Two 2023 American Legion Child Welfare Foundation grant recipients spoke during the virtual Children & Youth Conference on Sept. 16 about how the CWF grant is supporting their organization’s mission.
Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation was awarded $9,450 for its project “Heads UP Pittsburgh: Baseline Concussion Testing Partnership.” The grant is helping to provide baseline concussion testing and education for youth.
The mission of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation is to “be the champions of all youth in our community, on and off the ice, through the power of hockey.” The mission is supported through four pillars: wellness; youth hockey; education; and community. The Heads UP Pittsburgh Concussion Baseline Program falls under the wellness pillar.
The concussion baseline testing, known as ImPACT (Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), started in 2011 and began pediatric testing in 2015. ImPACT was developed in 1999 by University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Sports Medicine physicians and “is the first and only concussion-specific medical device to be approved by the FDA,” said Rob Dingle, HSD, LAT, ATC, concussion outreach coordinator for UPMC Sports Medicine. Over 30,500 tests have been administered to Pittsburgh area youth, as well as concussion education provided. “That is in itself pretty remarkable. The program just continues to grow.”
The computerized test provides data. “The test itself does not diagnosis a concussion,” Dingle emphasized. “The data that the test presents along with the bigger more important part of the whole process is the doctor coming in, performing a very thorough evaluation. That data helps reinforce what the doctor finds.”
There are two versions of the test – adult (ages 10-plus) and pediatric (ages 5-9) – it’s free for youth ages 5-18, and it’s offered in numerous locations throughout the Pittsburgh region. The CWF grant is helping to provide educational fliers and pamphlets for parents about:
· Concussion overview
· Common signs and symptoms
· What to do when injury occurs
· University of Pittsburgh Medical Center concussion treatment
“The thing with concussions, it doesn’t have to happen from sports. It can happen in everyday life,” Dingle said. “There is still a lot of unknowns, there is still a lot of questions on concussions and that’s why the education part of this is very, very important. Because we feel if we can educate those parents, educate those kids, … make them aware of the proper treatment, the proper things to do when injury does occur.
“Thank you for your support of this program; it is truly appreciated. Thank you for everything The American Legion does to help support kids and youth throughout the country.”
American Kidney Fund of Rockville, Md., was awarded $25,000 for its project “American Kidney Fund Virtual Camp: National Camp for Pediatric Kidney Patients.” This grant will help the American Kidney Fund conduct virtual camps for kids with kidney disease.
Prior to COVID, an in-person camp was held at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore where staff from the American Kidney Fund would spend time with the kids and provide activities. But once COVID hit, “the loneliness and isolation and the challenges the children were having becoming compounded, and so we pivoted from an in-person camp, and we moved to having a virtual camp with monthly activities,” said Daniell Griffin, senior director of Individual Giving for the American Kidney Fund. “Over the last couple of the years, this one virtual camp has now evolved to the National Virtual Camp. This is the fastest-growing program that we have at the American Kidney Fund.
“The greatest impact is seeing that kidney disease does not define who these children are. It increases their confidence and their self-esteem wow decreasing their feelings of isolation and loneliness. But more than anything it also gives them the opportunity to form friendships with other children who have a shared experience.”
In 2023, the camp expanded to include 11 children’s hospital centers across the United States with more 300 children participating. The virtual camp is held over Zoom and includes bingo, trivia night, science, magic and guided art classes. Materials are shipped to every child before the virtual camp at no charge to the families or hospitals that participate. And each child receives a swag bag. “It’s an opportunity for kids to connect with others who truly understand what they are going through,” Griffin said. “It provides children with a break from hospital treatment and allows them to enjoy just being a kid.”
Griffin provided a few camp testimonials:
"I haven't had many opportunities to make friends since starting high school because I was traveling so much for dialysis, had my kidney transplant, was in the hospital a lot, and COVID. This virtual camp has been my only opportunity to make new friends. " Lexie – camper
“She finally gets to feel like she is special. For so long she has been placed on many diet and lifestyle restrictions because of her CKD. This has been the first time she has received something positive from this condition.” Erin – parent
“On behalf of the children, the families, the American Kidney Fund, we just cannot thank you enough for your generosity and support of the National Virtual Camp,” Griffin said. “This program has made such a great impact in the lives of children and families.”