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Miracles Happen

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Lourdes Vargas Nilon is closer to her work than most people may realize, and for very significant reasons. “My son was born prematurely—right here, at Memorial Hospital. He only weighed four pounds,” she revealed. As the program manager for the local chapter of the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) at Memorial Hospital, she is also fully aware of how much every vital second counts when it comes to saving a child’s life.

Whether it is a premature birth or helping a child with cancer, the CMN specializes in caring for the welfare of these children who find themselves in such vulnerable states. Bakersfield Memorial Hospital is a Children’s Miracle Network hospital, and the only one of its kind in all of Kern County. What that means to Bakersfield residents is that there is a place, right here in town, that has the specialized resources to care for our children. This also means that having to travel to Madera or Los Angeles for emergency medical care for a child will hopefully become a thing of the past.

The proceeds that the organization raises go toward purchasing state-of-the-art equipment that regular hospitals just don’t have—equipment that saves precious lives. It is the reason why they were able to open the only PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) in the Southern San Joaquin Valley recently and that Bakersfield Memorial Hospital was able to open the Children’s Medical Center.

“What people should understand is that whatever gift they give, whether it is a dollar or a thousand dollars, it turns into so much more,” Nilon elaborated. “This all goes toward equipment and services that will literally save the life of a local child. You just can’t place a value on something like that.”

With the help of Kern residents, the organization has been able to truly work miracles!

“We have quite a few events every year that we hold to raise funds for the network,” Nilon said. “One thing that I can say about the community in Kern County is that they take care of their own, and they care for their children. I have been nothing short of amazed at the generosity and the lengths that people will go to to help this cause!”

The CMN does, in fact, hold many fundraising events locally each year, and Nilon has been witness to many selfless acts from people in the community, all for the sake of helping these children and their families. There are the Spanish and the English mediathons (which are presented separately through the efforts of local radio and television stations), and there are also several balloon campaigns from their corporate sponsors. Wal-Mart, Rite Aide, Costco, and Kern Schools Federal Credit Union all offer paper balloons ranging in price from $1 to $100+ for customers to purchase and to display their name and support! Through the Kohl’s Cares program, Kohl’s sells $5 plush toys that are accompanied by a book to help raise funds for the network, as well.

Nilon can say, firsthand, that in both community and corporate based events, the people of Bakersfield are completely passionate about helping this cause. For the last English mediathon, the hospital had what they call the “Compassion Corner,” where those directly involved in the fundraiser were outside of Memorial with cans trying to collect donations. Nilon recalled several heart-warming instances, like how a man with very limited resources still gave everything that he had in his pocket and how there were children showing up to pledge everything they had saved up in their piggybanks.

Similarly, employees that work for the sponsoring corporations will go above and beyond to try to sell those balloons. She has met people that work at local Wal-Marts, for example, that will have competitions with each other over who will sell the most balloons. Many of these people have been affected by the trauma that comes with having a prematurely born or sick child. And 100 percent of the proceeds that are raised locally stay local. This means that everything donated for the CMN here in Bakersfield—whether it is by calling in to their annual mediathon and pledging a donation or by purchasing a paper balloon for $1—will all go to the Children’s Medical Center at Memorial.

The most anticipated event for this year is the first of its kind in Bakersfield! It is called the Dance Marathon. Students at CSUB stepped up and are working hard to make this event a big one. Traditionally, the marathon relies totally on the students, right down to the very interest in hosting. The first student to sashay to the forefront was Hilda Nieblas, who is now the Dance Marathon Club

President. Nieblas had heard about another school doing the marathon earlier this year. As she was elected to the board of student services, she asked the assistant director

of the student union, Emily Poole, to contact Nilon and get things moving.

“The thought of not having the healthcare that your child needs when they need it the most is devastating,” said Nieblas. “That, alone, is enough to make this a cause worthy of helping.”

Poole was happy to assist Nieblas in the process. They had to get approval from a myriad of places— including from school boards and security—but the college was supportive of the idea from the get-go. “The students took the initiative,” Poole said. “This is all about the campus community. These girls are wonderful examples of how college students can make a big difference in their community.”

The girls Poole is referring to are Nieblas, Amalia Sanchez (the Chair for dancer relations), and Jacqueline Martinez (Chair of publicity and advertising), all CSUB students who have dedicated their time and labor to bring the Dance Marathon to Bakersfield. As the theme indicates, the purpose here is to “Dance for those who can’t.” Their goal is to get 200-300 students to join and, as a result, raise $5,000.

The event is scheduled for May 18-19 at CSUB in the SRC Gymnasium, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and the point is to stay standing for the full 12 hours, and to try to keep moving. In order to assist with this, the Dance Marathon committee has planned several activities, nabbed some choreographers, and has many different clubs (from ballerinas to cheerleaders!) assisting with the event to keep participants on their feet. Children who were treated at Memorial will be there with their families to encourage people to keep on dancing! Students shouldn’t find the task too daunting, as the activities are sure to be fun and informative and food and drinks will be provided throughout the night.

Still, you don’t have to be in college to help make miracles. You don’t even have to leave your house! Go to http://helpmakemiracles.org/event/RunnerDM/ and click on the link to “Donate To This Event.”

For more information on our local Children’s Miracle Network, contact Lourdes Vargas Nilon at (661) 327-4647 ext 4640 or visit www.supportbakersfield.org.

Article appeared in our 29-1 Issue - April 2012