Every day, enCourage Kids Foundation (EKF) works to humanize healthcare for children in hospitals. Battling a serious or chronic illness or dealing with a critical injury is often an unbearable challenge. EKF partners with more than 330 pediatric facilities across the country, providing a robust and diverse menu of programming that allows us to give our hospital partners options to support the kids and families in their care. They fill in the gaps, funding projects and programs not covered by normal hospital budgets, particularly in communities most impacted by health disparities. They’re committed to investing in hospitals with fewer resources and ensuring they and their patients have access to high-quality resources and tools. 

I had the chance to sit down with Jean Bulter, President & CEO EKF. Butler grew up in Northern New Jersey and is the daughter of physicians, so, healthcare is in her DNA. Butler is a senior executive with experience in the philanthropic sector as well as P&L, and operational experience in the corporate sector (media and entertainment). With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I reached out to Jean to talk about the work of the organization.

Hospitals can be a very scary place for anybody let alone pediatric patients. 

Lengthy stays in the hospital can adversely affect children.  Their social skills become diminished, some may feel isolated and lonely, anxiety and depression are common, they become fearful of resuming their former “normal” activities and may resist resuming former peer relationships. A child may become withdrawn, and some may become angry. Siblings may be resentful of the attention the sick sibling receives and fearful about their own health, normal family routines and relationships are disrupted. Hospitalization may cause financial hardship or marital conflict. All of this affects the child’s mental well-being, and it’s one of the reasons enCourage Kids launched a Mental Health Wellness pilot program in 2022.

Given our experience and experience in distributing comfort kits to hospitals in the past, we determined this was an access point to help provide resources to healthcare professionals working with patients with mental health needs.  The pilot program was deemed successful by the hospitals who received our programming, and we are now in the process of refining the program so that it can be scaled nationally.  We are seeking funding partners so that more children and families can benefit from this critical EKF resource. We wouldn’t be able to do this important work without our relationships with the child life community. enCourage Kids is in a unique position to be the organization they reach out to when they need help. Every child’s needs are different, and our programs are special and valuable not only for the patients but also for the caretakers. We’ve invested more than 50 million dollars over the years to help medically challenged kids, their families, and hospitals, and we’re excited to do even more. 

What do you think that hospitals can do additionally to support pediatric patients while in the hospital?

Hospitals can ensure that the pediatric staffing of the unit is adequate to meet the extra needs of the pediatric patient.  They can do whatever is necessary to convey the feeling of safety to pediatric patients on the unit.  They can make sure there is access to helpful aids like Pet Therapy, Music Therapy, Creative Arts, and support groups. In fact, enCourage Kids helps to fund programs and resources like these. For those facing long-term hospitalization, some semblance of ongoing education/tutoring should be provided. Many hospitals are already providing these resources, but some do not have the financial wherewithal to do so.

EKF provides a great deal of programs with their hospital partners.

Working in lockstep with our child life specialist partners, we look for and support innovative programs and technologies that are not only useful now but will have far-reaching impact. 

Through our flagship program, the Jay Anderson Pediatric Hospital Support Fund, we provide customized support, funding a variety of special projects submitted by our hospital partners designed to meet the unique needs of their patients and programming. Creative Arts Therapies, Adaptive Sensory Equipment, Welcome and Distraction Kits, Playroom Renovations—these are just a few of the categories of support we provide, all of which help to elevate the level of care they are able to provide to their patients. 

One of our favorite programs we support is pet therapy and we have seen a significant increase in the number of requests for support for it across the country. Research has shown that animal assisted therapy and facility dogs have a significant impact on improving health outcomes including reducing experiences of pain, lowering blood pressure, reducing patient anxiety during medical appointments, and providing opportunities for increased social support.

Another of our signature programs is our Bear Program that not only provides comfort and a sense of normalcy to pediatric patients, but also creates an opportunity for medical play to help a child cope with a diagnosis or prep for an upcoming procedure.

With all our programs, our goal is to ensure that every child experience joy, hope, and emotional healing during their medical journey and beyond.

Congratulations on a successful “Teddy Bear” partnership with FAO Schwarz. 

Thank you, we are thrilled to partner with iconic toy brand, FAO Schwarz. Having spent more than fifteen years in the children’s toy industry, I was eager to work with FAO on this critical program because they have a reputation for quality, are a world-renowned brand, and have dedicated themselves to bringing wonder and awe to children around the globe. Together we created a brand-new, enhanced Bear which will comfort children in hospitals nationwide.  FAO is known not just for its abundant history of spreading joy but also for its soft and cuddly teddy bears, so they were a natural choice for us.

EKF is currently working on a Bear distribution event with one of our NY-based hospital partners.  The goal is to brighten the lives of some of these pediatric patients who may be coping with anxiety, depression, the uncertainty surrounding a medical diagnosis, and fear.  Our Send A Smile Send A Bear program provides these children with the comfort of a cuddly companion, and also serves as a tool used by medical professionals to help educate pediatric patients about procedures such as MRIs, IVs and more.  

The FAO Schwarz Toy Soldier will also join us at the event to help hand out those adorable Bears to pediatric patients in need of some joy and comfort!

Our collaboration is a tribute to the shared values of enCourage Kids and FAO, and commitment to creating a better future for these brave boys and girls. We are looking forward to bringing more joy, hope, and comfort with these Bears to pediatric patients than we ever have!

EKF will be having their first event on June 29 at Cowfish in the Hamptons.  

enCourage Kids has partnered with Rooted Hospitality on an exciting fundraising event to be held at Cowfish on June 29 from noon until 3 pm. The event will feature delicious bites from the talented chefs at Cow Fish, delightful cocktails from Don Q and Lagunitas Brewing Company. We’ll gather outside, gaze at picturesque waterfront views, enjoy delectable food, sip specialty cocktails and wine, and meet new friends who share our commitment to supporting pediatric patients. Please visit our website at www.encourage-kids.org/hamptons2024

to purchase tickets to this special event.We’re also hoping to expand our presence in the Hamptons by adding a Serving Up Smiles event. Our fundraising event at Cowfish in June allows us to introduce ourselves and our mission to the wonderful people out East. 

July 15 marks 21st Annual Golf Outing for EKF.

Next to our Gala, our Annual Golf Outing is our longest-running event and its success and longevity are due to the commitment and dedication of the incredible group who help plan and attend it year after year. The event is sponsored by Nouveau Elevator, Excel Security Corporation and Cool Breeze Air Conditioning, and draws participants from construction, utility, engineering, building maintenance and service industries which comprise the backbone of the real estate industry. So many of our guests have been attending the event since its inception and at this point, we even have multiple generations turning out. It’s almost like a family reunion. Everyone has a good time and we often hear that’s it’s one of the best golf outings in their circuit.

For any of your readers who enjoy playing golf, we encourage them to consider attending this event! We’re excited to be Anthony Zografos of CBRE and have foursomes and spots for individual golfers available. To purchase a foursome, sponsorship or ad, visit our website: https://encourage-kids.org/ekf-golf/..

We have to ask about Serving Up Smiles as it is one of our favorite food events in NYC.

You’re not the only ones to consider Serving Up Smiles a favorite. Now in its 10th year, our Serving up Smiles tasting event has become our most popular fundraising event! This year, it’s taking place on Monday, October 28th at Current at Chelsea Piers, and will include delectable dishes from some of New York City’s top restaurants, delicious wines and spirits, and a silent auction filled with a menagerie of incredible items to suit all interests—sports memorabilia, travel packages, golf foursomes, private dining and one-of-a-kind experiences, just to name a few. Plus, the waterfront venue offers a gorgeous view of the Hudson River. It will be a wonderful opportunity for our community to support the work of EKF while enjoying some fabulous food, entertainment, and simply having a good time. We’ll be sharing details on our website and social media channels as we get closer to the date so stay tuned!

X: @encourage_kids

Instagram: @encouragekids

Facebook: @encouragekidsfoundation

LinkedIn:  @encourage-kids-foundation

previous article
next article
No comments

leave a comment