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Local credit union takes fundraising personally

The local impact of credit union fundraising for Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals through Credit Unions for Kids (CU4Kids) forges exceptional connections between credit unions, staff and members, and their communities. Just ask Ashley Vandermause, Chief Financial Officer at UnitedOne Credit Union in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Vandermause believes CU4Kids fundraising not only helps the community by supporting a critical resource for children and families, but also strikes a personal chord with team members and credit union members whose family and friends have received care at a children’s hospital.

Ashley Vandermause

“You’re not always aware when you first meet them, but most people know a neighbor, a coworker, somebody who has received care at Children’s Wisconsin, and they can tie in our fundraising with that personal connection,” Vandermause says. UnitedOne’s fundraising also has a direct impact on Children’s and the communities it serves, supporting hospital and children’s health programs that make life better for local families.

Families see the connection as personal

For Vandermause and her husband Troy, the personal connection to Children’s Wisconsin began with the birth of their first child in 2012. “A few hours after he was born, our son stopped breathing,” Vandermause says. “They rushed him to the NICU [at Children’s Wisconsin–Fox Valley] where he was able to get the best care and was surrounded by family.” A few days later, he passed away.

Despite the extraordinary difficulty, Vandermause believes she and her family were lucky to receive care at Children’s. “The children’s hospital was connected to the hospital where I gave birth; they’re part of the same campus,” she explains. “I had a C-section and was still recovering. If the hospitals had not been connected, I probably wouldn’t have been able to be present for the few days we had with our son. My parents would have been torn as well: They wanted to be with their grandson but wanted to be there for me as their daughter. Because of the way the hospitals were set up, we were spared some of the stress of being separated. As it turned out, the day I was discharged from the hospital was the day we had to say goodbye.”

The Children’s team provided excellent care, but also compassion and support: “The care that the team gave to our family that whole week—they gave their heart and soul every single day. You could tell that they truly cared about every situation and each one of their patients,” Vandermause says. “At the time, I don’t know if we could appreciate it fully. There was so much happening. But looking back, we’re so appreciative of the care we received.”

Vandermause Family

Resources extend far into the community

The Vandermauses’ story doesn’t stop there: They have three more children, two of whom have received care through Children’s Wisconsin. “One of our children worked with speech pathology and our son was admitted to the hospital with what turned out to be a sprained ankle,” Vandermause says. For ongoing treatment, the Vandermauses have been able to work through a program called Care Closer to Home. “We’ve been able to do some of the treatments at home, limiting how much time our children are missing school. We’re fortunate to have family help out, but the Children’s main location is an hour and a half from our home, so going there could mean missing a full day of work or school, depending on the timing of their appointments.”

Programs like Care Closer to Home exist in part because of support from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and credit unions who fundraise, like UnitedOne. “We’re grateful to all the people who donated to make programs like this possible,” says Vandermause, whose first-hand experience also gives purpose to her own fundraising efforts. “When we needed these resources, they were there for us. Now we’re just trying to pay it forward, so other families will have that opportunity too.”

Local CU4Kids fundraising means community impact

The local impact of CU4Kids fundraising is key. “Support from UnitedOne benefits Children’s Wisconsin directly,” explains Caitlin Fahey, CMN Hospitlas Program Director at Children’s. “Funds from CMN partners like UnitedOne are unrestricted, so we’re able to use them where they’re needed most.”

Wherever credit unions fundraise for CMN Hospitals, proceeds go to children’s hospitals in their communities, so the benefits of fundraising have local impact. Keeping funds local promotes the credit union mission of helping communities thrive. And it reinforces the personal connections staff and members have with their local CMN Hospital.

Those connections run both ways, as hospitals appreciate the chance to reach out to their local communities for support. “Partners like UnitedOne help us stay connected to our local community, providing valuable resources as we strive to make our kids the healthiest in the nation,” says Fahey. “Since 2013, UnitedOne has raised nearly $50,000 for Children’s to help eradicate disease and innovate healthcare, empower families to build strong communities, and create solutions for mental and behavioral health.”

Putting heart into community involvement

UnitedOne CEO Kim Rooney sees CU4Kids fundraising as a unique opportunity to make a difference in the local community while giving staff and members a worthy cause to rally behind: “UnitedOne has been a strong supporter of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals for as long as I can remember,” Rooney says. “CMN Hospitals is a nationally recognized organization, yet our members also value Children’s Wisconsin and everything they do for children and their families in our local community. And, of course, we have personal connections to CMN Hospitals through Ashley and many other staff members and credit union members whose children have received treatment at a CMN Hospital.”

Vandermause tries to take an active role in CU4Kids fundraising at UnitedOne. Past fundraising has included candy sales, Chain of Hearts pledges in UnitedOne branches, and “round-up” campaigns that round member transactions up to the nearest dollar with CMN Hospitals donations. Additionally, Vandermause is an active volunteer for Children’s helping the hospital promote philanthropy within the local business community. Although her 23 years in the credit union industry (five of which have been at UnitedOne) already make Vandermause a committed credit union professional, her work with Children’s Wisconsin has been a career highlight and one of the reasons she is passionate about the industry.

Like so many of UnitedOne’s members and staffers who have supported CMNH throughout the years, Vandermause is enthusiastic about contributing. “Everybody loves children,” she says. “Everybody wants healthy children and they want to support this cause, even when they aren’t connected to it personally.”

But Vandermause is also convinced that it’s personal—or maybe, essentially human—to respond with empathy when kids and their families need help. “Most people do have a connection, whether or not they’re aware of it,” she says. “It’s great for us to be able to help them find that connection, to bring us all together and help make things better.”