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by Karen Redlener, Executive Director, Children's Health Fund
Last night, Children's Health Fund (CHF)’s annual benefit celebrated beginnings. Our three honorees Joan Baez, Jane Pauley, and James L. Dolan, were each a part of an important beginning for Irwin and me and the Children’s Health Fund.
Joan Baez received CHF’s Humanitarian Award for a lifetime of inspiration and unerring dedication to the well-being and human rights of all people. Joan was with Irwin and me at the beginning of our careers in Lee County, Arkansas, when she helped save the Lee County Cooperative Clinic which Irwin was running. To be able to recognize our dear friend Joan and witness an entire audience give her a standing ovation, is a moment I will not soon forget. We were also graced with Joan’s angelic voice when she performed with CHF Co-Founder, Paul Simon, bringing the entire audience to their feet once again.
CHF’s Founders Award was given to Jane Pauley, another long-time, dear friend to both Irwin and me and to Children’s Health Fund. Jane was with Irwin, Paul Simon, and me at the beginning of the start of CHF. She has guided us as a member of our Board of Directors and Chair of CHF’s Advisory Council, encouraged others to become aware about our organization, and helped CHF raise much needed funds to expand our National Network of programs throughout the country. Since the beginning, Jane has been a true member of the CHF family.
CHF’s prestigious Corporate Award was given to James L. Dolan for his support of CHF during the beginning of CHF’s endeavor in the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina. Dolan was instrumental in the production of "From the Big Apple to the Big Easy”—the benefit concert that raised money to benefit long-term hurricane relief efforts and. Funds raised supported the expansion of CHF’s fleet of mobile medical clinics in the Gulf region. Our fleet remains there today, ensuring quality care for underserved kids still affected by the aftermath of the Hurricane.
It was a night to celebrate these beginnings and the work CHF has done over the last 23 years to help children receive access to quality health care. But it was also a night to reflect on the long road ahead…and the new beginnings on the horizon. While the passing of health insurance reform back in March was a step in the right direction, we must not forget that health insurance doesn't equal health care. Work remains to address the many barriers to accessing care that affect many of CHF’s families across the nation, preventing many kids from just getting to a regular well-child visit to treat a chronic illness before it results in a more serious ER visit or preventable hospitalization.
With support like we have seen from our honorees and from those who attended last evening, CHF will be able to address and try to eliminate these barriers and continue to provide quality and consistent care to the most underserved children across the US.