There is no doubt that the pandemic will continue to cause issues for children in hospitals. As we approach the second month of 2021, organizations like enCourage Kids are getting ready to share love with these special little folks for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday.
We recently sat down with President and CEO, Michele Hall Duncan, for an interview to reflect on the mission of the organization and what more can be done.
Your great work continues with the enCourage Kids Foundation. Tell us about the success of the Virtual Serving Up Smiles event hosted by Justin Hartley a few weeks back.
Yes, our Virtual Serving Up Smiles event on December 2nd was amazing! For the past few years, we have held an in-person tasting event in the fall. After having to cancel our Annual Gala, our largest fundraiser of the year, which was supposed to take place last March, we were hoping to be able to move forward with our annual fall event. Since an indoor event wasn’t possible, we decided to combine elements of both the Gala and the tasting event and produced the event virtually with Revel Spirits Brand as the presenting sponsor. Hosted by actor and entrepreneur Justin Hartley from This Is Us, the event was attended by nearly 300 guests and consisted of cooking demonstrations from top chefs including our event Culinary Chair Chef Ralph Scamardella from TAO Group, mixology demos, wine and beer tastings, live entertainment, a silent auction and special entertainment in our virtual VIP Lounge. We also had special celebrity appearances by Kate Burton, Rolanda Watts, and Katrina Jackson. Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse in NYC served as our one location where we broadcast live with WABC-TV Sports Anchor Ryan Field serving as emcee and NY Giants Super Bowl Champions Howard Cross and Luke Petitgout and NFL legend Tony Richardson in attendance.
I was also particularly excited to be able to honor one of our long-time medical partners and a woman who has made an invaluable contribution to the medical community, Dr. Kusum Viswanathan, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, to whom we presented our Healthcare Leadership Award. We also honored Rob Turner of Eastdil Secured and Cory Elbaum of Angelo Gordon with our Jeffrey Gural Leadership Award, not only in recognition of their contributions to their respective fields, but also for their devotion to philanthropy and 100% support of enCourage Kids’ mission.
It was a tremendous challenge to produce a virtual event of this magnitude, but it was an unforgettable evening that raised over $100,000 in support of our programs!
Next month is Valentine’s Day. Are you planning a virtual event around this? Please share with us.
Yes! I’m very excited to share that our enCourage Kids Young Professionals Board (YPB) is hosting a Virtual Wine Tasting on Thursday, February 11th! The YPB is a dynamic group of professionals dedicated to finding new, fun ways to raise awareness and funds to support enCourage Kids’ programs inside and outside of the hospital. Tickets to this event will include three bottles of wine and a box of chocolates delivered directly to your home in time to enjoy a wine class led by an incredible sommelier. To learn more and get your ticket, please visit www.encourage-kids.org/virtual-wine.
What makes the work you do so necessary especially given today’s climate?
With everything that has happened in the world this year and all that’s happening in the United States right now politically, socially and medically, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy and lose sight of the everyday challenges individuals face. It’s easy to forget that there are millions of children being treated in hospitals every day for reasons that have nothing to do with COVID-19. Children are still getting sick, they are still getting injured, they are still being diagnosed with serious illnesses, they are still struggling with disabilities—all of which impact not just the children but their caregivers and families. That’s where enCourage Kids comes in. It’s our mission to support them and to support the hospital workers who care for them. They need our help now more than ever especially in communities where there are large health disparities and fewer resources. And the needs are sometimes diverse and surprising. For example, in Queens, one of the NYC boroughs hardest hit by the pandemic, one of our hospital partners reached out with an unusual request. We learned that pregnant mothers who had lost their spouses and other key family members were going home alone with their newborn babies feeling alone, afraid and without needed resources. enCourage Kids stepped in and provided supplies for those new moms like diapers, wipes, newborn outfits, blankets and other essentials. Our programs benefit all children, yet we seek to ensure that hospitals with fewer resources are always given priority consideration.
For more information on how you too can get involved and help children during this difficult time please visit here.