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Turning Back the Clock Turns Up Finds for Children and Families at Triangle Hospitals

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

Durham: Nearly 400 attendees filled the Cotton Room in Durham’s Golden Belt on Saturday, October 26, 2019, to raise more than $264,000 for children and families who are facing medical crisis in local children’s hospitals. Me Fine’s annual Gala, sponsored by Centrifuge Media, generates almost a quarter of the organization’s revenues and continues to bolster the organizations it grows.

Me Fine Foundation Gala 2019
The Me Fine Foundation’s 2019 Gala turned back the clock to the Roaring Twenties.

For the 12th time, funding from this year’s Gala 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. Furthermore, Me Fine funds vital psycho-social support programs for families and pediatric patients to help navigate their treatment journey.

“As we’ve continued to grow and expand our scope to meet the needs of our community, the Me Fine Gala remains a consistent source of excitement and revenue,” said Joey Powell, Me Fine’s Executive Director. “No matter where we take the event or what our goals are, our supporters repeatedly rise to the challenge to make the Gala a success.”

Katie Haynes received the 2019 “Hero For Life” Award, Me Fine’s highest honor. The award recognizes those who go above and beyond to help critically ill kids and families in ways that run parallel with Me Fine’s mission. Jess Ekstrom, founder of Headbands of Hope, author, and public speaker served as keynote for the event and moved the crowd to do more for their community.

Me Fine Foundation Gala 2019
The 2019 Me Fine Gala threw it back for some dazzling Twenties-themed attire.

“This year’s event showed just how much success can be had when everyone plays their part,” said Jaclyn Starritt, gala Chair and board member. “Our donors understand what we do and why it is so important, and we’re so thankful for the sponsors, volunteers, and attendees who played a role in such a powerful evening.

Changing Lives sponsors included The Adam Dickinson Realty Group and Carolina Wealth Partners. Cisco supported the event at the Building Communities level. A complete list of sponsors can be found at ​mefinegala.com​.

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.

Stories of Hope: Art S.

Art S. shares his family’s experiences during his daughter’s treatment for Ewing’s Sarcoma at UNC Children’s Hospital.

Stories of Hope: Art S.

We at the Me Fine Foundation feel incredible gratitude and privilege to provide a platform for families to share their stories of hope during their child’s medical crisis.

Me Fine Foundation thanks Art S. for graciously offering us a glimpse into his family’s experiences during his daughter’s treatment for Ewing’s Sarcoma at UNC Children’s Hospital.

“Four months ago, [my daughter] was saying she wanted to go to school at UNC Chapel Hill. She said she wanted to study pediatric oncology nursing. This was all before she was ever diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. Once she was diagnosed, she really wanted to go through chemotherapy because she wanted to have the experience to share with other people.

“Life is crazy since we found out about [her] cancer. We’ve learned to be extremely flexible in our schedule, where before all this started, our calendar was planned four months in advance. Now, we go week to week. We have all sorts of extra medication, shower chairs, wheelchairs, crutches, a “go” bag, etc.

“We wish people knew two specific things [about having] children with cancer. First, there are so many caring people praying and giving to kids in need. Our first hospital visit we left home with 3 bags, one for each of us. We came home with twelve bags from all the foundations and donations we received. Second, this is a journey. We hope in the day we finish and we’ve beaten cancer, but we learn and grow through the whole process.

“Additional costs for us come mostly at home & travel, things like grabbing a quick meal on the road or buying a new removable shower head. Those little things tend to add up. Our insurance has covered everything so far. We’ve been fortunate to have a church and people around us to help support us. Another thing we wish people knew is they are not alone. We’ve had more people who have been through childhood cancer journeys give us advice and point us in the right direction.”

Art S.

As Art described, life can change quickly with a child’s diagnosis. That’s why Me Fine provides an emergency safety net for families year-round with our financial assistance program — and why we’ve customized our Hope for the Holidays program to support families in the midst of a medical crisis during the holiday season.

We call our family adoption team the Dream Team because of their willingness to be “on call” to provide gifts for a family experiencing a new diagnosis or sudden hospitalization this holiday season. Learn more about the Dream Team and how you can get involved with Hope for the Holidays here: mefinefoundation.org/holidays.

Fashionistas and Foodies Highlighting Me Fine Gala

As the 2019 Me Fine Gala grows closer and closer (get your tickets at www.mefinegala.com!), we’ve had an outpouring of support from local fashion and food bloggers who want to help you choose the right outfit and eat the best snacks.

Fashionistas and Foodies Highlighting Me Fine Gala

Still undecided on what to wear? Let Jordan and Ashley of JordAsh guide you to a 20’s inspired look via their blog. Natalie and Ashley of The Polished Pineapple (@the.polished.pineapple) also highlighted the event and is highlighting tons of gorgeous 2019 fashion finds on Instagram.

Raleigh boutique Charlotte’s also highlighted it’s gorgeous jewelry and accessories that can add ‘20s inspired – or just bling inspired – flavor to your outfit on Instagram. We can’t wait to see what everyone is wearing the night of the Gala. The fashion doesn’t end at the end of the night, though, because this year’s silent auction is packed full of jewelry and accessories – including a gorgeous handbag from The Avenue. Check out @LyndseyZorich on Instagram to see all of The Avenue’s gorgeous offerings.

Once you’re on Insta – be sure to check out the feed for @HouseofLandor – our own board member Claudia Cadet (@tallclauds) got to play dress up in vintage clothes and will give you great inspiration!

In it for the food? Check out www.bitesofbullcity.com for all the best places to eat in and around Durham. Amber, the genius behind that blog, also gave the Gala a shout out on Instagram for all the food and food-related auction items that will be delighting taste buds on Saturday.

Finally – because we’ve got something for everyone – if you’re a sports fan you may have heard our pal Will Brinson on 99.9 the Fan telling his listeners to check out the Gala. That’s because this year’s auction is sports packed – we’ve got 4 great seats to a Panthers game, an exclusive Carolina Hurricanes Experience, a Durham Bulls package that includes your own batting practice, 2 front row Champions Club NCSU basketball tickets, Duke basketball tickets and so much more.

There’s something for everyone at this year’s Me Fine Gala and the area’s influencers are spreading the word. Visit www.MeFineGala.com to get your tickets now!

Me Fine Seeks an AoR

Me Fine Foundation
Request for Proposals – Agency of Record

Introduction and Executive Summary
One in three families with children experiences significant financial burden at some point due to medical care costs, and roughly three out of every five personal bankruptcies are byproducts of insurmountable medical debt. Since 2004, Me Fine Foundation, Inc. (Me Fine) has addressed this overwhelming need by providing both financial and emotional support to more than 2,000 families with one or more child who is experiencing a medical crisis. We work with families whose children are being treated by Duke Children’s Medical Center, UNC Children’s Hospital, or WakeMed Children’s Hospital.
We are seeking a communications partner to help us with an overall communications strategy and monthly implementation on earned and owned media. The purpose of this Request for Proposals (RFP) is to solicit information and offers for these services from partners interested in working with Me Fine.

Request for Proposal Timeline and Protocol
If you plan to participate in this RFP, please email Joey Powell (joey.powell at mefinefoundation dot org) with a copy to Laura Brewer (laura.brewer at mefinefoundation dot org) no later than the Non-Mandatory Notice of Intent to Participate due date shown below. Please submit all your questions in one email to the same email addresses. All questions will be answered in writing. Please submit questions by the RFP Written Questions due date shown below. Responses will be shared with all companies involved in this RFP. Please be aware that Me Fine is not committed to any course of action as a result of its issuance of this RFP and its receipt of a proposal from you or any other company.

Proposed Timetable:
Event Date
Distribute RFP September 30

Non-Mandatory Notice of due October 7 Intent to Participate

RFP Written Questions due by 5:00 pm EST October 11

Me Fine written Responses to October 18 questions to Interested Partners

RFP Proposals due by 5:00 pm EST October 25

Me Fine to complete review November 4

Me Fine Overview
Me Fine believes:
1) Children and families come first.
2) Family dignity must be preserved and stories must be honored.
3) Inclusivity is paramount in delivering our mission.

Our Mission: to provide hope through emotional support and financial assistance to families whose children are receiving care at North Carolina partner hospitals.
Our Vision: to build and sustain partnerships to eliminate barriers so families can focus on their children.

Me Fine has four full-time staff members that include an executive director, director of development, program director, and general manager of the Second Hope Shop, a thrift store that helps cover operating costs. We also have an active volunteer board of directors with 16 members.

More information is available at www.mefinefoundation.org

The Project
At a recent board retreat, increasing brand awareness was identified as a top priority for a majority of staff and volunteers. Our organization is looking for a professional partner to help us spread the word about the great work Me Fine does in our community to increase our donor base, attendance at our fundraising events, and support network.

We anticipate working with a partner on a monthly retainer basis, with an increased spend during months preceding major events (March and September). The partner should help with the development of an annual communications plan, ongoing recommendations and implementation, and social media support and implementation. The partner should plan to work with Me Fine’s executive director, Joey Powell, as its main point of contact. Others within the organization, including staff and board members, may also attend meetings, approve content, etc.

Project Requirements

-Immersion session or kickoff
-A communications plan that includes earned and owned media ideas, including specific pitches and social media moments.
-Monthly earned media implementation support.
-Monthly social media support.
-Other support as mutually agreed upon based on partner ideas and recommendations and Me Fine’s available funding.

The Proposal
Please provide a proposal in electronic form by the RFP Response Due date shown above to Joey Powell (joey.powell at mefinefoundation dot org) with a copy to Laura Brewer (laura.brewer at mefinefoundation dot org). The proposal should be in PDF format.

In your proposal, please outline how you would approach the project and a few of your ideas. Full spec work isn’t required, but please briefly describe how you’d approach overall strategy, message development, insight-driven creative work that will speak to our audiences, and distribution on channels that will reach them. Messages should be positive and engaging and, if they highlight the families we serve, respectful.
Please also share information about your organization, your history, your processes, and your mission. References and information about why you’re interested in this project also are preferred. Please also provide up to three work samples, especially any related to previous non-profit work.

Selection Criteria
The willing bidder, if any, will be selected solely in the judgment of Me Fine’s executive director with the input of Me Fine’s staff and board or directors.

Payment
Me Fine’s annual budget is $15,000. We recognize that this may be lower than other private sector clients and we are willing to work with our partner on sponsorship and other publicity opportunities to offset cost differentials.
We also recognize that this entire scope may not be possible within our budget, and we welcome partners’ feedback and recommendations. Please tell us what, in your opinion, we should prioritize to increase our brand awareness and grow funding support in the Triangle.

Stories of Hope: Bristol K.

Despite the emotional upheaval of their child’s treatment, parents and caregivers graciously offer a glimpse into their families’ experiences at one of the Me Fine Foundation’s partner hospitals. Here, we highlight the story of 7-year-old Bristol K. and her mom, Jenny K.

We at Me Fine feel incredible gratitude and privilege to be able to provide a platform for families who are undergoing incredibly difficult moments. Each time you give of your resources and time to the Me Fine Foundation, we encourage you to bring their words to mind. Your compassion makes a difference, as Jenny K. bravely attests in her family’s Story of Hope:

“Before our daughter received her cancer diagnosis life was busy, but normal in every sense of the word. School, dance, church, family time and repeat. Life was full and chaotic at times, but it was still complete with enjoyable day to day moments. After getting Bristol’s cancer diagnosis life has been so different. It is still full, but now it’s full of doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy, lab draws, scheduled medications at home, and always wondering if today will be a good day or not. Cancer takes away the normalcy of life that we tend to take for granted and replaces it with so many questions, fears, and uncertainties. So far we have completed 8 weeks of chemotherapy out of a total planned 67 weeks. It’s a long journey just to work to get to “cancer free” status, then will follow repeat scans and tests every 3-4 months for years. Having a kid with cancer steals a family’s normality. It steals their peace of mind. It replaces moments that used to feel routine, like going to church or dance, with thoughts of: “should we take her today”, “will it make her too tired”, or “I don’t know if anyone there might be sick”. It makes us think so much more cautiously. Additionally, having a sick child almost forces me to be a stay at home mom in spite of having a job. You can’t preplan well enough of when to pick up shifts because you never know what the next day will hold. It adds strain and worry with how to pay the bills and puts more weight on my husband’s shoulders to be at work full time to help try to make ends meet. This results in him missing out on the majority of her medical appointments and chemotherapies each week. To even further the difficulties that come along with cancer, we have a son that needs us too. He is 5 and he needs his parents’ (and sister’s) time and attention as well. We are daily working to keep life as balanced as possible for them both. They both deserve equal amounts of time and love shown to them. We are so diligent in trying to ensure neither feels less love or attention, which sometimes results in pretty tired parents at the end of the day.

Ever since Bristol was diagnosed, we have had people ask what they can do to help. This is such a loaded question. We don’t want to ask for help. Both my husband and I have always been so independent, worked hard at our jobs, and we have been able to support each other and our family well; however, cancer takes freedom away. It makes us need help when we are not accustomed to asking for it. Every bit of help makes a huge difference in our lives now. Food, travel expenses, mounting hospital bills, miles of travel each week to the clinic, and missed work all affect us directly and our finances. Support such as the gas cards and Walmart cards from Me Fine help so significantly. As simple as it may seem, it helps us breathe a little easier. Another week covered; another grocery bill handled… among all the worries and stressors that we cannot control, having some of that burden removed is indescribably helpful.”

News: Envirolink to Support Me Fine Families

Annual financial sponsorship would serve as a dedicated funding stream to provide financial assistance for requests related specifically to utility payment needs.

Durham, N.C. (July 26th, 2019)- The Me Fine Foundation is proud to announce that Raleigh-based Envirolink has agreed to serve as a sponsor for a utility assistance payment program. The $10,000 annual financial sponsorship from Envirolink would serve as a dedicated funding stream to provide financial assistance for requests related specifically to utility payment needs of families at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals.

Me Fine Foundation is a local nonprofit 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. In 2018, Me Fine provided more than $22,000 for utility-related expenses. As the local population increases on top of unseasonably extreme temperatures, they anticipate this need to continue to rise. 

“As Me Fine Foundation looks to grow and serve more families, we need strong partners. Utility payments are a significant part of the financial assistance we provide, so we cannot thank Envirolink enough for this alignment. We applaud the dedication to community and couldn’t be happier to have them join our mission,” said Matt Phillips, Me Fine Foundation’s Board Development Chair.

 Envirolink has specialized in the management of water, wastewater, and public works services for governmental, industrial and private clients across North Carolina since 1997. Their timely contribution to Me Fine demonstrates their corporate philosophy of enhancing the sustainability of the communities they serve.

“We’re flattered to have identified Envirolink as our next partner in strengthening the community. They’ve chosen to empower Me Fine’s support of the families that need us, showing a real commitment to a more vibrant region. We’re so excited for this partnership and can’t wait to see it help us do more for families’ utility needs during their child’s treatment,” said Joey Powell, Executive Director of the Me Fine Foundation.

Faces of Me Fine: Jaclyn Starritt

By Dr. Jaclyn Starritt, Ph.D., PLLC
Program Committee Chair & Gala Committee Chair
Me Fine Foundation Board of Directors

As a psychologist who specializes in working with children and adolescents, families are often coming to see me at a time of darkness; when they have a child who is acting out, emotionally fragile or contemplating taking their own life.  I see if every day.  I also hear the heartbreaking stories of families struggling to understand “why.”  

I spent several years of my training working in our partner hospitals and witnessing first hand the helplessness and deep sorrow parents feel when they are not able to help their child.  However, what I have also learned through my training and my work is children are the most resilient, they fight, they look for the good and they persevere.  They  teach me valuable lessons every day.  

I often seeing parents having to make difficult choices, choices no parent should ever have to make. The families Me Fine serves are literally faced with life and death and the last thing that should be a worry is how to keep the lights on or getting themselves to and from the hospital so they can be where they belong.  

As a psychologist, I am particularly  passionate about the emotional support programs Me Fine offers.  I started out many years ago having the honor of serving on the Striving for More board, which merged with Me Fine.  I worked with the founder of that organization to honor the memory of her daughter, Colleen, and ensure that children were being taken care of beyond the medicine.  

Hospital life can be isolating.  Children are often finding themselves cut off from friends, activities and school for their own good but at a time where their life is primarily composed of these worlds.  Helping normalize their journey, giving them a way to tell their story, a way to be heard is critical.  I am so very honored to be part of making that happen and privileged to be working alongside a group of individuals who care as much as I do about these families in their darkest hours. 

This is why I do what I do, to bring hope to families and let them know that they are not alone.

Supporter Spotlight: Vinson Family

Meet the Family

Britt, Tammy, Sidney, Liza, and Knox

Home

Raleigh

How did you first learn about the Me Fine Foundation?

We knew the Lee family while they were struggling through Folden’s treatment and eventually the loss of his life. We were so touched by the Lee family’s faith and strength- their desire to carry on Folden’s legacy through the Me Fine Foundation. While I was in orthodontic school in Philadelphia, Tammy worked as a pediatric oncology, bone-marrow transplant nurse at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Through her experiences, we saw the great need and were called by our faith to help make a difference in the lives of suffering children. So when Me Fine was established, we knew we wanted to help in some way so we jumped on board. Since then, our family has been focused on helping families and children locally and internationally. We are huge lovers of our community and we really want to give back, love, and support the people that make up the place we call home.

What is the greatest influence for you when choosing a particular nonprofit organization or cause?

We are passionate about supporting organizations that directly impact people in need:physically, emotionally and spiritually.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself and/or your family?

Loving, honest, hardworking

What are you grateful for?

Family, faith, health, and happiness

What makes you laugh?

Other people laughing, impractical jokers, friend’s stories, when someone says something that you would never expect

What does being a part of a community look like for you?

Our community is a group of people: friends, family, neighbors, and community members that lean on and support each other in times of joy & need.

What other community-based or nonprofit organizations do you support as a donor, volunteer, board member, etc.?

We give and support many organizations locally and internationally such as Hope Reins of Raleigh; Back Pack Buddies (Interfaith Food Shuttle); 1 of Us.org; Sharefish.org; Compassion International, Watoto Ministries; and local churches and schools. Incredible blessings have been bestowed upon our family through the many years. We feel the Lord calling us through Luke 12:48 “from everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

What would you like us to know about you/your family that we haven’t asked yet?

We are raising our children, Sidney, Liza and Knox , to see the world around them and be servant leaders for those that are less fortunate! Our daughters were able to spend a month (with Tammy) last July in Uganda working with Watoto Church in Gulu. The girls developed a faith based program and worked with 14-18 year old girls in the village in Gulu sharing the gospel. It was a very transformative experience for them and we are praying that they continue these good works.

Vinson family

If you’re a customer of Vinson Orthodontics, please share your appreciation for Britt’s long-time commitment to Me Fine!

Want to read through our Supporter Spotlights? Find them on Me Fine’s blog here.

Blog: The history & hopes for Music for Me Fine 2019

Ben Steel, our Music for Me Fine Committee Chair, brought this event to life four years ago (pictured with wife, Lindsay, above). Ahead of our 4th annual benefit concert on Friday, April 26th at the Stockroom in downtown Raleigh (tickets available here), we asked Ben to share how all of this got started, what he hopes to see in 2019, and why Music for Me Fine matters to our nonprofit’s ability to fulfill our mission of serving children and families navigating a medical crisis.

1) Where did the idea of Music for Me Fine come from?

We suggested and debated many ideas as to what Me Fine’s second signature annual event could be. Organizing a concert seemed like a great way to overlap a lot of things that I love: highlighting local musicians; serving high quality food and local beer; inviting in sponsorship partners and volunteers and doing such an event in a unique space felt like a recipe capable of success. We wanted this to be done in a casual, less formal setting; it felt like a great opportunity to introduce a new crowd to Me Fine and plug them into our mission and other events throughout the year.

2) How has this event evolved since Year 1?

A lot has changed as this event has grown from fewer than 100 attendees the first year to over 250 guests in 2018. Each year the event has grown by over 50% and that wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors, volunteers, and attendees coming back year after year with more help, ideas, and support.

We held our first three Music for Me Fines at All Saints Chapel, a downtown Raleigh gothic chapel built in 1875 that is typically used as a wedding venue. We sold out of tickets early in 2018, so we knew it was time for a larger space.

This year we are hosting at The Stockroom at 230 (on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh). We’re expecting 375+ guests and have added a VIP reception for our top sponsors and key partners.

3) What is the significance of this event in terms of the Me Fine Foundation being able to carry out its mission?

Over the first three years, this event raised more than $100,000 collectively. More importantly, Music for Me Fine introduced hundreds of new faces and families to our commitment to provide hope through emotional support and financial assistance to families whose children are receiving care in our partner hospitals. To effectively carry out our mission as the organization grows, it is critical to educate our community on the need that Me Fine helps support, and to fuel the organization any way possible to help more families in crisis.

Last year, Me Fine provided more than $85,000 in direct financial assistance and more than $73,000 through in-kind support to hundreds of families at UNC, Duke, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. Music for Me Fine contributes more than 15% of our annual revenues to ensure our programs can meet the ongoing needs of families.

4) What are your hopes for the 2019 benefit concert?

We hope nearly 400 folks come downtown on April 26 to tap their feet and raise their glasses to Tonk and New Reveille – and in doing so help raise over $75,000 in one night for the children and families Me Fine serves. Proceeds from this event provide the responsive financial assistance and emotional support to pediatric patients, siblings, and caregivers in our partner hospitals each and every day. Additionally, this event provides a chance for new and seasoned Me Fine supporters to meet each other and feel a stronger sense of connection to this community of care.

5) How can people get involved with this event?

We want folks to come – and return year after year – with coworkers, friends, and family members and just have a great time for an incredible cause. We welcome new ideas. People can bring in new corporate partners and sponsors, and find ways for individuals and companies to get plugged in with Me Fine, not only for this night but throughout the year.

You can find more information and purchase tickets to our 2019 Music for Me Fine at musicformefine.com.

Stories of Hope: How Diagnosis Changes a Life

How do your donated dollars make a difference to a family navigating their child’s medical crisis?

Cristobal B. was willing to share how the support of the Me Fine Foundation helped her as her daughter undergoes treatment for a life-threatening medical condition at UNC Children’s Hospital. Marbely, the youngest of her three siblings, became ill at age 11 and started receiving care in Chapel Hill. The cost of parking and gas added up quickly for the family. Fortunately, their social worker referred them to Me Fine, and we were able to provide $100 worth of parking vouchers and gas cards in the effort to eliminate those financial burdens from Cristobal’s mind so she could focus on what matters the most: Marbely.

Similarly, Jacob S. and his family found themselves at UNC Children’s Hospital as doctors diagnosed their two-year-old daughter, Ansley, with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. This Clayton family traveled back and forth between home and hospital, putting more strain on their wallets as gas tanks ran empty and daily parking expenses piled up. Me Fine, in consultation with Ansley’s social worker,  distributed gas cards and parking vouchers to the family. 

We are so grateful to the families who choose to share a part of their experience with us through our “Share Your Story” forms. If you have been assisted by the Me Fine Foundation’s financial assistance or participated in one of our sponsored emotional support programs and want to share your story, please contact us at communications@mefinefoundation.org.

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