Kathy and Tim Donnelly’s son Liam is an active, healthy 10th grader. But years ago, when he was in first grade, he was treated for two health issues at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) — and the experiences made a strong impression on the Donnelly family.
The first event was “pretty scary,” as Tim puts it. Liam fell out of a tree while the family was in Ocean City, N.J., and broke his arm badly. “The local hospital felt it was beyond their capability,” explains Tim, so the family rode in an ambulance to CHOP. At the Emergency Department, the first doctor who examined Liam noted some numbness in Liam’s fingers that didn’t seem quite right, so he called in a colleague. They determined that, because of the complexity of the break, Liam needed surgery that evening.
“We noticed how everyone at CHOP responded,” says Tim. “Everyone went out of their way to figure out what could possibly be done to fix it and to reassure us.”
Liam’s surgery and recovery went smoothly, and indeed, later on the Donnellys learned of a kid on Liam’s baseball team who went through a similar situation and ended up with a complicated recovery. “We realized we’re very fortunate that we were sent to CHOP and that CHOP had the capabilities they have,” says Kathy.
The second event wasn’t scary, just surprising. The school nurse discovered Liam’s eyesight wasn’t good, although until then, it had seemed perfectly fine. One eye was actually very weak but he’d been compensating for it. “The local doctor couldn’t really tell what was going on,” says Tim. A doctor at CHOP’s Specialty Care & Surgery Center in Bucks County, near their home, was able to diagnose the problem and come up with a treatment plan. “Again, CHOP had the level of expertise to figure out what was going on,” says Tim.
Helping other kids get CHOP-caliber care
Considering their experiences, Tim and Kathy realized they wanted to help more kids get access to CHOP’s experts when needed. So in 2019, they made a $35,000 pledge over five years to the Children’s Fund, CHOP’s unrestricted fund. When donors give gifts that are unrestricted, the funds bridge the gap between resources and breakthroughs and are used where the need is greatest.
Liam is currently running cross country, and he's been active in select choirs and school musicals. He enjoys gaming and built his own computer. He and his older sister, Kiera, who’s in 12th grade, both go to CHOP’s Primary Care Center in Central Bucks. “We love the folks at that practice, too, and we're glad that it's tied to CHOP if more special expertise is needed,” says Kathy. “We’ve been so lucky to have CHOP as a resource, and it’s important to us to try to make this available to other people.”
This is just one of the many stories of donor impact that happened during the campaign For Tomorrow’s Breakthroughs.