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32nd annual fundraiser supports Children’s Miracle Network

Kaitlyn Riley

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File photo of Gundersen Health System

Turning dollars and cents into priceless help for families, two chain stores begin their annual fundraiser to support the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospital.

Associates at Walmart and Sam’s Club will fundraise during the 32nd nationwide campaign that has raised more than $1 billion for CMN hospitals. Guests can round up their change to the nearest dollar at Walmart locations or donate at Sam’s Club stores. Self-checkout registers will have a screen giving guests the option to donate.

“The possibilities are endless,” Nicole Loeffelholz, CMN Hospitals specialist, said. “We do a lot of travel assistance, so that’s really important because it’s making sure that families in our area are able to get their child to the appointments and the surgeries that they need. Sometimes it looks like gas cards or hotel stays. A lot of times, these kids have to travel and be in surgeries for days or even weeks, so that kind of helps alleviate some of the burden there.”

She added CMN can help fund life-saving equipment, research, therapy programs, pediatric programming, and more.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached home, many families in the Tri-state Region experienced financial hardships at a time when many fundraisers and campaigns to raise money for CMN Hospitals have been canceled due to safety precautions. The pandemic brought several levels of emotional strain.

“A lot of these families had to, unfortunately, wait for care,” Loeffelholz said. “That was for the safety of the community, but that is hard to wait for care for your child.”

CMN had more families ask for assistance during the pandemic.

“When you have a sick kid, it provides a lot of extra expenses just between the medications and appointments,” Loeffelholz said. “Then when you have a loss of income from furlough or being laid off, it can put extra stress on the families in our communities.”

Funds raised impact each of the 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which treat 10 million kids annually across the country. Last year, CMN distributed $787,000. In the La Crosse Area, CMN assisted families in 25 adjacent counties with 583 patient-specific grants.

“I want to thank everyone for supporting this campaign and all of our other fundraisers throughout the year,” Loeffelholz said. “It truly does make a difference and is changing the lives of families in our region.”

The fundraiser will end July 19.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.