The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

June 1, 2014

Record $2.78M raised at telethon

Young patients, families share stories

— DANVILLE — Geisinger Health System’s Children’s Miracle Network Telethon broke a record this year, with $2.78 million raised for pediatric services across Geisinger Health systems.

The telethon ran from 9 p.m., Saturday, to 6 p.m., Sunday, with collections coming from the Geisinger market regions of Wilkes-Barre, which includes Danville, Altoona and Binghamton, New York. Last year’s total was $2.6 million.

“It’s a fantastic total (this year),” said Vanessa Klingensmith, central region coordinator for the Children’s Miracle Network. “It shows all the hard work that’s gone into the whole year of fundraising and the wonderful support we get from the community. This will allow us to purchase more equipment and provide services and programs for our pediatrics.”

However, the event was more than just a fundraiser.

Just ask Alaina Smelko, a pediatric intensive care unit nurse at Geisinger Medical Center. While the annual telethon was taking place inside GMC’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, she was one of dozens of Geisinger volunteers helping to run the Miracle Fest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday.

The Miracle Fest featured games for children, live performances, a scavenger hunt and other attractions.

“We’ve seen a lot of our past patients,” said Smelko, helping to run the scavenger hunt table. “It’s amazing seeing where they are and how (far) they’ve come, healthy and happy and playing. It makes the job worth it,” she said.

And some of those former patients were on hand to give back as well.

Every year, kids from across Geisinger Health Center’s coverage region who treated at Janet Weis shortly after birth are chosen as “Miracle Kids.” Along with their families, these children share the story of how Geisinger and the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital helped them during the live telethon, to encourage donations.

Among the Miracle Kids this year were the four-year-old Conklin quintuplets, Travis, Wesley, Sawyer, Micah and Ian. The five boys were born after only 31 weeks of pregnancy to parents Brad and Alissa Conklin, of Bloomsburg.

After their birth, four of the boys were in the Janet Weis neonatal intensive care unit for three weeks, with Ian staying in an extra week for poorly developed lungs.

“It was hard having four at home and one in the NICU,” Alissa said. “We knew he had good care, but at the same time we weren’t there.”

While the boys are happy and healthy today, they’re sometimes a handful. “They run around and scream all day long,” said their older sister, eight-year -old Eliana.

Also paying a visit to the telethon and Miracle Fest were beauty pageant contestants Sydney Robertson, of the Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA competition, and Bryn Harvey, Miss Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the Miss America 2014 competition.

The two presented a check on-air to the Children’s Miracle Network for $1,690, all donations collected from local Miss America competitors.

The two also toured the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital on Sunday, visiting the patients. The kids appreciated the chance to be treated as if they weren’t in a hospital, they said.

“They enjoy the regular interactions as much as we do,” Robertson said.

“We can bring some normalcy back into their lives” with the visit, Harvey added.

A partnership has existed between the Children’s Miracle Network and the Miss America organization since 2007, and it just recently raised a total of $10 million over the last seven years, Harvey said.


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