January 26, 2011

The Kids are Alright

Kristen A. Beall, Ed.D.

Bryan Lynn, Kern Community Foundation and Sue Benham, Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Foundation Tour Children's Medical Center

Yes, the kids are alright. This was my first thought after recently meeting Sue Benham, Chief Development Officer of Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Foundation, and touring their Children's Medical Center Initiative along with Community Foundation Board member Bryan Lynn.

Nearly one year ago, I received  a phone call from Kern Community Foundation Board member, Judi McCarthy, inviting me to join Kern Community Foundation as its President and CEO. This was the moment I had been waiting for. By that time, I'd spent more than fifteen years working in the nonprofit sector, including four years as Vice President of the Community Foundation of Central Florida. My career ambition was to lead a community foundation and with Judi's call I was being offered that opportunity. When I shared the news, a good friend pointed out that with this job I would be one of the youngest community foundation CEO's in the country and then quipped, "Don't wreck the place!" No pressure there. Curiously, the real pressure that followed had nothing to do with the expectations of my new job. My main concern was about the health and well being of my family -- particularly access to quality healthcare -- as we prepared to move across country to our new home in Bakersfield.

As the father of two young children, I have often used the expression that being a parent is "like having your heart running around in someone else's body."  My wife, Stephanie, and I have taken great care to ensure our children's well-being and to make choices that give them the greatest opportunity to live happy, healthy lives.  Even before children, Stephanie and I were privileged with loving families, close friendships, excellent education and access to some of the best healthcare providers our country has to offer. We both come from familes with medical backgrounds -- doctors, nurses, nuclear medicine technologists (yes, those too) -- and we have both worked with some of the most prestigious healthcare systems in the country.  Quality patient care, academic medical education, translational research and charity care -- these are the priorities that we hope to find in a healthcare system.

When friends and family began to share health statistics about the county we were moving too, I can honestly say that I was somewhat concerned. I won't bother rehashing the grim reality of what many of us already know about the overall health status of Kern county -- those statistics can be readily accesed through online resources like Healthy Kern, which is supported in part by Kern Community Foundation. What I am proud to share, however, is the fact that Kern County is the place that we have chosen to call home, and in our home we believe in being part of the solution, not the problem.

Fast forward to January 26, 2011. I am nearing the end of my first year as President and CEO of Kern Community Foundation, my home is regularly filled with new friends -- some long-time Bakersfield residents and some newcomers just like us -- and the kids have not been expelled from St. Francis Parish School. Life is good, and made much better by the peace of mind I received from learning about the Children's Medical Center Initiative at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. During my recent visit, Sue Benham shared some of the priorities where philanthropy can make a difference:

  • a gift to the only Pediatric ICU in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.
  • support for construction of an expanded Pediatrics Department for acute care patients (see photo).
  • help to maintain the recently expanded Neonatal ICU, providing state of the art care for the hospital's tiniest patients.

Online contributions to this important community resource can be made through Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Foundation's profile on our online Nonprofit Search. Click here and "Donate Now" to do your part to make life better for Kern's kids. With your help, they'll be alright. 

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