Salt Lake City — Supermarkets have long rallied to the cause of treating sick children by supporting their local hospitals through the nonprofit organization Children's Miracle Network, based here.
This year food retailers are working even harder to break fund-raising records in celebration of CMN's 25th anniversary year.
The network's appeal to supermarkets is in its grass-roots reach of 170 children's hospitals affiliated with CMN across North America.
“The primary component that we look for in a charitable campaign is that 100% of the money raised at the store supports the community in which it serves. Children's Miracle Network is able to provide that,” said Kimberly Blackburn, a spokeswoman for Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C.
Since 1991, Food Lion has raised more than $25 million for 29 CMN-affiliated hospitals in Food Lion's 11-state operating area. And having Cathy Green, Food Lion's chief operating officer, serve on CMN's National Board of Governors further supports the retailer's commitment to the nonprofit. Of Food Lion's total charitable giving, 33% will go to CMN this year, said Blackburn.
CMN was established in 1983 by singer-entertainer Marie Osmond and actor John Schneider, who held an inaugural televised fund-raiser that raised $4.7 million. Last year, the annual broadcast raised $12 million through telephone pledges. All told, CMN says, it has raised more than $3.2 billion for 17 million children who have been treated through its hospital network.
Besides the telethon, other funding to meet this year's $250 million-$260 million goal comes from national corporate partners/sponsors, such as supermarkets (about $135 million); radio marathon events through local stations (about $50 million); direct mail (about $10 million); college campus dance marathons (about $6 million); and local events and sponsors working directly with local hospitals (about $37 million).
Food retailers also benefit from the organization's high brand recognition and its ability to work collaboratively on customized fund-raising efforts. Craig Sorensen, CMN's senior vice president, development and communications, said that CMN, which has a staff of 80 people, functions much like a media agency in working with its corporate partners.
The network's top food retailer contributors last year were: Wal-Mart Stores, $35.7 million; Costco, $12.4 million; Food Lion, $3 million; Giant Food Stores, $2.2 million; Publix, $1.6 million; and Kroger, $1.4 million.
Produce for Kids, an organization created in 2002 to promote fresh produce in kids' daily diets, also partners with CMN. Through its “Get Healthy, Give Hope” slogan, it raised $750,000 last year with aid from food vendors and retailers. The group is expected to raise $1 million this year.
Sorensen said most of the major food chains have supported the organization over the years by selling red and yellow paper balloon donations at checkout. To become a national corporate sponsor, a company must raise $250,000 or more.
But many food retailers like Food Lion go well beyond the traditional customer donations at checkout.
Food Lion's goal is to raise $4 million for CMN this year. The fund-raising efforts have three components: in-store balloon sales, outside fund-raising and associate contributions. Two in-store campaigns — Miracle Month in April and Children's Miracle Network Fall Festival, the first two weeks in October — are held each year.
Outside fund-raising events such as sports tournaments, car shows and bake sales are held throughout the year. This summer, Food Lion ran its sixth “Thriller on the Griller” tour at 13 stores in beach communities to benefit CMN. Customers who donated got a free grilled hot dog with chips and a drink.
Food Lion encourages its associates to tour CMN hospitals in their area. An important Food Lion initiative is health and wellness, said Blackburn. “Our partnership with CMN has provided opportunities to work with our local CMN hospitals in areas such as food allergies, child obesity and nutrition.”
Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Ark., is a 20-year CMN supporter and has raised a total of $400 million to date.
Wal-Mart's first goal this year was to raise $10 million in May alone. To do this, Wal-Mart challenged communities around the country to raise the most funds through Wal-Mart stores. The Atlanta metro region chalked up the most Miracle balloons sold, 272,000, during the month. The company rewarded the community and Wal-Mart associates with a free concert by country music singer Tracy Byrd.
Wal-Mart and the Sam's Club Foundation donated 2 cents for every safe mile driven by Wal-Mart's private-fleet drivers, raising $400,000 during a two-week period. The company also partnered with XM radio to sponsor the XMKids Traveling Roadshow, a 21-day bus tour across the country that did live broadcasts and hosted concerts outside Wal-Mart locations. Celebrities supported Wal-Mart's fund-raising events with in-store appearances by Marie Osmond, LeAnn Rimes, Mary Lou Retton and Miss America 2007, Lauren Nelson.
“At Wal-Mart, we believe in operating globally and giving back locally. Our relationship with CMN is special because of the vast network of children's hospitals. Each of our more than 4,000 stores and clubs across the United States supports a children's hospital in its home state,” said Shannon Frederick, Wal-Mart spokeswoman.
Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., has supported CMN drives for the last 15 years. In that period, the chain has raised $8.9 million through balloon sales. Publix offers shoppers who buy a $1, $3 or $5 balloon extra value with special savings on vendor products.
The funds have benefited over 17 hospitals in Publix's marketing area. “Our associates and customers know that the monies raised locally stay local to our communities. Thus, any monies raised for CMN in a specific area will be donated to the local CMN-affiliated hospital,” said Maria Brous, company spokeswoman.