Profile Story: Blank Children’s Hospital

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By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter

A walk from the first tee to the 18th green at Wakonda Club is roughly 10,684 steps. That’s a shade under 5 miles. Heath care professionals recommend walking 10,000 steps a day.

And forward-thinkers at Blank Children’s Hospital, central Iowa’s only children’s hospital, have found a way for golf and walking to merge into a charity endeavor at the Principal Charity Classic through the “Steps for Charity Challenge.”

“This is a great audience, a huge community event, and a perfect opportunity for us to share our mission, which is keeping kids healthy,” said Brenna Finnerty, Annual Giving Director at Blank Children’s Hospital. “And we know healthy kids start with healthy families. This was a way to get everyone involved in the tournament.”

Blank Children’s Hospital is one of the Principal Charity Classic’s six designated “FORE Our Kids” Tournament Charity Partners. The tournament has distributed nearly $10 million to Iowa children’s charities in the past decade.

And a result of the charitable funds raised in 2016, Blank named one of the rooms in its new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit after the Principal Charity Classic.

“I really feel like it’s been a win-win for the Principal Charity Classic, and a win-win for us,” said Alissa McKinney, Senior Director of Development at Blank Children’s Hospital.

The “Steps for Charity Challenge” came out of some brainstorming in the months before the 2015 Principal Charity Classic teed off. A goal was set to reach five million steps on the Saturday of the 2015 tournament. This included players, caddies, volunteers and spectators. United Healthcare provided 5,000 free pedometers to spectators when they came through the gates on Saturday. Everyone was asked to log their steps when leaving Wakonda.

“Walking is truly the easiest way for people to start getting active, and it’s something you can do as a family,” Finnerty said. “Anyone can do it.”

Quester offered to donate $5,000 to Blank if the goal of five million steps was reached. Principal offered to match that. The goal was crushed. There were nine million steps turned in.

“Probably the coolest part was that people were really excited about it,” Finnerty said. “Husbands and wives competed. Kids were excited to beat their parents. One gentleman said he got over 10,000 steps.  I said, ‘Wow, you walked over five miles today.’ He said, ‘I’ve never walked five miles in my life.’”

And in 2016, the program grew even more, with steps logged on both Friday and Saturday of tournament week. Approximately 24.8 million steps were logged over those two days, besting the two-day goal of 20 million and raising $15,000 thanks to the support of Premier Credit Union, Quester and the Principal Charity Classic.

Now we head into 2017 with an expanded “Steps for Charity Challenge” program and a new set of goals.

Steps will again be counted on both Friday and Saturday of tournament week. And the goal? It’s been raised to 30 million total steps.

United Healthcare will donate 10,000 pedometers to those who don’t already log steps with a Fit Bit, Nike Fuel Band or other device. And Premier Credit Union and the Principal Charity Classic will donate a total of $15,000 to Blank if the goal is reached.

“Our goal is to keep kids out of the hospital,” Finnerty said. “This is one of the ways we can spread that message.”

Yes, it is a week-long golf event. But long term, the Principal Charity Classic generates money for charities that will make Des Moines a better place to live.

“We’re very proud of the Principal Charity Classic and what it’s allowed us to do,” McKinney said. “This is just a huge event for the community. Obviously it benefits the charities. It’s also a chance for everyone to get out and showcase Des Moines.”

And you can be part of it.  One step at a time.