the crowd with his first-hand experiences working with children for the majority of his career.

“This year’s event was a powerful testament to our community’s shared values,” said Colleen McGowan, gala Chair and board member. “People recognize the difference that their dollar can make. We’re grateful to all of our sponsors and attendees, as well as all those who invested in the event from afar.”

Changing Lives sponsors included Carolina Wealth Partners, Thompson GMC-Buick, and Blue Water Spa. Sunbelt Rentals supported the event at the Building Communities level. The full list of sponsors can be found at mefinegala.com.

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Me Fine Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to ensuring families whose children face a devastating medical crisis are able to receive financial assistance, emotional support and other necessary resources to sustain the loss of income due to the dramatic change in lifestyle while undergoing treatment at Duke, UNC, or WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. For more information, please call (919) 202-0086 or visit mefinefoundation.org.

Critically Ill Children Receive ‘Suite’ Deal with ‘Canes, Cole

Renewed partnership with Me Fine Foundation to benefit families at Triangle-area hospitals

Building on the success of last season’s partnership, the Carolina Hurricanes and former Hurricanes player and team ambassador Erik Cole will once again join the Me Fine Foundation to provide families of critically ill children a suite to all Hurricanes home games for the 2018 – 2019 season.

Landon and his friends at the Carolina Hurricanes game, along with members of the Storm Squad

Cole recognizes the reality these children and parents face on a daily basis as they endure treatments for life-threatening medical conditions. For him, this partnership centers around providing a dedicated time and space for families to have a night for themselves.

“This is all about giving the child a chance to have fun. This is also about giving parents the chance to see their child get to be a kid again.”

Cole will donate the 14-person suite, which includes food and beverage, parking passes and a private bathroom, which is optimal for patients with compromised immune systems. Cole, who serves as the Hurricanes team ambassador, played 892 career NHL games with the Hurricanes, Oilers, Canadiens, Stars and Red Wings. He recorded 532 points (265g, 267a) in his career and captured the Stanley Cup championship with the Hurricanes in 2006. The Oswego, NY, native appeared in 557 career games with Carolina, and ranks in the top 10 in franchise history in games played, points (363), hat tricks (5) and shorthanded goals (8).

Reflecting on this renewed partnership for the 2018 – 2019 season, Cole responded that this decision came with zero hesitations: “If there is something you can do to lessen the burden on families in these situations, then why would you not want to do it?”

“Erik really has come to embody what Me Fine is about: He’s using his resources to directly make a profound positive impact on the children in our community who are stricken with chronic illness and facing a difficult treatment path.” Me Fine Foundation Executive Director Joey Powell said. “Even after hockey, he’s still the consummate teammate.”

Since 2004, the Me Fine Foundation has provided both financial and emotional support to over 1,500 critically ill children and their families. Me Fine works with families from across North Carolina whose children are being treated by Duke Children’s Medical Center, UNC Children’s Hospital, or WakeMed Children’s Hospital. The organization benefits individuals of every race, diagnosis, religious affiliation and economic status. The Me Fine Foundation is a previous Carolina Hurricanes Foundation grant recipient and has received $25,000 in Game Changer Grants since 2014.

The Carolina Hurricanes Foundation strives to meet the health and educational needs of children, with a focus on underserved populations, and to strengthen youth hockey in our community. During the 2017-18 season, the Foundation donated a total of $495,000 in cash grants to 24 different children’s charities and youth hockey organizations in North Carolina. In 2018, the Kids ‘N Community Foundation was rebranded as the Carolina Hurricanes Foundation to further align with the team and the shared mission to make a positive, collective impact in the community.

How Me Fine Has Grown

I first heard about the Me Fine Foundation back in mid-2011. I was serving on my then-employer’s internal foundation board, a pass-through fundraising group that supported various charities as requested by our colleagues. I’d reached out to a friend/fraternity brother, asking him to support a golf-a-thon that I was playing in to benefit a Florida foundation that provides financial support for families with children fighting brain cancer. Josh Swindell, a longtime Me Fine board member and then Board Chair, said to me “If you like that Foundation, I need to tell you about Me Fine.” By the end of lunch, I was signed up to join the Me Fine Board of Directors the following January.

There are many deserving organizations here in the Triangle, but few I’ve found whose mission and purpose is so clear. Children get sick through no fault of their own. Insurance helps cover the costs of treatment, and there are many foundations providing research grants towards finding better ways to diagnose, treat, and even cure some terrible diseases. But what about the cost of receiving care? Driving to and from the hospital; taking time off work to be with your child; eating meals out and staying at hotels just so you can keep family together. Or the emotional toll a serious illness can take on the child, their siblings, parents, and extended families: Who helps with that?

Me Fine does.

I’m blessed to have two beautiful, healthy children. We’ve never spent a night in the hospital, and I hope we never have to. The truth is: I have a hard time even conceiving what it would be like if one of them received a serious diagnosis – the anxiety and fear and desperation. Add to that financial stress, and it’s truly unimaginable.

Unfortunately, families face that every day at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. One of those was the Lee family. You may be familiar with Folden’s story, and that of his amazing mother, Lori Lee. Me Fine’s name recalls young Folden’s answer when asked how he was doing today, before he ultimately lost his battle with leukemia. Our mission represents Lori’s selfless vision – solving problems faced by the families she met during Folden’s treatment.

Lori is the most altruistic, inspiring person I’ve ever known. She’s lost a son to leukemia. She’s fought and beaten cancer multiple times herself. She’s been a patient advocate, a grief counselor, a fundraiser, and public speaker. All of this in hopes of making life a little easier for families she may never meet. During my six years serving on our board, my primary purpose has been to ensure that Lori’s hard work and determination to help these families can continue long after her and my time on the board has passed.

To that end, I’m quite proud of what’s been accomplished during my tenure. Our staff has expanded and is well-equipped to meet Me Fine’s evolving needs. Our board is stronger, and we’ve created more opportunities to leverage non-board member contributions through our committee structure. Our resources have grown; our annual budget today is more than double what it was in 2012 (thanks to generous supporters like those reading this letter). And as a Foundation, we’ve matured – what once was a hands in the dirt, “little engine that could,” has evolved into a highly-regarded, well known nonprofit here in our community.

At the same time, the need for what we do has also grown. We served more families in 2017 than any year before, and are on track to serve many more in 2018. We expanded into WakeMed Children’s Hospital,and are supporting more emotional support programs than at any time in our history.


Jake and Murray
Jake and Murray enjoying the evening at Music For Me Fine 2018

I hope there will come a day when Me Fine is no longer needed, when childhood disease is a thing of the past, and families never face the same tragedy that Lori and her family did with Folden. But, that day is not today and is unlikely to be tomorrow. Until then, I’ll continue to strongly support Me Fine with my time, energy, and financial contributions. My time on the board may be coming to an end, but my passion for Me Fine has never been stronger.

Thank you to Me Fine – our board members, our staff, and our supporters – for the opportunity to help shape and grow such an amazing cause. It has truly been among the most rewarding experiences of my life. And thank you in advance on behalf of all the families who we will serve in the months and years ahead through your continued hard work and dedication. The best is yet to come.

Jake Connors has served six years on the Me Fine Foundation Board of Directors, including Board Chair in 2016. Currently, he chairs the Development Committee. Outside of Me Fine, Jake is a Senior Director with Compass Financial Partners.

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