Ever use that expression “it can’t get better than this” only to find it can? That situation is exactly what I might say in describing what happened during this year’s Big Change Roundup for Kids!

Last year, we hit a new record of $268,000 in change raised when we finally finished collecting the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters both on the air and in the several weeks that followed our annual set of broadcasts on WOKO.

To be honest, I worried that last year was so spectacular we might not be as successful this year in getting close to that number of dollars raised—but I forgot to account for one critical factor—the incredible generosity of the many in our community who recognized how they could make a difference in the lives of children by donating their change—and from the thousands of change bandits came hundreds of thousands of dollars in change—so that we can continue to “keep the care to children local while also keeping it the best” at our University of Vermont Children’s Hospital.

Who would have ever thought we would go off the air at a number higher than our overall total last year— $292,755.96— and that only days later we would be well over $300,000, measured in terms of almost three tons of change.

The Big Change Roundup may appear at first glance to be a major fund-raiser for our children’s hospital, but what it really is is a major “friend-raiser” as it resulted in thousands of people from across Vermont and upstate New York joining together to enable us to continue to be the most child-friendly, family-centered high quality children’s hospital possible—and to enable us to be able to support programs and services that either save lives or put smiles on the faces of our young patients.

While I am rarely at a loss for words, it is difficult to put into a blog the words needed to express my thanks and gratitude for the many who raised the change and then brought it to us during the five days we collected it at various sites here in Vermont and upstate New York. Every bandit I met (and I met many –both new and returnees) had an unforgettable story to tell about why they were bringing in the change—and each story simply further solidified our commitment to using this change in ways that can make the most difference for the children and families we serve, while also making sure our UVM Children’s Hospital will always be there when families need us.

The Big Change Roundup is an ongoing partnership between country radio station WOKO and our hospital with help from some wonderful sponsors, including Maplefields, New England Federal Credit Union, Pete’s RVCenter, and Walmart, and many other businesses, community groups, schools and individual families.

I am especially grateful again for WOKO’s dedication, enthusiasm, and investment in time and effort from January through March, during which time they educated and energized listeners to support our children’s hospital through the Big Change Roundup. If you listened even for just a few minutes during our five days of broadcasting the Roundup (March 6-10), you heard the emotion and tears of joy and gratitude shed by so many, as well as by me, and you hopefully understood what this event means to all of us who care for our pediatric patients—an event that exemplifies the mission of our UVM Children’s Hospital and in turn all of us who work at the UVM Medical Center and in turn the UVM Health Network

On behalf of our incredible staff, and the thousands of children who are served by us each year, I want to close out this year’s Roundup by simply saying a “big thanks” for the “big change” and the generosity extended to us by all who participated in this record-breaking event. I am proud to be part of the extraordinary staff who make up our children’s hospital—but also to have been part of an extraordinary event that enabled so many to be “First with the Big Change Roundup, First with the UVM Children’s Hospital and of course “First” with kids!”

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. 

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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