By the early 1980s there was a stir within the membership for more “hands on” programs that would bring the satisfaction of seeing the results of philanthropic work locally. Some expressed concern that Project HOPE welcomed the funds we raised but provided no opportunity for personal contact. A few among the leadership raised concerns about supporting foreign countries.
National Council voted in August 1982 to explore “additional possibilities for a new national social service project” and to appoint a committee “to evaluate the need for an additional project.” As a result, representatives from the American Cancer Society spoke to Council members in March 1983. The information was shared with other officers at that year’s Leadership Conferences, but there was not a great interest.
In response to a growing concern among the membership about the lack of contact, National Council asked for more education about HOPE among the chapters. Foundation trustees arranged to hold their annual meeting at Carter Hall in May 1983 to meet with HOPE personnel and express this need.
Project HOPE started a publication for chapters called The Link, and distributed a pamphlet listing specific items and their costs so that Phi Mu chapters could raise money for tangible goals. Baby Care Kits, the Bridge of HOPE and a HOPE CPR program were introduced, but they proved to be too little and too late. The CPR program never caught on, and HOPE personnel asked to discontinue the Baby Care Kits and the earlier Pumpkin Pals programs in 1989. The Bridge of HOPE and Pumpkin Pals projects did continue for a short time.
Adoption of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals was first brought to National Council’s attention in June 1985 by Public Relations Director Lynne Mohrmann King (Bernthal), Alpha Kappa, and Collegiate Vice President Kathy Johnson Williams, Alpha Delta. They promoted it as having “great public relations potential.” Alpha Kappa Chapter and alumnae in Lynne’s hometown of Charleston already had adopted CMNH locally.
After hearing a presentation at its March 1986 meeting, National Council voted to “present CMNH at a business session of the 1986 National Convention and ask the membership to vote to adopt the project.” Project HOPE representatives were permitted to have a booth at the convention but were not allowed to participate in that business session.
Public Relations Director Lynne King had advised delegates in a letter dated March 11 that they would have the opportunity to hear a presentation and vote “if this will be an additional philanthropic opportunity for Phi Mu.” It was coming, she wrote, “in response to your many inquiries concerning projects that meet a local need and give tangible, visible results.”
Gloria Busby Henson, Epsilon Gamma, Social Service Chairman, introduced Cary Miller, Southeastern Regional Director of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Telethon. “Today you are going to learn of an option — an opportunity — which has been investigated, with the idea of enhancing our total social service picture, particularly at the local level,” she said. “It falls appropriately into children’s health care that has been our traditional thrust since the days of the Healthmobile and toy carts.”
Mr. Miller told of the 130 children’s hospitals that were members of CMNH. He explained that funds were raised yearly at a telethon produced by artists who volunteered their time and broadcast nationally by 160 stations. He emphasized that all the money raised through the telethons goes directly to the children’s hospital in the area in which it is raised, and there would be opportunities for interaction with local hospitals.
Delegates questioned how the money chapters raised would be handled so that an accounting could be kept. He suggested it go through Phi Mu Foundation, but the point was raised that the matter had not been discussed with trustees.
Consideration of such a momentous decision brought numerous other questions as well, not only about the new venture but the fate of the one already in existence – Project HOPE. Lynne King’s motion to adopt CMNH as an additional national philanthropy was tabled.
President Linda Beard Litter, Upsilon, appointed a committee to study the matter and to report back to the convention body. Gail Savage Highland, Delta Lambda, Margaret Mohrmann, Alpha Kappa, and Ada Martin Henry, Rho, comprised the committee.
Gail’s committee used a map to show that there were only a few locations where there was not a participating hospital to match with Phi Mu collegiate and alumnae chapters. It was explained that fundraising activities could take place at any time preceding the telethon.
An obvious appeal was that Phi Mu would have exposure on national television in presenting a check at the telethon, representing total funds raised by the chapters each year. Some chapters would be situated to an advantage to answer telephones and receive pledges during local telethon broadcasts.
In order to appear on the national telethon, however, a sponsor was responsible for raising a minimum of $100,000 the first year. By reaching this initial goal, representatives from the top fund-raising chapters – collegiate and alumnae – would attend the national telethon to present Phi Mu’s check. CMNH agreed to allow Phi Mu a grace period for raising this amount. It also promised that Phi Mu would be the only sorority sponsor.
After the committee had provided their information, Margaret Mohrmann moved “the adoption of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Telethon as an additional national philanthropy.” The motion was adopted.
History of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for children’s hospitals. Begun in 1983, CMNH’s first fund-raising effort was a special broadcast by 30 television stations, originating from a small studio in Provo, Utah.
Mick Shannon and Joseph Lake, president and executive vice president, shared a dream of creating a national organization and first class telethon that would raise significant amounts of money to benefit children. They started – literally – with a card table in the basement of Joe’s home. In the beginning they worked without pay. Some corporate donations for office space and travel carried them through the initial years.
One of their first accomplishments was obtaining the support of actor John Schneider and the Osmonds, a family of well-known entertainers. John Schneider and Marie Osmond agreed to co-chair the endeavor. The first telethon was aired live to 30 television markets in May 1983 from the Osmond Studios in Utah. It raised $4.7 million for the 22 hospitals that were affiliated with the organization at that time.
Growth came quickly. The 1988 telethon was broadcast to 170 television stations and raised more than $59 million for 160 hospitals. In those first six years more than $170,000,000 was raised. By the end of the 2001 telecast, a grand total of $2,013,825,760 had been raised.
CMNH’s founding pledge, to keep 100 percent of donations in the area in which they were raised and to put children first in all it does, remains at the core of its philosophy. Corporate sponsors and underwriters enable the telethon to be produced at a fraction of the cost of similar productions. Production facilities and hotel accommodations are donated, and celebrities who appear donate their time and talent.
Entertainment and sports celebrities volunteer to appear on the telethons and serve as national chairmen; they also visit hospitals, speak to groups and assist with fund-raising ideas. More than 65 corporations, associations and groups support CMNH with their fund-raising efforts. Phi Mu Fraternity is among the groups that are corporate partners.
CMNH produces the largest annual television fund-raiser in the world. Each year from 1987 until 1995, the 21-hour international television special originated live from Disneyland in Anaheim, California. In 1996 CMNH moved its broadcasts to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and renamed their campaign CMNH Champions – a reference to the children fighting to overcome illness and also to those who “champion” their cause.
The fund-raising campaign and broadcast continue to benefit 14 million children at 170 pediatric hospitals in nearly all states of the Union and in Canada. Each hospital has a CMNH Director on staff to coordinate fund-raising and related efforts. The affiliate hospitals serve all children, regardless of affliction or the family’s ability to pay. CMNH does not dictate how hospitals spend the donations; they can fund research, purchase new equipment or cover costs for children whose families are unable to pay.
At the turn of the century, the telethon is aired over a network of 200 television stations in the North America.
Fund Raising for CMNH
When Phi Mu began fund raising for CMNH, a check of at least $100,000 was required for sponsors to appear on the national telethon.
In the first year, chapters raised $53,539.55 for CMNH as well as more than $30,000 for Project HOPE. Because CMNH had granted the Fraternity a grace period for raising the required funds, Phi Mu representatives were allowed to appear on the 1987 telethon in spite of the shortfall. Kappa Lambda Chapter and Greater Summit, New Jersey, Alumnae Chapter sent representatives to Disneyland to present Phi Mu’s first check.
The following year $81,000 was raised for CMNH. It was not until 1989 that chapter fund raising made it over the goal; $113,087.67 was raised for CMNH, and an additional $44,803 was raised for Project HOPE. That year a 30-second video was prepared to show the television audience how Phi Mu chapters raised funds.
The yearly totals continued to increase, reaching over $200,000 in 1991 and continuing in that range until a record $343,346 was raised for the 1999 telethon, followed by another record $395,770 in 1999-2000. All in all, Phi Mu had contributed $3,687,677 for CMN from its adoption in 1986 through the 2001 telethon.
In 1988, CMNH increased to $250,000 the amount needed to qualify for a telethon appearance. Beginning in the year 2000, the new minimum was raised to $500,000 to maintain corporate sponsor status. At the same time the fund-raising year was changed from the school year to a calendar year.
The total of $437,559, though short of the goal, was a commendable amount, given the short notice. Representatives from Alpha Mu Chapter and SW Michigan Grand Rapids Alumnae Chapter presented Phi Mu’s check during taping of the 2001 CMN Champions Telethon. They also gave each Miracle Child a button depicting Phi Mu’s 150th anniversary logo.
Through the 2000-01 school year, the top CMNH fund-raising collegiate chapter was Beta Mu, which had contributed a total of $572,139 since 1986. The top alumnae chapter was Miami, Florida, which had raised a total of $127,267 for CMNH, followed closely by Seattle, Washington ($109,206) and
Baton Rouge, Louisiana ($90,605). Beta Mu Chapter had outstanding success with its Penn State Dance Marathon. Other chapters have participated in a dance marathon plan devised by CMNH. Popular fund-raising events include rock-a-thons, fashion shows, golf tournaments, breakfast with Santa events, skate-a-thons, duck races and selling CMNH balloons.
Although Phi Mu is the only women’s fraternity sponsoring CMNH, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Chi and Phi Kappa Theta also are sponsors, and on some campuses Phi Mu chapters are able to plan events in conjunction with these fraternities.
Source: Lamb, Annadell. C. The History of Phi Mu: The First 150 Years. The Grace Group, 2002. Print