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How you can join the effort to help terminally ill children

George Mark Children’s House is an outstanding care facility for children with life-threatening conditions — police officers anywhere can support this mission

There’s something magical between cops and kids. Children seem to light up when a uniformed officer stops to hand them a sticker. Cops shave their heads annually to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Agencies across the country work hard to cultivate great Police Athletic Leagues and other such organizations supporting young people in their area. 

During Urban Shield 2013, I learned about a unique effort by one agency to help one very special children’s facility, and I’d like to let PoliceOne members know how you can help them both out. 

At scenario #19, I was privileged to observe the stellar SWAT team from San Leandro (Calif.) Police Department. This was particularly fortuitous because as a result, I was able to speak briefly with Lieutenant Randy Brandt of San Leandro PD. 

George Mark Children’s House
As we prepared to watch his team on the 16-screen video feed from the cameras positioned throughout the Fremont Fire Training facility, Brandt told me that this year’s SLPD SWAT Fitness Challenge will raise money for a truly outstanding care facility for children with life-threatening terminal illnesses.

“We’re using this event to raise money for the George Mark Children’s House, which provides services for children — and their families — who have serious medical conditions,” Brandt said. 

George Mark Children’s House provides pediatric palliative care — they’re essentially a hospice for kids. 

Their focus is on increasing quality of life for the children and the families alike by “bridging the gap between hospital and home.” The facility offers “the comfort and warmth of home while providing excellent medical care that alleviates the suffering and stress of illness,” according to the website.

“This facility is amazing,” Brandt said. “They have art on the walls that conceals the medical equipment the staff needs to respond. If a kid has trouble breathing or some other issue, they slide that picture of Mickey Mouse or some other Disney character out of the way and administer aid. The kids may not even know they’re in a hospital.”

About five years ago, Brandt was the sergeant for his PD’s traffic division. One day, he received a request to have one of their motor officers visit one of the sick children because he liked motor cops.  

“I’d never heard of the house and I brought our whole unit up there because I thought it would be pretty cool surprise for the kid. Little did I know how it would impact all of us,” Brandt explained.

“The house was amazing. We were seeing children who were very ill and they were all smiling and happy. There we were trying to hold our tears back, knowing what type of pain their families must be facing,” Brandt said.

During that visit, Brandt and his officers received a tour of the facility and met the staff. He told me that he left there that day thinking he would find a way one day to help the facility, and right before last year’s SLPD SWAT Fitness Challenge “it clicked.” 

“We can make our event a fundraiser for them,” Brandt recalled thinking. “I invited them to speak at our briefing and I played the video on their website for our teams. The feedback was great. The teams stated there was even more reason for them to return for 2014.”

How You Can Help
The SLPD SWAT Fitness Challenge taking place on May 29, 2014 is an endurance race requiring participating teams to complete six events including rowing, running, “CrossFit” exercises, and — of course — shooting.

Each competing team will consist of four members, and the fee is $140 to participate. The goal is for each team to raise $500 or more, however. 

“As a group of competitors and sponsors, we are committed to raising $25,000 for this great cause,” Brandt told me. “Our supporters should donate by clicking on our website’s donation box. The George Mark Children's House staff has created a specific account for this event.”

All proceeds will be paid directly to the George Mark Children’s House.

Please be advised that this is not exclusively a San Francisco Bay Area event. Brandt has invited teams from Nevada, Oregon, and Arizona. A team from San Diego has expressed interest. 

With six and a half months remaining before the event, about 15 teams can still sign up. According to Brandt, about 25 slots have been taken, and he anticipates easily reaching the cap of 40 teams. 

If all 40 teams come with a $500 donation from their community, the event will raise $20,000. Brandt has invited countless companies to contribute toward the remaining $5,000 objective, and he’s confident that some of them will contribute. 

So, even if you cannot attend the event, you can still help. Go to the website and contribute. If you need any further motivation than the above article, I encourage you to watch the video below. 

If you do plan to attend, I’ll see you in six and a half months in San Leandro. 

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