Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Children’s Miracle Network

As most of my readers probably already know, the Miss America Program has partnered with the Children’s Miracle Network. The details of the partnership are a bit controversial, and since I’m not a contestant anymore, I’ve not taken the time to articulate my opinion about it here.

But now, ironically, I find myself involved with CMN through my job at FOX Toledo! So first, let me share how I’m involved, and then we’ll dive into the pros and cons of the Miss America partnership.

St. Vincent Mercy Children’s Hospital / Children’s Miracle Network 25th Anniversary Celebration on FOX Toledo

On Sunday June 3rd FOX Toledo will broadcast the 25th Annual Celebration / Telethon for CMN, located in our area at St. Vincent Mercy Children’s Hospital. This will be a three location and seven camera event. Our lead anchors will in studio, a couple reporters will be in the phone room at the hospital and meteorologist Mike Morrison and I will be at Toledo’s Docks with the live entertainment. I was originally not going to be involved with this event, but thankfully, someone changed their mind.

To prepare, I was invited on a tour of the Toledo facility, and I asked if I could bring a friend… In the photo above Miss Northwestern Ohio, Becky Minger, Miss All*American City Lauren Hogan and I pose in front of a wall of tiles which children painted to show what a miracle means to them.

I knew nothing about CMN, and most of what I assumed was incorrect. Here’s a bit of what I learned:

* CMN does not aid specific types of illness, or cater unfortunate financial situations; rather, a child is lucky to go to a CMN hospital if that is the hospital their parent’s health care provider is partnered with.

* CMN does not directly pay a family, or pay for a child’s care; rather, they provide services that go above and beyond what the hospital can provide. (In extreme circumstances there are exceptions to this rule.) CMN funds things like playrooms, games, toys, movies, therapy dogs, family locker rooms, in-room sleeper sofas, family kitchenettes, etc… CMN hospitals realize that children can not be treated like “little adults,” and as a result steps are taken to make the hospital feel as little like a hospital as possible.

* CMN is young; it was founded in 1983. There are 170 CMN hospitals in North America and this not-for-profit organization is quickly growing and will soon be world wide. CMN hospitals must agree to treat a child regardless of the family’s ability to pay.

* Children’s hospitals are no longer like orphanages; children’s stays are extremely short. There is no outdoor play area, because if they’re well enough to play outside, they’re well enough to go home. At Toledo’s CMN hospital, only about 4,000 children are inpatients each year, whereas the outpatient wing sees about 35,000.

* Their Mission Statement: "Children's Miracle Network is dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for 170 children's hospitals."

The Miss America Partnership

On January 23rd of this year it was announced that CMN is the new official platform of Miss America. A press release explained, “Each year the new Miss America, in addition to bringing awareness to her personal platform, will be an official goodwill ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network as she raises funds and awareness for both Children’s Miracle Network and the Miss America Organization. This partnership also extends to the woman competing at the local, state and national levels of the pageant, asking each contestant who participates to be responsible for raising funds on behalf of Children’s Miracle Network and the Miss America Organization.”

The Advantages and Disadvantages

Individual Community Service Platforms are one of the main things that set Miss America apart from other pageants; however, many people don’t fully understand what that means. By partnering with a well known not-for-profit organization like CMN, contestants’ philanthropic efforts gain credibility and continuity.

The Children’s Miracle Network is a fantastic organization which offers vital services to children in medical need. Also since many women already have platforms which work with mentoring children, awareness of various health issues, or general volunteerism, CMN is an easy extension of what many women are already doing. If there must be a national platform, CMN is a good, understandable choice.

CMN aside, the controversy lies in the idea of even having a national platform. This idea works for other pageant systems, but since Miss America has allowed for individual platforms, the transition will be difficult. I feel a variety of community service is good for anyone to do, whether you’re a pageant contestant or not. The question becomes, however, will work with CMN be looked upon higher by pageant judges than individual platform work? Some contestants have extremely well developed platforms that do not easily meld with CMN and this change is no doubt frustrating for them.

The greater frustration is financial. The main part of the partnership is that contestants must raise donations for CMN in order to compete. For EACH local pageant, a contestant must raise $100. Mind you, many contestants compete in countless locals each year. I have heard that 90% of that amount goes to CMN and 10% to the local program. Once a contestant wins a local title, she much raise an additional $250 in order to go to state. Each Miss State must raise even more in order to compete at Miss America.

These fundraising efforts are being called a “donation,” but some feel it is more like an “entry fee.” The three key things I used to tell prospective contestants about Miss America were: a. Talent b. Platform and c. No Entry fee. As a result of this new financial requirement many women are no longer competing, some volunteers are so opposed that they are no longer working with the program and other local programs worry they will not get enough contestants or be able to help their titleholder raise the additional $250 on top of all the other costs involved with putting on a pageant. To help contestants raise the money, each woman can set up a CMN fundraising website;
CLICK HERE to check them out.

There are so many questions left unanswered… How are contestants and local directors supposed to get support if they do not have a CMN hospital in their area? Will women who raise above and beyond the required amount be favored? Will this negatively affect the number of contestants?

In the fall I competed in Miss Ohio USA; the entry fee was about a grand and there were over 80 contestants! However, “free” Miss Ohio locals early in the pageant season scrambled to get 10 contestants. These figures assert that having a talent and doing community service are more difficult than raising money. BUT, money is the number one complaint about this new partnership. I suppose it’s all how you look at it, to some a few hundred dollars is no big deal, but for some contestants, that money means a months rent, or a couple college text books.

I understand the complaints and frustration; my platform would not have melded with CMN and fundraising is my least favorite thing to do. Contestants are also asked to get sponsorship for program book pages, many women get wardrobe sponsorship and friends and family are asked to attend several ticketed events during pageant week and support things like Miss Ohio’s Bowl-A-Thon. Is it still a “Scholarship Pageant” if it cost more than the contestant earns?

On the other hand, how can you complain about being asked to raise money for a wonderful organization like CMN?

I understand the incredible benefits of the Miss America program, and I now feel the same about the Children’s Miracle Network; only time will tell if they benefit as partners.


  1. The partnership with CMN and Miss America is 60/40. 60 % goes to Miss America while 40% goes to CMN. It is a different approach and no doubt tough for a few girls. it also means the days of competing in 5 locals a year are more than likely over. However, raising the money has proven to be much easier than I initially thought and I'm now well on my way to raising quite a bit of money for them.

    As Miss America has lost a television sponsor, this new kind of fundraiser will help keep the organization alive.

  2. Thanks for the insight. You are obviously a contestant and I really appreciate you taking the time to help the rest of us understand the details of this new partnership.

    You brought up another controversial aspect though, should the job of monetarily keeping the program alive rest so literally on contestant’s shoulders? As I mentioned in my entry above, contestant’s families and friends are already lead sponsors in many other ways.

    Again, this is a difficult transition, especially for people who have known the organization as something else for so long. It’s easy for non-contestants like me to dwell on these negatives when we’re not even being affected anymore, so kudos for keeping a positive attitude.

    Best of luck to you and thanks for reading and contributing. .



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