Children’s For Children Honor Is One for the Books

Patrick Edmunds, with his daughter, Caroline, who illustrated the book.

Over the past year, real-life heroes in the Cincinnati Children’s community have stepped forward to provide support and stability during a trying time.

Take, for example, Children’s for Children (CFC), our childcare service. For 25 years, CFC staff has inspired curiosity and a love of knowledge in countless kids. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, they kept their doors open, demonstrating their flexibility, creativity and unshakeable commitment to helping kids pursue their potential.

“They were willing to flip their whole operation upside down for families that needed care,” said Patrick Edmunds, business manager, Division of Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery. Edmunds sits on the CFC parent appreciation committee and has seen the effect the staff has on kids. “They do such an amazing job helping children learn and grow.”

Those relationships proved invaluable when the pandemic forced parents, children and CFC staff to adapt in unforeseen ways.

“After the governor released his pandemic licensure guidelines, we had four days to put a plan in place,” said Kathy Haders, manager, Children’s for Children.

Adjustments included building walls or using other approved barriers to repurpose or reconfigure rooms to satisfy social distancing guidelines. Staff members changed shifts, hours, classrooms and sometimes took on completely new roles.

“We had staff that worked screening stations. Sometimes a teacher’s only job was to clean surfaces all day,” said Haders. “The changes were challenging, but our staff was excited, adapted quickly, and came up with creative ways to keep our doors open and make sure we kept our promises to parents to communicate, stay up on current information and develop plans to protect kids, families and staff.”

In the past, the CFC Parent Appreciation Committee would present the Mary Alice Callahan Award to one teacher that best exemplifies CFC’s mission. Based on the herculean tasks the CFC had to tackle the past year, the committee felt every staff member was deserving. The only problem?

Mary Alice Callahan is a beloved former manager of Children’s for Children (CFC) known for her selfless dedication and commitment to CFC and the development of children. After leaving the center in 2008, an award was created to honor a CFC employee that best exemplifies the CFC qualities Mary Alice espoused:

  • Positive contribution to children’s lives
  • Excellence in care giving
  • Relationship building
  • Ensuring health and safety
  • Going the extra mile.

“You can’t fit 64 names on a plaque,” said Edmunds. So, he and the committee had another idea. “We couldn’t get a trophy, so I volunteered to write a children’s book.”

The book, titled “And the Winner is...” is 28 pages of sweet rhymes about the dedicated CFC staff and colorful artwork drawn by Edmunds’ 5-year-old daughter, Caroline.

On Feb 23, the CFC staff was treated to a coffee truck and food. The Parent Appreciation Committee also revealed the winner of the Mary Alice Callahan award in the form of the children’s book. Haders said after the reading, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the bunch.”

Every staff member received a paperback copy of the book. A hardcover will live in the CFC library. In addition, parents, kids, and CFC graduates created a video montage in which they read passages from the book. Video contributions came from Michael Fisher, president and CEO; Nerissa Morris, Chief Human Resources Officer, and the namesake of the award herself, Mary Alice Callahan.

The book asks, “ do we recognize just one special soul, when the best in the group is the group as a whole?” Based on the joyous reaction of CFC staff, the answer is to honor everyone involved in a thoughtful, creative way that can live on in perpetuity.

“The CFC staff is like family,” said Edmunds. “The community really wants the staff to know how much we appreciate what they do for our kids and how we’ll never forget how much they did for all of us over the past year.”

Children's for Children students and graduates took turns reading from the book in a special tribute video created for the CFC staff.

Putting the award in book form made it easier to honor multiple winners of the Mary Alice Callahan Award.

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