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Golfers Raise 'Green' for Children's Hospitals

  • Dave Maier

Even a cursory look at today's headlines in U.S. newspapers confirms that the availability and affordability of health care is a top concern for Americans. An even briefer glance at the sports pages shows that Americans are also among the world's most rabid golf fans. Those two passions come together this week on a Walt Disney World Resort golf course outside Orlando, Florida, at the inaugural Children's Miracle Network Classic, presented by Wal-Mart. Dave Maier explains why everyone involved in this golf tournament could come out a winner.

The Children's Miracle Network (CMN), has been a driving force in the effort to provide quality health care to children for nearly a quarter-century. Its 173 member hospitals across North America rely on CMN's marketing expertise, media partners and corporate donors to raise funds for life-saving equipment, charity care and medical research. Since 1983, CMN has raised more than $2.7 billion, and its hospitals treat more than 17 million children each year for every condition imaginable.

With such an impressive reach, one might wonder why the network has partnered with a high-profile sporting event, but CEO Jim Hall says it's time for Children's Miracle Network to expand. "We look at this not as a departure but truly as a new opportunity," he explains. "We think it's a great platform to reach additional audiences with our brand and our mission and to expose people to the need for better children's health care in the U.S."

CMN officials say that with the countless number of human interest stories generated by their efforts, they've always been successful in reaching the hearts and wallets of a large audience, especially women. But crossing the gender gap with their message is another matter, hence the new partnership with the PGA tour.

But is simply having an event named after your organization enough? No, according to Sports Marketing professor Bill Sutton at the University of Central Florida. He says the sponsoring entity has to have a strategy, or a story to tell. "It's what you do with what you've bought. How you activate it. It's going to depend on how they get the opportunity to tell that story."

He explains that a story is what sticks with people. "It's not a sign. It's not a mention. It's not a commercial. There has to be a story. There has to be something to get me to understand and to buy in."

This tournament brings together three respected names: the Children's Miracle Network, the Professional Golf Association, and Walt Disney World, where the Classic is being held. Sutton believes it can be a win-win situation for everyone, as long as the Network can tell its tale with passion and precision.

One story that's making headlines at the Classic is the tale of MacKinzie Kline, 15, a promising young amateur from San Diego, California. Kline has a bright future as a golfer, but she explains, that would not have been possible without the Children's Miracle Network. "I was born with a congenital heart defect, and I've had two open heart surgeries before my second birthday, and I only have three chambers [in my heart] instead of four chambers."

Both of her heart surgeries were performed at a Children's Miracle Network hospital, and Kline has no doubt about the quality of the results. "They saved my life," she says simply, "and they're helping me to live a good life. And I haven't had any open heart surgeries since then. So that's a very good thing."

A very good thing, indeed. Kline made a full recovery, and in 2006, she was the top-ranked 14-year-old female amateur golfer in the world.

Jim Hall sees MacKinzie Kline's story as a shining example of why the Children's Miracle Network is now seeking a larger stage. "It's all about emotional engagement and a better understanding of what the organization is. And so I think throughout this tournament, there will be a lot of opportunity for people to reach out and understand Children's Miracle Network a little better, and walk away with a clearer understanding of how our programs impact and help children's health care."

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