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WASHINGTON-For the last five years, credit unions have sponsored the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Race around the Tidal Basin in the nation’s capital, and each year that has meant more funding for the Children’s Miracle Network. Last Thursday, Credit Union Miracle Day, Inc. was to present a check to CMN at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for more than half-a-million dollars, about half of what had been raised the previous four years combined. Credit union dignitaries, including NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson and Vice Chairman Rodney Hood, CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica, and NAFCU President and CEO Fred Becker were slated to be there to help present the giant $515,000 check. Additionally, racing legend Bill Rodgers, race coordinator Phil Stewart, and Children’s Hospital patient champion Chris Young will be on hand. Sunday April 2 was the day of the big race but a number of events took place to kick off the fundraising for CMN, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children by raising funds and awareness for approximately 170 children’s hospitals throughout North America. Each year, CMN picks a child from each state to serve as an ambassador for the cause. CO-OP Network “wanted to up the ante” this year and sponsored CMN’s Champions Across America program which took 56 of its young patients on a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. and to see the president, according to CO-OP Network Vice President of Marketing Samantha Smyth. The whole trip cost about $1 million; CO-OP Network was helped out with the tab by six credit unions as well. Previously, the network had contributed half-a-cent per transaction, which totaled $2 million over the previous seven years, then two years ago underwrote CMN’s administrative expenses. “They come with their families to Orlando and go to Walt Disney World and talk with different media outlets, including television and radio,” she said. The trip was not only about getting out and having fun but networking with other families in a similar scenario, Smyth explained. Smyth, who traveled with the families, also participated in a medal ceremony for each of the children. “That was really a neat experience. They would raise both hands in the air like it was the Olympics,” she said. The purpose is to raise awareness of the needs of these very ill children. Their trip to Washington, D.C. targeted lawmakers, but, since Congress was in recess this year at the time of the visit, the children went straight to the top, meeting with President George W. Bush. During the wait to meet with him, the kids put on an impromptu talent show. Smyth commented, “It was really an overwhelming experience and really pretty emotional.I felt really proud to be a part of it and for CO-OP Network to be a part of it.” A gala was planned for Friday, March 31 with live and silent auctions. Some of the pieces for the silent auction included artwork from children around the world, put together by State Department Federal Credit Union. NAFCU Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Dan Berger, a local artist himself, was one of the judges of the kids work. “I was honored and humbled that Chuck Holmes and Jan Roche of the State Department Federal Credit Union asked me to be a judge,” he said. “Kids from around the world submitted some terrific art which really made judging difficult. Their talent is amazing.” According to NAFCU Director of Political Affairs Murray Chanow, more than 700 members of Congress and their staff signed up to run the 10-miler, more than ever before, which will give credit unions and CMN much-needed exposure on Capitol Hill. Additionally, the Maryland & D.C. Credit Union Association reported in its electronic newsletter that WJLA TV Channel 7, the Washington area’s local ABC affiliate, will air a half-hour special broadcast of the race on Saturday April 8 from 5:30 – 6:00 p.m. The race will also be featured in two half-hour shows on the Outdoor Life Network, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 29 at 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday May 2 at 4:00 p.m. Running on the YES Network and Direct TV will provide coverage as well for Saturday May 6 at 10:30 a.m. with 15 additional shows slated. As is tradition, a running clinic will be conducted Saturday before the race with professional runners Bill Rodgers, Greg Meyer and Kathrine Switzer. -

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