Two big-hearted and generous business women, who own successful retail stores in our service area, gave a remarkable gift to Children's Hospital Central California by presenting a large check to our Child Life department recently.
Shanda Pierce owns Spirit of Halloween Superstores in Fresno, Clovis, Modesto and Turlock and Stephanie Kachadurian owns them in Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno and Merced. During the 2010 Halloween season, they worked together to raise $32,175 for our kids.
Pierce loves the opportunity to give to Child Life departments at hospitals like ours. “It’s really special to us,” she said.
Pierce’s 16 year old son spent eight days at Children's Hospital for kidney surgery last June. “The people are the most comforting, amazing people,” she said of the doctor and nurses who cared for her son. “I love them. I love them!”
Spirit of Halloween Superstores are open for eight short weeks from late August through the first day in November, but in that brief span of time, Spirit stores promote a cause that makes a positive difference in the lives of sick and injured kids all year long.
Based in New Jersey, the Spirit of Halloween Superstores operates stores throughout the United States and in Canada. A few short years ago corporate executives launched “The Spirit of Children” Campaign to raise money in their corporately owned stores for Child Life departments within the children’s hospitals located in their communities. The event’s enormous success inspired them to share the concept with Spirit store owners everywhere. Pierce and Kachadurian became involved with the campaign three years ago.
Every day that the businesswomen’s stores are open, their employees invite customers to participate in the Spirit of Children campaign by purchasing purple bracelets encircled with pumpkins and the words “The Spirit of Children.” The $2 purchase price of the bracelets also gives customers the opportunity to sign their name to a paper purple pumpkin and have it hung on the store’s walls. “We ran out of room,” said Justin Burd, manager of the Shaw & West store in Fresno and the Shaw & Villa store in Clovis
Pierce said of Burd, “He grew up at Children’s Hospital Orange County.”
Born with a heart defect, Burd well remembers the encouragement and hope given him daily by Child Life specialists during his long hospital stays. Now in his late 20s, he will never again be a patient in a children’s hospital, but he will forever be a champion of Child Life. He held up his wrist and modeled a purple bracelet with the pumpkins and lettering illegible after months of wear. “Everyone thinks it’s for the Lakers,” said Burd. “But I tell them it’s for the children.”
“We’re so proud of all of our managers,” said Pierce. “They’re the ones asking the customers to give.” She commended Burd for his untiring efforts each day of the store’s eight-week season to solicit donations from customers.
Burd humbly shrugged and praised the customers’ generosity. “We put out a jar for change,” he said, indicating the size of the container with his hands. “People would drop in coins all day. We’d have twenty to thirty dollars by the end of the day from that!” he exclaimed.
Since the Spirit of Halloween Superstores began this effort in 2007, they have raised over $5.2 million dollars for Child Life departments in local communities all across America and into Canada. Corporate executives encourage local store owners to keep the money in their own communities, but insist they donate all monies raised exclusively to Child Life departments.
“This year one hospital in Texas received over $100,000 from its community,” said Pierce. “So we’re in competition.” She grinned.
Jim Meinert, vice president of philanthropy at the foundation, expressed his amazement at Pierce and Kachadurian’s ability to nearly triple their gift to Children's Hospital Central California in just one year, and commended them for all they had done to raise over $50,000 in the past two years. “You’re among our top donors,” said Meinert. “From the bottom of our hearts, your hearts are in the right place.”
Last year the businesswomen presented Children’s with a check for over $13,000.
Because all contributions stay in the local communities, all the money raised in Pierce’s and Kachadurian’s Spirit of Halloween Superstores from Bakersfield to Modesto was generously donated to Children's Hospital Central California.
In addition to giving us $32,175 this year, the businesswomen were able to donate to three other hospitals as well. “We’re giving over $100,000, but it’s our customers that are giving,” said Pierce.
The large check presented recently is just one way our local Spirit of Halloween Superstores help the kids here at Children's.
In mid-October managers and employees of the Spirit of Halloween Superstores come to our Child Life classroom and throw a big Halloween party. They bring costumes and every child at the party gets to choose one to wear.
“We call the companies we buy from and ask if they can donate,” said Pierce. And their vendors graciously comply, contributing Halloween essentials from costumes to magic wands.
“We see Halloween as a celebration,” said Pierce. “We want the kids in the Hospital to be able to celebrate too, so we bring it to them.”
“We set up stations,” said Kachadurian. The children visit the various stations for craft projects like making pillows, masks or picture frames. “We even have Halloween books for the little ones to read,” she said. They’ve also provided coloring books and face-painting for our children.
Burd never misses an opportunity to give back. He was here last October interacting with the children at the various stations. “They were so happy,” said Burd, encouraged by his opportunity to recreate the warm memories he experienced through the Child Life activities he enjoyed as a young patient.
Children's Hospital Central California sincerely thanks the Spirit of Halloween Superstores, Shanda Pierce and Stephanie Kachadurian, and all their employees for their generosity and their heart for the spirit of children. After all, purple pumpkins don’t grow on trees.
For a related story, read how the Spirit of Halloween helps make our annual Halloween Parade possible.