By Mike Bassett, ASC Public AffairsNovember 18, 2016
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- As Combined Federal Campaign events continue on Rock Island Arsenal, numerous testimonies are being shared about the various charities that have helped CFC donors in their times of need.
The help they've received is one of the main reasons they give back, and for three RIA employees, the hope of inspiring others to philanthropy is the main reason they've chosen to share their stories.
"The mission of the CFC," stated the Office of Personnel Management's CFC page, is "to promote and support philanthropy through a program that is employee focused, cost-effective, and effective in providing all federal employees the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all."
Lindsey Henningsen, human resources specialist, RIA Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, has a son, Camden, who suffers from Dravet Syndrome -- a rare form of epilepsy caused by genetic mutation. Camden started having seizures when he was four months old, was diagnosed at two years old, and has been in a wheelchair since he was three years old. He is now eleven years old, and thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, has enjoyed at least one miracle.
Henningsen, who knew nothing about Make-A-Wish until her son's diagnosis, said; "Most people [wrongfully] think of it as something for children who are dying. It is actually for any child with a life threatening medical illness, and the purpose is to give them -- and their families -- a chance to forget about their medical issues temporarily by giving them the wish of a lifetime."
Camden has always been a fan of Disney movies, so in 2012 when Make-A-Wish offered to send the Henningsen family on an all-expenses paid trip to Walt Disney World they were overjoyed.
Henningsen's trip, as described, was nothing short of a miracle. She said they organized everything from total logistics, to complete accommodations.
"They even had the GPS pre-programmed in our rental, assistants to help with Camden's wheelchair, photographers, wheelchair accessible rides, Make-A-Wish T-shirts, a Mickey Mouse stuffed animal, a snack cart to periodically nourish them throughout the day, and even ice cream for breakfast on at least one occasion," Henningsen said.
Jessica Miller, communications manager, Make-A-Wish of Illinois, said 14,000 "wishes" just like Henningsen's are granted annually across the country, noting that more than half are Disney-related.
"These wish experiences stay with people for a lifetime, not just a moment in time," Miller said.
"Wishes are a way for families to know a community cares, and to bring lightness in a very dark time," Miller said.
In conjunction with the CFC, money raised in the Illowa (Illinois + Iowa) CFC covers 37 counties in the region, and more than a third of the donations remain in the local / regional area. One such organization is the River Bend Foodbank, located in Davenport, Iowa.
Jennifer Schroder, marketing specialist, River Bend Foodbank said via email, "River Bend Foodbank leads the community-wide effort to end hunger in eastern Iowa and western Illinois. [Our] vision is a hunger-free Iowa and Illinois."
"River Bend Foodbank will triple the meals to 23.3 million because the need is three times greater than what is currently provided," Schroder said.
Amy DeAndra, logistics management specialist, U.S. Army Sustainment Command, has been organizing efforts as a member of Acquisition Integration Management's Holiday Planning Committee to collect food from AIM employees through the CFC season.
DeAndra chose River Bend Foodbank, she explains; "Because they have a broad community outreach, and because we want to give to those in need - which is especially important during the winter and holiday season."
"As part of their mission, they collect, store, and redistribute surplus food to more than 300 charitable organizations that support the hungry. Many of us have either used one or more of these organizations or know somebody who has benefited from them," DeAndra said.
"One in eight people (one in five children) in the Quad Cities area don't have access to enough food to live an active, healthy lifestyle. They are missing a total of 22.1 million meals each year. With our low cost of operations, every dollar contributed to the River Bend Foodbank provides five meals toward our ultimate goal of ending hunger; and it supports over 300 food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless and domestic violence shelters and other hunger-relief charities across 22 counties in eastern Iowa and western Illinois," said Mike Miller, executive director of the River Bend Foodbank.
"In partnership with the community, the food industry, the government and fellow local charities, River Bend Foodbank is ending hunger - and won't stop until everyone is fed," said Schroder.
CFC is comprised of more than 24,000 charities and spans 151 regions benefitting local, domestic and international recipients.
One such international recipient of CFC donations is the United Services Organization.
The mission of the USO, stated by their Web site, is to "strengthen America's military service member by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation."
For more than 75 years, the USO has been providing services to military personnel and their families at more than 180 locations across the globe. Some sites are located in combat zones too dangerous to be staffed, but exist as centers to provide morale support, including bringing celebrity entertainers to the war zone.
Services include, but are not limited to: Transition into and out of military service, hospitality and travel assistance through assignments and deployments, specialized programs that provide service and a "continuum of care" support "from the time they don the uniform to the time they take it off," states the USO site.
The USO's Families of the Fallen program has supported every dignified transfer of fallen service members at Dover Air Force Base since March 1991. The program provides travel accommodations for grieving families, and a Tragedy Assistance for Survivors program in conjunction with Fisher House.
The USO site states: 22,762 service members morale was positively impacted in 2014, 97 percent of service members and their families agree that the USO boosts troop morale, and 150,000 visits were made to the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.
Lisa Olson, plans analyst, Joint Munitions Command, refers to the USO as a "lifesaver."
In the summer of 2015, Olson and her son were stranded overnight at Chicago O' Hare international Airport due to a delayed flight. When their airline was unable to find hotels due to Lollapalooza, she and her son were offered cots to sleep on in the crowded airport.
"We went to the USO of Illinois, showed our ID's, and were given a safe and secure place to stay.
"We were so grateful and beyond relieved that the night's events were turned from a nightmare to a dream by the USO of Illinois," said Olson.
The CFC has been extended on RIA until Dec. 31, and as of Nov. 17, has raised $133,252 - roughly 33% of its annual goal.