Oak Grove Walmart associates and community members celebrated the annual kickoff for the Children's Miracle Network fundraiser Monday at the store with a mayoral proclamation and cake cutting.
Regular Walmart shoppers may recognize the colorful umbrellas hanging upside down from the roof near the registers from previous campaign years. Shoppers are invited to make donations to the Children's Miracle Network by tossing loose change into the umbrellas during the 4-week campaign.
Donations made to the Children's Miracle Network benefit the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, also known as the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, said Karen Hunter-Lowery, CMN senior director.
Walmart and CMN have a partnership that has spanned 30 years, she said. In that time, the company has donated $1 billion to the charity.
"We appreciate everything you all will do to make this campaign a success," Hunter-Lowery said to associates. "There is no other company on the planet that has given $1 billion to a single charity. The Walmarts and Sam's Clubs in Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky have raised more than $11 million just for Vanderbilt Children's Hospital."
Last year, Oak Grove Walmart raised $15,000 for the charity. This year, the store's goal is $20,000. During the ceremony, City of Oak Grove Mayor Theresa Jarvis read a proclamation announcing this year's theme as "Super heroes -- not everyone wears a cape."
Vianney Pagan, the store's personnel manager, said she gets very excited and competitive when it comes to the fundraiser.
"I'm the Children's Miracle Network champion here at our Walmart and I take that very seriously," Pagan said. "All of it is for the children. Every year we generate more money than the last and I plan on continuing that."
The campaign is special to Pagan, because she has a connection to the charity, she said. Her baby received care at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.
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"I was completely scared out of my mind and didn't understand what was going on. I didn't know how I could help my child," she said. "When I got there, the staff are just amazing and the facility is amazing. My daughter didn't even know she was at a doctor's appointment. It calmed me down some. I'm a first time mom."
Since then, her daughter has made a full recovery, she said.
"We are so grateful to the hospital and it's staff," she said.
In addition to donating at registers and self-checkout, shoppers and associates can make donations through the "Check Out With Me" app. The store also will host bake sales and other activities to raise money, Pagan said.
"This campaign lives or dies at the register," said Hunter-Lowery. "No ask means no donation."
Hunter-Lowery added this cause is especially worthy as it serves children from the store's local community. Last year, 4,520 children from Christian County were treated at the hospital.
Overall last year, 414,214 patients visits to the hospital were made, she said.
"On any given day, more than 1,800 parents will travel through the children's hospital seeking care for their child. Of those, about 150 children will come to the hospital through the emergency department with an urgent need," she said.
Pagan said when shoppers are asked to donate at the register, they should stop and think about their decision.
"I'm sure all of our customers have some kind of connection to the children's hospital," Pagan said. "They really need to think about if they will use that change or if it's just going to wind up under the couch. Just that little bit of change really can make a world of difference. It may not seem like it at the time, but it all adds up."
During the ceremony, associates Maggie Davis and McKayla Lewis were recognized for going above and beyond during the campaign in previous years.
Davis has collected donations for the cause all six years she has served as a cashier.
"It's very important to me so the families don't have to worry about paying a big medical bill and so the children can get better and live a full life," Davis said.
As of the ceremony, Davis had already collected about $50 in donations from shoppers. She said her goal is to raise as much money as possible.
"We aren't going to get a donation from every person, but every person who does donate is a big help," Davis said.