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Zerhouni, NICHD Launch the Annual CFC Effort at NIH

By Robert Bock

"If you're blessed, reward yourself by giving more to others," NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni exhorted the crowd at the kickoff for the 2003 Combined Federal Campaign on Oct. 7 at the Bldg. 31 patio. The CFC is the annual fundraising drive among federal employees that serves about 3,000 charities.

Zerhouni thanked the more than 475 keyworkers and other CFC volunteers attending the event for their energy and commitment. Volunteering for the campaign, he said, was one of the most important contributions that NIH staffers can make. Key-workers distribute campaign materials to their fellow employees and instruct them on how they may contribute to the CFC.

"Today, you're the link between your coworkers and the charities that provide services to your neighbors," he said.

Thomas Hooven (l), NICHD associate director for administration, presents a CFC pledge card to NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni.

Next, NICHD director Dr. Duane Alexander welcomed both new and returning volunteers to the kickoff. NICHD is the lead institute for this year's campaign. The theme of this year's effort is, "You've Got the Power to Help."

"You do have the power to help," Alexander emphasized. "You are the backbone of the CFC."

He noted that the National Capital Area CFC is the largest workplace giving campaign in the country, having raised more than $47 million last year. Of that total, $3.7 million came from NIH employees.

"Each and every keyworker is crucial to our success," he said. "I know that with your ideas, your energy, and teamwork, we've got the power to make this year's Combined Federal Campaign a huge success!"

Zerhouni and keynote speaker Brianne Schwantes

Brianne Schwantes delivered the afternoon's keynote address on behalf of the Children's Inn at NIH. Schwantes, now 23, has osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, a genetic defect involving collagen, the scaffolding that holds bones together. The disorder varies in severity, with those suffering the most severe forms likely to break a bone during such ordinary activities as walking or sneezing.

When Schwantes was born, she had 13 broken bones. At the time, she said, her doctors advised her parents to "leave me on a pillow and walk away." But her parents didn't give up on her, and brought her to NIH. Schwantes has taken part in protocols at the Clinical Center since she was 6 weeks old. She said she was grateful that the Children's Inn offered a place she and her family could stay when they traveled to NIH to see her doctors.

"Because of the Children's Inn, it was like we had a home away from home," Schwantes said.

The Children's Inn was one of several charities maintaining information tables at the kickoff. Others included the Friends of the Clinical Center, the SHARE Food Network, the Jewish Council for the Aging and the Black Student Fund.

Vernice Townsend of the latter organization said that CFC funding was vital for her organization's continued operation, as the group doesn't take contributions from the federal government or from state or local governments. The group provides financial assistance to low-income African American children to help them attend independent schools.

The CFC of the National Capital Area seeks to raise $50 million in 2003 and will run through Dec. 31.

Vernice Townsend of the Black Student Fund answers questions about her organization. Also on hand were representatives of other CFC recipients including the NIH charities and the SHARE Food Network.

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