We don’t have to be parents to change a child’s life

Back in 2001, when I got my first credit union job, one of the first things that contrasted that institution from the now-defunct thrift at which I’d worked in the 90s was the unwavering support for Credit Unions for Kids (CU4Kids), which supports Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN Hospitals). It was one of many things that validated my choice to be a part of this beautiful movement. See, I don’t have biological children of my own, but it still breaks my heart to think of kids facing life-threatening illnesses.

When I transitioned to a new role at what was then Co-op Financial Services in 2006, I learned from my CEO and mentor Stan Hollen that leadership isn’t just about generating a profit margin. In his role on the Board of Governors for CMN Hospitals, Stan demonstrated that Co-op needed to support the organizations that mean the most to credit unions. In that spirit, he came up with the idea for Miracle Match, a philanthropic program that encourages credit unions, leagues, and chapters to create and participate in fundraisers for their local CMN Hospitals.

In 2011, I was named to the CU4Kids Advisory Board of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Touring the pediatric cancer unit at the hospital and seeing courageous kids laughing and playing while just having endured chemo treatments deepened my commitment.

I also saw those children’s families, whose love for their sick children was palpable. Their hopeful and weary eyes said it all: they needed a community to rally around them, compassionate allies that can alleviate some of the burdens they experience.

In 2018, I was named to the national CU4Kids Advisory Board of Directors, serving alongside some of the most purpose-driven leaders I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Through my service on this Board, I’ve learned how CU4Kids raises transformational funds to provide advanced care, equipment, and research to over 12 million children each year. Knowing this, I knew I could do more.

When I set my intentions for 2024, I decided to funnel even more energy into this cause that I love so deeply. Now that we’re almost halfway through the year, I’d like to share some anecdotes toward those intentions:

  • In March, I traveled to California to attend the CU4Kids Wine Auction, where we witnessed a record $1.85 million being raised to benefit CMN Hospitals. It warmed my heart to see my dear friend, Mark Meyer of Filene Research Institute and co-chair of this event, experience this success.
  • For the first time, I ran in the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 5K in Washington, D.C. This event has raised more than $11 million for CMN Hospitals, and it features Congressional staffers running alongside teams from credit unions around the country. I’m so proud of my friend and CU4Kids Chair John Bratsakis for his leadership on this event.
  • In April, I attended Children’s Hospital Week in Orlando, where CMN Hospitals revealed a staggering $449 million raised in 2023, a testament to the fierce dedication of communities rallying for children’s hospitals. With a remarkable 6.9% increase in fundraising from the previous year, the occasion was not just about numbers but about the countless lives impacted and the futures transformed.
    Hospital Week is filled with touching moments, especially as each “Champion” child is introduced, along with the story of how their life was changed by receiving treatment at a children’s hospital. My heart was also touched when the CU4Kids program was bestowed with the prestigious Founders Award for having raised an amazing $200 million over the 28-year life of the program. This honor places CU4Kids among an elite group of seven recipients in the illustrious 40-year history of CMN Hospitals. John Bratsakis delivered a speech to accept the award on behalf of all credit unions, with CMN Hospitals founder Marie Osmond and the rest of the CU4Kids Advisory Board members looking on.
  • On my birthday (in September) this year, I’ll take part in Cook Children’s Hospital’s “Experience the Mission” program, where I’ll see firsthand the impact of the funds that CU4Kids has raised, while getting a behind-the-scenes look at hospital operations in Fort Worth.
  • On Oct. 11 this year, Cornerstone will host the inaugural Bourbon, BBQ & Bands event, which will benefit CU4Kids and CMN Hospitals. We at Cornerstone thought it was fitting for us to host a CU4Kids signature event, given that there are 26 CMN Hospitals within our five-state footprint. We’re pleased that LSCU is also hosting its inaugural “Night of Miracles” in November 2024. This is how credit unions can do even more in this next chapter.

On a national scale, more than 70% of funds raised for CU4Kids are through events. Events bring our industry together for a common, important mission and there are many creative ways to get involved. I’ve been proud to see credit unions in the Cornerstone region step up in many ways through Miracle Jeans Days, in-branch fundraising through candy bar sales and paper balloon icons, Halloween trunk-or-treat fundraisers, card interchange fee donations, and much more. Learn more about how your credit union can help kids in your community.

I may not have raised children of my own, but I’m proud of what we in this movement are doing to care for millions of children. It makes our movement stronger. It gives us a story to tell about why credit unions are different. And it feeds our souls. Let’s continue to stand together, credit unions and communities alike, in support of CU4Kids and the remarkable work they do. Together, we can create a brighter, healthier future for our children—one filled with hope, love, and endless possibilities.

Caroline Willard

Caroline Willard

Caroline Willard is president and CEO of Cornerstone League, one of the largest and most influential trade associations in the United States. She took the helm of the association – which ... Web: https://www.cornerstoneleague.coop Details