September 24, 2018 | ° F

Embrace Kids Foundation explains donation process

Photo by Dennis Zuraw |

Embrace Kids Foundation at 121 Somerset St., New Brunswick is a key charity that receives donations from various Rutgers organizations such as the Rutgers University Dance Marathon. The charity helps families in need, which includes helping with bills or gas.

Rutgers University Dance Marathon raised more than $500,000 last year for Embrace Kids Foundation, an organization that provides free services for children who have been diagnosed with cancer, sickle cell disease or some other blood disorder.

Matthew Mednick, director of finance for RUDM, said when funds come into RUDM, they are not collected and given all at once, but rather they are distributed to the foundation as soon as they are donated.

“If someone goes online right now and donates to my page, that money is immediately filtered to Embrace Kids,” said Mednick, a Rutgers Business School senior. “It’s not like once a year from DM they get this lump sum payment, [rather] it filters down throughout the year. It’s a much better, more liquid process for them.”

Anything that ends up in RUDM’s Student Activity Business Office account, including funds from canning and the marathon itself, all get donated, he said. After any leftover operating costs are paid for, the remaining amount is given as one check after the event.

Funding for the marathon itself, as well as operating costs, all comes from various means, Mednick said.

“In terms of our operating budget, we get funding [through] … football and basketball concession stands,” he said. “This is purely for our operating budget from the concession stands. We are funded through allocations like a lot of other organizations.”

RUDM is funded directly from Student Life through the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, and JoAnn Arnholt, dean of the OFSA, oversees the fundraiser.

Along with OFSA and allocations, RUDM also receives co-sponsorship from the Rutgers University Programming Association, because the event involves musical performances from both DJs and bands, Mednick said. Bar nights and apparel sales also attribute to RUDM operating costs. Transparency is key when it comes to fundraising for RUDM.

“If I’m going canning, it’s for Embrace Kids,” he said. “If I’m running the football concession stand, that’s for our operating budget.”

After RUDM turns the money over to Embrace Kids Foundation, it is then used in various ways to help families who are currently in, or just out of, the program, said Glenn Jenkins, executive director for Embrace Kids Foundation.

Not all of the funds go directly toward the families, he said. Each family receives a base amount, as well as services that are provided by the foundation. Depending on the need of the families, each is looked at on a case-by-case basis.

As far as funding for Embrace Kids Foundation, RUDM makes up about 1/3 of their annual budget, Jenkins said. Last year, the foundation’s total budget was about $1.5 million. About 80 percent of that goes back to programs that help the families.

The Embrace Kids Foundation’s “Where the Donations Go” form shows that about 50 percent goes toward social services, emergency financial assistance and the David E. Zullo Pediatric Palliative Care Program. The other 50 percent is used for program events and family services.

According to the form, a breakdown of amounts donated shows potential donors how much money is used for various programs and services.

“Nine-hundred and sixty dollars would provide 24 hours of home health care services by a PACCT nurse through the David E. Zullo Pediatric Palliative Care Program,” according to the document. “Fifty dollars would provide a meal for a family.”

Embrace Kids offers five core programs used to help families in the foundation, Jenkins said. The first is emergency financial assistance. This includes helping with bills, gift cards for gas or groceries and any type of daily or monthly budget issues.

The foundation offers individualized tutoring, he said, allowing children in the program to keep up with their studies.

“We have two tutors who work directly with the kids each day, making sure they stay together and up-to-date when it comes to school,” Jenkins said.

Embrace Kids also offers a variety of care programs, including nurses who go out to children’s homes, he said. The care resembles the same care that would be given to elderly people who live in a home.

“This is kind of unusual. Usually kids need to come to the children’s hospital to get nursing care and treatment,” he said. “This program goes out to their homes. That’s expensive care to send a nurse with [chemotherapy] out to the home.”

The fourth program the foundation offers is providing a grant to the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, to fund different support positions, Jenkins said. These include child life, counselors, social workers and nurses.

Family services make up the final program, which includes fun activities for the families, he said. Parties, holidays and lunches are all included under this umbrella term. Embrace Kids does things on a weekly basis to provide some fun for the kids.

“We also have two full-time [staff members] and one part-time staff member who are the family liaisons,” he said. “They go over each day and meet with the families to see how they can help them.”

Along with the programming, there is a need-based part of financial assistance for families who fall under the “extraordinary challenges” category, he said. These are determined on a case-by-case basis, but include single-parent homes, immigration barriers, multiple kids in the family who are sick and more.

“Right now, we have a two-year-old cancer patient whose mom was just diagnosed with breast cancer,” he said. “That qualifies under the extraordinary clause. Unfortunately, we have a lot of extraordinary challenges, [such as] the kids who have lost limbs due to their cancer, if a child [has] had to lose an arm or leg as part of their treatment.”

There are about 100 new cases of children diagnosed with cancer each year, he said. Along with new cases, there may be rollover cases from the prior year. The cases work on a rolling basis, and as one family wraps up treatment, another joins the program. At any given time, there are 50 to 60 families receiving all five programs of service from Embrace Kids, along with financial support.

According to their website, Embrace Kids was founded in 1991 by a group of parents, staff and friends from the Institute for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders. The name was changed to Embrace Kids Foundation in 2007.

By Shawn Smith

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