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The toll of a weak economy this year has created a set back in sponsorship dollars for the Children’s Miracle Network, but the organization is seeing an even greater commitment on the part of the credit union community, according to Joe Dearborn, executive director for the Credit Union for Kids program.Overall, Dearborn said that the Children’s Miracle Network is fortunate to have been able to maintain its giving and stay flat this year with $9.3 million in donations to hospitals, and he is optimistic about the credit union program in 2010.“We’re putting the infrastructure in place to build a program so that when the economy recovers, we’ll be able to raise $12 million to $15 million a year.”This year, Dearborn said it has been vital to maintain funding because with people losing jobs and insurance, they take their children to a Children’s Miracle Network hospital because network offsets some of the cost of care.One funding area that particularly hit the network hard was the annual Cherry Blossom run. Dearborn said that some sponsors cut back or completely walked away from sponsorship. The run is a major annual fundraising event for the network.Credit union vendors, Dearborn said, have really stepped up this year to help bring in funding. The continuation of PSCU Financial Services as the lead sponsor for the run was vital, he added.CO-OP Financial Services has been matching transactions at ATMs for Children’s Miracle Network and Credit Unions for Kids since 1996. The vendor is in the third year of its Miracle Match program that benefits CMN.For the Miracle Match program, credit unions submit fundraising event ideas and CO-OP selects the events it will match dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000.“We’re pretty impressed with what credit unions have come up with in terms of creativity with event ideas. We barely need to market it, we already have applications in for 2010,” said Samantha Paxson, vice president of marketing at CO-OP.This past year, Paxson said that CO-OP had 130 participating credit unions and matched $1 million dollars in donations. Despite the impact the economy has had on financial institutions this year, Paxson said that CO-OP has not seen a decrease in credit union applications at all but instead an increase this year over last year.“CO-OP has really taken the lead in vendor partnerships in collaborating with the credit union community,” Dearborn said. “These partnerships have been vital to not taking a step back in funding this year.”The fact that CMN is funded by true grassroots efforts of $1 at a time and isn’t tied to a specific foundation or individual has helped the organization weather the downturn, Dearborn said.Drop in sponsorship dollars has depended upon the sector of the economy. Funds from sponsors like Rite-Aid and Costco have been up this year, Dearborn said, while Marriot has been flat and ReMax sponsorship dollars have significantly declined.In the hard-hit state of Florida, 20 credit unions recently ended a five-year campaign to raise $1.5 million for a Children Miracle Network hospital, All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. The funds went toward a new pediatric intensive care unit, which will open this month.Five years ago, Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union CEO Tom Dorety saw that various credit unions in the area each held a charity golf tournament and decided to bring the credit unions together to create one major event for a worthwhile charity.“We got the commitment from each of the CEOs for five years, and the credit unions contributed all operating costs based on asset size. All 20 credit unions stayed in and contributed every year,” Dorety said.To reach the goal of $1.5 million, the golf tournament had to raise $300,000 each year.This year, Dorety said that he was concerned, but with industry support and big sponsorship from CO-OP and Allied Solutions, the event reached the goal and raised more than $300,000 to culminate the five-year campaign.“We have a very wonderful and vibrant CEO group here in the Tampa Bay area,” said Bucky Sebastian, CEO of GTE Federal Credit Union.The group meets every month for breakfast to network and talk about “everything under the sun,” Sebastian said.“This is really emblematic for everything we stand for,” Sebastian said of the cooperative CU effort. “It wasn’t hard to pull together because of the quality of the charity.”Dale Schumacher, CEO of Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union, said that his credit union already had a relationship with the hospital so it made sense to join in the group effort to really leverage the credit union influence in the community.This year, all three CEOs said it was more difficult than past years to generate interest and funds.“It’s rewarding to be able to say that we collectively raised $1.5 million and I hope that we continue to do something jointly and collectively to benefit the whole Bay Region,” Schumacher said.Dorety said that the group has already discussed next year at its most recently CEO breakfast meeting and all credit unions have agreed to continue the collective effort and already have a few charities in mind.–[email protected]

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