25th Annual U.Va. Children's Hospital Telethon Raises $1.8 Million

June 4, 2009 — For 25 years, the University of Virginia Children's Hospital Telethon has been sharing inspirational stories of children and their families who receive loving care, hope and cutting-edge medicine at U.Va. Children's Hospital.

This year's telethon remembered the past, celebrated the present and looked to the future of pediatric medicine. The event, broadcast May 30 and 31, raised $1,801,862. The funds will support the Barry and Bill Battle Building, which will provide a bridge between the acute care that children coping with complex illnesses receive in the hospital and the routine care they manage at home, renovations in primary care, special programs for children and families, lifesaving pediatric research, and toys and games for young patients.

In keeping with its "Past, Present, Future" theme, the hospital welcomed back a number of former patients, including Neelye Kochanowicz (formerly Moffett), who was first on the telethon when she was a 14-year-old cancer and heart transplant survivor. She has since survived a brain tumor and second heart transplant; she is in her 20s now.

Also featured was Mason Ikirt, often referred to by his caregivers as "Miracle Mason." At 2 1/2 years old, Mason came down with a simple cold that escalated into a rare form of pneumonia, followed by kidney failure, 18 blood transfusions, 11 dialysis treatments, 12 strokes, pancreatitis and heart failure. Mason spent three months at U.Va. Children's Hospital's Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center relearning the basics of life – how to hold his head up, sit up, stand, walk, talk and eat – after his devastating series of illnesses. Now 4, Mason is happy and healthy and almost 100 percent recovered.

A number of distinguished guests were on hand to take calls and visit patients, including U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, U.Va. men's basketball coach Tony Bennett, football coach Al Groh and women's basketball coach Debbie Ryan.

Community businesses Klockner-Pentaplast of America, which sponsors the Walk for Kids during the telethon weekend, and Food Lion gave $120,000 and $85,000, respectively. In addition, Food Lion announced a $1 million pledge over the next six years to support the Battle Building and related programs in health and wellness.

U.Va. Children's Hospital is one of the premier children's hospitals serving the Mid-Atlantic region, recording more than 100,000 patient visits annually. Children and families come from across Virginia and neighboring states. For specialty care, they come from across the U.S. and beyond.

The U.Va. Children's Hospital Telethon is part of the nationally broadcast Children's Miracle Network Telethon.

This story originally appeared on the U.Va. Health System Web site.