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Featured Non-Profit Interview: Marilyn Ray, MBA

Interview by George Williams, Communications Specialist - Planned Legacy Inc.

Director of Public Relations and Financial Development Children's Harbor
Special to Planned Legacy

Marilyn Ray

Marilyn received both her Masters Degree and Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in accounting from Auburn University at Montgomery. She has been employed with Children's Harbor since 1992 first as the Director of Finance and then as the Director of Public Relations and Financial Development. Some of her responsibilities include coordinating the annual fund campaign, the newly developed endowment fund and Lower Lights Society, writing grant applications, volunteer services, special events, media contacts, and publishing the Children's Harbor newsletter, The Beacon. She spends her vocational energy at Children's Harbor because she loves children and is a strong advocate for children and families. Her vocational background includes general ledger, cost accounting and credit management. 

Learn more about Children's Harbour...

Planned Legacy: Please tell us a little about your background. Where did you grow up? Did you have a feeling you would someday make working with children and families a career?

Marilyn Ray: I grew up in southern West Virginia — coal mining country — where most everyone had a strong sense of family. My favorite memories are of visiting our extended family. I later moved to Washington DC where I met my husband, Jim. I knew right away that he had the same family values I had. After he was discharged from the United States Marine Corps, we moved to Alabama.

Jim has a Masters Degree in Social Work and a Masters degree in Counseling. He has worked with children and families since he got out of college. First with the Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Children's Home organization, and since 1990 he has been at Children's Harbor. The first Executive Director of Children's Harbor hired Jim as the Program Director, and he hired me as the Director of Finance. When the first Executive Director resigned, Jim was promoted to Executive Director, and the Board asked me to remain with the organization. I tell people that Jim "inherited" me.

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Planned Legacy: What were the major influences that led you to your career in non-profit development with children and families? 

Marilyn Ray: In addition to growing up with a loving extended family and Christian values, my husband and his parents were the major influences on my life. Jim's parents were "house parents" with a United Methodist Children's Home location in Alabama. He and his brother grew up with a group of 10 other boys that his parents also helped raise. When we moved from Washington DC to Alabama, Jim began a career as a social worker, and since then our lives have centered around children and families in crisis. 

Planned Legacy: Can you tell us a little about the history of Children's Harbor and how it came to exist? Who were its founders? Children's Harbor

Marilyn Ray: Children's Harbor, a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1989 by Ben and Luanne Russell, who had a dream of a place on Lake Martin for children and families. Construction began in 1989 on 40 acres on beautiful Lake Martin, 15 miles south of Alexander City, Alabama, on Highway 63. It was dedicated in 1990 to the memory of Ben's mother, Adelia Russell.

Children's Harbor now has two different offices, the original location on Lake Martin and the Family Center at 1600 6th Avenue South, Birmingham, Alabama, across the street from Children's Hospital of Alabama. The primary services provided at the Lake Martin Campus are camping and adventure services, to children with long-term serious illnesses, and their families. The Family Center opened in 1995 at the invitation of Dr. Jim Dearth, CEO of Children's Hospital of Alabama. This is a collaborative effort with Children's Hospital of Alabama to provide free counseling, social work, education, and support services to children with long-term serious illnesses and their families.

Our board made the decision to concentrate our resources on serving children with long-term serious illnesses and their families, because of the complete lack of services to children facing life-threatening illnesses. Since that time, we have also begun serving children treated through the Pulmonary Division (those with pulmonary problems such as cystic fibrosis and severe asthma). We also added the Nephrology Department to our clients in 1999; these are children with renal difficulties, most of whom require kidney transplants.

From the beginning, our mission has been simple: strengthening children and families. Our primary focus is providing services free-of-charge to children with long-term serious illnesses and their families. The Russells are still very involved with Children's Harbor. They and their family foundation continue to underwrite administrative costs so that donor contributions can be used to provide services to children and families.

Planned Legacy: What do you like best about Children's Harbor?

Marilyn Ray: The most important aspect of Children's Harbor, in my opinion, is that our services are family centered; we are committed to working with the children and their families. You cannot remove a child from his or her family, nor can you treat the child without helping the family. Anything that affects the child also affects the family. One parent told us that when the child gets sick, the entire family gets sick. The physicians who treat the children also echo this.

There are so many challenges children and families must face: emotional, financial, family and peer relationships, spiritual, and on and on you could go. Children's Harbor provides services not only to the child, but also to the parents and siblings. We also include the extended family when appropriate.

Planned Legacy: Can you tell us about any special families or children that have really touched your heart during your years at Children's Harbor? How did they benefit from Children's Harbor?

Marilyn Ray: The first family that comes to my mind is from a recent story told by one of our counselors. A young mother was receiving counseling to help her cope with her child who was so seriously ill. The mother didn't feel there was any hope for a better life for her or her child. She told our counselor that before she came to Children's Harbor for help, she had plans to take the life of her child and her own life. After counseling, she now has hope for herself and her child, and they are doing well.

Another poignant story is of a teenager who I met at our camp who had cancer. I recall the first time I saw her. She was at the Saturday night dance for her camp at our Mariner's Adventure Camp — watching all the activity from her wheelchair. Though a teenager, she only weighed about 80 pounds. While it was only about 8 p.m., you could tell by looking at her that she was exhausted. However, she insisted on staying for the entire activity. This teenager passed away shortly after camp, and her parents told us that they felt she held on just to be able to come to camp again.

Also, recently I met Christy Fink, a mother who volunteers at Camp Smile-A-Mile (SAM) (the camp for children with cancer which uses Children's Harbor as their permanent camping home). Christy told me that before her daughter, Shelby, was diagnosed with cancer at age 7, she was a very independent child. Shelby didn't want any help with anything. After her diagnosis, Shelby didn't want her mother out of her sight and even wanted to sleep with her parents. Choking back tears, Christy said that after Shelby got to go to camp at Children's Harbor, "I got my independent child back!" Shelby told me, "I like coming to camp. No one here makes fun of my cancer."

Our teacher told me about a young man who failed geometry last year due to frequent absences because of his illness. His self-concept had taken a beating due to this. After informally assessing his skill level, we started filling in the gaps, and he now feels he can pass geometry successfully. His mother calls our teacher his hero because she advocates for special services to help get him through to graduation. Both he and his mother have told our teacher that she has a reservation for this young man's graduation next spring in the seat next to his mother. Our teacher has been given preferential status over numerous relatives for the graduation ceremony. 

Planned Legacy: You mentioned that you were a one-person development department. What is your typical workday like? What different hats do you wear, with respect to your development work?

Marilyn Ray: I don't know that there is a typical day — there is so much to be done. As with most people, I have a "to do" list for the day, but things that come up needing immediate attention take priority!

During a day, I might talk to donors to thank them for their gift; design and write new brochures for anything from our services to our endowment campaign; travel to area television stations, radio stations and/or newspapers to talk about a special fundraising event; scan photos and write scripts for our website or other media presentations; write appeal letters and grants for our annual fundraising campaign; write thank-you letters to our donors; order promotional and/or logo items; write and lay-out our newsletter, The Beacon; coordinate with volunteers; set up a display at a professional or civic convention; and the list could go on and on. Of course, answering e-mail is a daily task! (I, like most of us, would be less productive without e-mail!) My day is different every day.

Planned Legacy: You have a Masters Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on accounting, and you were formerly the Director of Finance at Children's Harbor. How does understanding the "numbers" which make a non-profit work, benefit you in your current position as Director of Public Relations and Financial Development? 

Marilyn Ray: I feel my background in business and accounting is the best background I can have for this position. I am not aware of a degree program to teach people to be development officers. Also, there was very little emphasis placed on non-profit accounting, even in my masters program, so an MBA is the best training I know of.

A few people want to make complicated planned gifts such as charitable remainder trusts. It is helpful to have an understanding of these planned giving vehicles, though the donor is always advised to contact their attorney or accountant to work out the details.

Also, some funding entities require detailed financial information in the grant proposal, and I am able to extract the data that they want from our statements. 

Planned Legacy: Do you have an annual fund campaign? Can you describe the specifics of what makes it work?

Marilyn Ray: Yes, we do have an annual fund campaign. Generally, we send out four appeal letters each year to targeted populations. We enclose a response device and a self-addressed envelope with each letter to make it easy for donors to respond.

The first one is sent in January detailing the past year's donor's gifts and thanking them again for their gifts. Another one is sent in May/June, usually with a theme of family connections. A third one is sent in August/September on various subjects, and a final one is sent in November for the year-end campaign.

Each appeal letter has some similarities. We use a professional print house with a mail house to send out a generalized appeal to prospects and to people who make less than a certain size gift (this varies with each letter). We also use the talents of some of our own personnel to personalize letters to individuals or entities who make larger gifts.

In addition to the appeal letters, we publish and distribute our full-color, 16-page newsletter, The Beacon, three times each year: fall/winter, spring, and summer. The newsletter is an educational piece, which also lists all honors and memorials for the four-month period.

We have purchased prospect lists before, but have found that our best response from a fund-raising standpoint is to mail to people who already know something about us.

Planned Legacy: Is there any specific fund development technique or event that has really worked well for you? Why? Would that also be your favorite type of fund development technique or event? 

Marilyn Ray: In our opinion, all our special events are very successful. Some, though, are heavier on the "friend-raising" side of the scale than on the "fund-raising" side of the scale.

For instance, our Antique Boat and Classic Car show brings a lot of people to our Lake Martin campus, and we have developed new donors and new volunteers from that event, though it historically has not raised a lot of revenue. Our mission and our location on a clean 44,000-acre lake is what drew the antique boat enthusiasts to ask to hold their event at our location for our benefit.

On the other hand, our Pig Iron Barbecue Challenge (named for a type of iron produced in Birmingham, Alabama) has been wildly successful on both scales. The volunteers who work with us on this event have been instrumental in helping us have full capacity in terms of teams. We simply could not do it without the volunteers.

We find that our best events, and usually those that are the most fun, are those that our volunteers propose to us. For example, the sailing club on Lake Martin holds a sailing regatta, along with a party the evening prior to the race, for the benefit of Children's Harbor.

Planned Legacy: You recently started the Children's Harbor Endowment Fund and the Lower Lights Society. Can you elaborate on how and why you started the fund and tell us where you hope to go with it in the future?

Marilyn Ray: Children's Harbor was established in 1989 and depends upon the generosity of our founders to underwrite administrative costs. Because of this, we can tell donors that their contributions are used to provide services to children and families. In the current environment in non-profits, this is a very powerful statement.

We want to build our endowment fund so that it will help if there are lean years and cover the administrative costs in years to come, should that become necessary. We also found that there are donors who do not want to give to an annual campaign. Some of our donors would prefer that their gift not be spent, but be invested with the growth used to provide the services. Our endowment fund gives them that opportunity. 

Planned Legacy: What does it take for a small development office to start an endowment fund?

Marilyn Ray: First of all it takes a lot of commitment to the project. I have to segment my goals into small steps because the tasks must be worked into an already over-committed schedule. I have to continually remind myself of a fact: It takes five years to start seeing income from an endowment fund. Start now and it will take five years; start in two years, and it will still take five years from when you start. The important step is to start!

Important too, is a vehicle to let current donors know about the fund. I have committed one page in our tri-annual newsletter to the endowment fund where I explain our program and I list those who are members of the Lower Lights Society. 

Planned Legacy: What forms of donor recognition do you offer?

Marilyn Ray: Currently, we publish the names of the Lower Lights Society in our tri-annual newsletter, and we offer each donor the opportunity to write an article for The Beacon about why they chose to do this. Some choose not to be as public as this, but at least they are given the opportunity.

We also visit each member personally, and we give each one a Children's Harbor medallion which is a very attractive conversation piece symbolizing helping children and families find their way through the storms of a serious childhood illness. This is a constant, tangible reminder of the commitment they have made to ill children.

Planned Legacy: What is the most important factor in your relationships with your donors? How do you strengthen your current donor relationships?

Marilyn Ray: I feel our most important factor in our donor relationships is our prompt and courteous thanks. Not only do we send a letter to each person or entity who makes a gift to help the children, but we also put a personal note at the bottom of the thank you letter, we make a personal phone call to each donor, and we send them a Christmas Card at year end. On each contact, we are careful to let the donor know that their contribution is for the children — not for an organization. Additionally, if the gift was an honor or memorial, we list their names in The Beacon.

Planned Legacy: How do you attract new donors to your organization? 

Marilyn Ray: Special events are a wonderful tool to attract new donors. It is the ultimate word-of-mouth! When someone participates in an event, we want to make them feel good about their participation. Then they tell their friends!

We are also proactive in speaking to professional and civic organizations and churches. While you may not reap an immediate financial return, you make friends who will ultimately become donors. In addition, we are zealous about putting new contacts on our prospect database so that the person will receive our newsletter and continually be reminded of our mission and our successes. 

Planned Legacy: You write grant applications, organize volunteer services, run special events, and handle public relations. How do you find time for all your different activities? How do you prioritize? What comes first?

Marilyn Ray: My commitment to Children's Harbor is not just my job — it's my life. Now that our own children are grown and "out of the nest," we have a lot of time to give to these children with long-term serious illnesses and their families. So, I guess I'm saying that this is my job and my volunteer activity. I spend many, many extra hours doing my "job."

Prioritizing gets a bit sticky at times, especially during the periods just before and just after a special event. I just have to put myself into overdrive and get the job done.

First, of course, are those things with deadlines — a grant that is due on a certain day or the media appearance to support a special event. I have also learned a lot about the value of volunteers and how to work with them to get their help. I try to anticipate what tasks need to be accomplished and try to find volunteers to help with the things they can help with.

I have found volunteers very eager to help when they are given something they feel they can do that fits into their idea of how they want to be helpful. I found that I cannot tell a volunteer what they should do, but I must tell them what needs to be done and find out what they are interested in doing.The Beacon

Planned Legacy: What is involved in producing your newsletter, The Beacon? 

Marilyn Ray: When I first took this position, I wrote the articles for the newsletter and forwarded them, along with pictures, to a graphic artist who did the layout at a handsome charge. I did some research on hardware and software and found I could pay for a graphics-friendly computer and specialized software within the year by doing the layout myself. After all, I was already doing the hard part — composing! I took my proposal to my Executive Director, and he approved the plan.

The Beacon is produced every four months. I have a folder for each publication for the year, and I drop stories and pictures into the appropriate folder as they come to my attention. Four weeks before the mail date, I cloister myself at the Macintosh computer for about four days and begin composing articles and scanning pictures.

I also start coordinating with our staff to get the memorials and honors listing and with the printer about proof dates and ship dates. Once I have a good draft, I pass it through our office staff, a team of great proofreaders. After it passes our staff's muster, I save it onto a jazz disk and send it to the printer. Once the printer gets the file, all they have to do is print it out and mail it using the mailing label file we send them derived from our donor files.

While this sounds like a lot more work, I feel it is more efficient in the long run. Plus, I get better results because I can control my "white space," by adding or deleting text. Our information is more timely, also, because I start only four weeks out from the ship date versus eight weeks out when a graphic artist did the layout for me.

Planned Legacy: You were involved in the state leadership of a non-profit organization of volunteers and you were the Club President at the Kiwanis Club of Alexander City. Can you tell us a little about those experiences? How did you benefit from being involved at such a high level?

Marilyn Ray: Before my schedule was consumed with my job with Children's Harbor, I served for about eight years in various positions on the state level, including state president, of an international volunteer organization. It was there that I learned that volunteers are motivated to help when they are passionate about your mission and when they feel they can be of service to others. Volunteers are like the proverbial string — you cannot push them but you can lead them.

Because the Kiwanis emphasis is on children, I felt this was the best civic club fit for me. I have been a member of the Alexander City Kiwanis Club for 11 years now.

I joined the club while I was working as Director of Finance for Children's Harbor, and my job required many, many hours of tedious number crunching. The interaction with some of our city's leadership was a professional "shot in the arm" for me, in that I was able to mingle a bit during the week.

It also fits very well with my development position because I have been able to make friends among the membership and inform them about the work of Children's Harbor. The club has become one of our largest civic club donors.

Planned Legacy: You won the Kiwanian of the Year Award for developing a new and very successful fundraising event. Can you tell us more about the event?

Marilyn Ray: My husband, Jim, and I moved to this area in 1990 when Children's Harbor first began operations. This area is smaller than where we had previously lived, and I missed some of the social events that I was used to. One of those was a fair. At the same time, the Kiwanis Club was looking for some new fund-raising events to replace some of their worn-out events. After talking with several members, I found a young, energetic member who had also moved here from a larger area. To make a long story short, he and I put together our first fair, which was very successful. He has moved on to another city, and I have continued as the chairperson for this event each year. It is our club's largest revenue producing event.

Planned Legacy: Can you tell us a little bit more about the other awards you have won for fundraising, and what they were for in particular?

Marilyn Ray: Another fundraiser I helped the Kiwanis Club start was a steak dinner and silent auction. Of all our events, this is the one our members enjoy the most because the atmosphere is relaxed and just plain fun!

Planned Legacy: What types of fundraising programs or events would you like to develop in the future, that would help Children's Harbor to thrive?

Marilyn Ray: We have two major cities that are fairly close to us where I would like to develop a special event. One of my short-term goals is to meet with some of the leadership in these cities to determine what kind of events would work well in those communities — which are not being done now. We not only need a "fund-raising" activity in these locations, but also something that will also be a "friend-raising" activity — hopefully something that will appeal to a broad group of people.

Planned Legacy: What types of services does Children's Harbor offer at the different locations and to whom?

Marilyn Ray: First, I will address our Family Center in Birmingham. There are two components to the Family Center: a Family Counseling Center and a Family Resource Center.

In our Family Counseling Center, we provide counseling, social work, education, and support services to children with long-term serious illnesses who are treated through the Children's Hospital Hematology/Oncology, Pulmonary, or Nephrology Departments.

When a child is diagnosed with a serious long-term illness, the entire family is swept into a turbulent sea of change. The primary predictor of how well a child recovers and copes with the illness is directly related to the health of the family. So Children's Harbor assists the entire family through the storm of the child's illness.

The child and family undergo many changes, which may include:

  • many, many physician visits
  • medication which may make the child ill
  • frequent hospitalizations and periods of not feeling well which results in the child falling behind in school
  • a peer group that doesn't know what to say so they avoid the child
  • siblings who become angry with the child and the parents because the sick child is getting all the family's attention and resources
  • parents who are stretched to the limit physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually

Our caring staff of Masters level counselors, social workers, and educators provide the services the child and family need without cost to them. Some of the services we provide include:

  • individual, family, and group counseling
  • support groups specific to the child's illness (i.e., cancer, cystic fibrosis, kidney failure, sickle cell disease)
  • play therapy for younger children who are unable to express their feelings as such
  • parent training with effective methods for improving their parenting skills
  • educational services such as tutoring, test proctoring, assessment, and encouragement
  • social services to help the family find resources for their needs (transportation, housing, financial, etc.)

The Family Resource CenterThe Family Resource Center is available to all children and their families who are served through Children's Hospital of Alabama. Connected to the hospital via a covered walkway over 6th Avenue South, our center is easily accessible to children and parents. We have a fitness center, basketball court, showers; kitchen, nap rooms; sitting areas featuring televisions and game tables; internet-connected computers; library, private phone areas; toddler play area; activities area including foosball, air hockey, and video games.

One Mother told me that she and her child, who has multiple medical issues, must travel 200 miles three days a week to the hospital. She said that it was difficult for her to get her son to go to his physician appointments because of the travel and the boredom of waiting in a physician's office. She said that now that they have discovered Children's Harbor, her son is eager to get started on the trip. Our facility has helped this child with his appointment compliance and, consequently, with his medication compliance.

Children's Harbor also has a camp, Mariners' Adventure Camp, on our Lake Martin Campus. Here, these children and others with special needs, spend many, many hours enjoying camp just like their peers. Because of their illnesses, they can't go to the camps like their friends. But they can come here because physicians, nurses, their camp counselors, along with our therapeutic counselors and social workers come with them to insure their medical, as well as social, needs are met.

In addition, Mariners' Adventure Course has been built at our Lake Martin Campus. This is a team-building and confidence-building course consisting of activities (i.e., a trust fall, a spider web activity and others) and ropes elements (i.e., a rappel tower, a catwalk, a pamper pole, and others). The therapeutic value of these activities is so important to the child and family that groups who use camp routinely have made this a required activity.

Planned Legacy: What groups use Children's Harbor on an annual basis?

Marilyn Ray: Many groups use the camp each year. A few of them are as follows:

Magic Moments:
This organization grants wishes to terminally ill children and children who have life-altering conditions such as those that require them to be permanently confined to a wheel chair. This year 120 people consisting of 22 families and counselors spent some truly magic moments at camp. These children are unable to attend camp elsewhere, primarily because many other camps are not able to meet their medical needs.

Mariner's Adventure Camp

Also, their conditions are so delicate that the parents are very resistant to leaving them in the care of others. They were able to come to Mariners' Adventure Camp because it was a family camp — the parents were able to come with them, and qualified medical personnel were also here. Counselors had the primary responsibility for the children. They did the same things other children do at camp: they played, did arts and crafts, bonded with their counselors, rode on the boats, had a western hoe-down, had a talent show — just like other children. The parents were nearby, but were having a blast themselves. Free from the normal minute-by-minute care, they played volleyball together and just relaxed.

One 15-year old boy had never been on a boat before because the parents were afraid it would capsize and the child would get lake water in his trachea tube; however, they allowed him to go on a pontoon boat and the child was thrilled beyond words. Also, one child had never been away from his parents, but he got up the second morning of camp and informed his parents that he wanted to be with his counselor. The parents were thrilled with his burst of independence — and theirs — they walked along holding hands enjoying what they said was a few minutes alone that is so uncommon for them because of the child's medical condition that they cherished each moment.

This camp is for children who have had heart, liver, and kidney transplants. The medical condition of many of these is medically fragile on a day-to-day basis. Their medical condition has to be closely monitored, and, as with Camp SAM, we are in close touch with Russell Hospital to be sure we can provide the medical support these children need. The children from this group are also from all areas of the state. A primary issue with this group is medication compliance. They have to be on anti-rejection drugs all their lives, and they are taught how to live a productive life and still be compliant with their medications. Also, the dietician who accompanies them said that obesity is a real issue with these children. They are involved in shopping for low-fat, healthy foods for camp, and they help prepare one of the meals.

Burn Champ Camp: 
This is a group of children who will attend camp for the first time as a group, and they have chosen Children's Harbor Mariners' Adventure Camp. This camp is for children who have had serious burns in the past and who must cope with the scars, physical disabilities, and other issues associated with having had a serious burn.

Camp Smile-A-Mile:
This organization, known affectionately as Camp SAM (Smile-A-Mile), was formed to provide children from all over Alabama who have cancer with opportunities to feel that life is not over for them, to feel a semblance of normalcy, and a reason to smile again. Because of these children's special medical needs, they cannot attend regular camp. Also, the expense of medical treatment for a child with cancer often is very difficult for the family to cover, and there is usually few or no resources left over for camp.

Camp SAM brings over 600 children a year to Mariner's Adventure Camp. Along with them they bring counselors, as well as trained medical professionals capable of administering and monitoring their drugs so that parents can feel secure that their children will be well cared for while at camp. Children's Harbor staff provides individual and group counseling to these children and their families while they are at camp, also.

The primary indicator of the medical improvement and overall well being of a sick child is the health — emotional and physical — of that child's caregiver. Therefore, Children's Harbor also counsels with that child's parents and siblings so that the sick child can be in as healthy an environment as possible. One father said, "Having a child with a chronic illness is like living in a war zone. It is so good to come to a place where you can find hope for a normal life."

Upward Bound: 
This is an extraordinary group of young people in a program run by the Central Alabama Community College in Childersburg. They bring a group of high school students to Mariner's Camp each year to encourage those students to continue their education and for orientation to college life. These young people are from families where the parents are not college educated and who are below the poverty level. The program provides encouragement, role models, and tutoring on an on-going basis to assist them with their dreams of getting a college education. They also use Mariners' Adventure Course for team-building skills and confidence building.

Alabama Baptist Children's Home:
This group uses Mariner's Adventure Camp each year during the July 4 holiday week. They bring 100 to 150 children for an entire week. Most of the children in this group from all over the state of Alabama would never have had the opportunity to go to camp and go canoeing or all those other wonderful things we remember from our summer camp days without the generous support of people like you who have a tender heart for children.

Montgomery Area Retarded Citizens (MARC):
Most of the people served by this group had never been to camp before coming to Mariner's Adventure Camp, and they now come back every year. Their director told us that the camping week that they have is vital to the emotional and physical well being of the clients, and that they are so thankful that they can come to Children's Harbor at no cost. If it were not for the opportunities at Children's Harbor, these people would not be able to attend camp.

Planned Legacy: What are the requirements for entrance into Children's Harbor for families? How do interested parties contact Children's Harbor to get in? Is there an application process?

Marilyn Ray: Eligibility depends upon which of our services you are speaking of. Children who are treated through the Hematology/Oncology, Pulmonary, and Nephrology Departments at the Children's Hospital of Alabama, and their families, are eligible for our counseling, social work, education, and support services. However, all children and families are welcome into our Family Resource Center.

A family can refer themselves for our services simply by calling our Clinical Directory, Audrey Lampkin, at (205) 939-6123, by going to our Web site and completing the self-referral form, or by their physician, nurse, or hospital social worker. Again, all services are free and confidential and are performed by Masters-level professional staff members.

Children who have long-term serious illnesses are given first priority at our Lake Martin facilities; they use the facilities at no charge. The facilities are available to other groups on a space-available, fee basis.

Children's HarborAbout Children's Harbour 

Children's Harbor, a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, provides free and confidential counseling and support services to children with long-term serious illnesses as well as to their families, and provides camping and retreat facilities for these children and families as well as for other children with special needs. Children's Harbor was officially dedicated in 1990 to the memory of Adelia M. Russell.

From the beginning, the mission has been simple: strengthening children and families. The Children's Harbor icon, a replica of the Plymouth Lighthouse, which is located on Providence Point at the Lake Martin campus, symbolizes the organization's goal of helping children and families find their way through the treacherous waters in which they sometimes find themselves.

The beautiful campus, located 15 miles south of Alexander City, Alabama, on Highway 63, is built around a picturesque New England seaside village motif and features the Plymouth Lighthouse and a charming little early American church, Children's Chapel. The lakeside setting is also home to Harbor House, Mariners' Adventure Camp, Mariners' Adventure Course, Mariner's Retreat Center (Concord and Salem Cottages), Time Capsule Park, and our administrative headquarters.

Today the primary effort is centered around the Children's Harbor Family Center at Children's Hospital. The Family Center, temporarily located at 1616 6th Avenue South in Birmingham, is a collaborative effort with Children's Hospital of Alabama and provides free counseling to children with long-term serious illnesses and their families. This counseling is provided by caring and dedicated Masters-level counselors, social workers, and educators.

In December 1998, the Children's Harbor Family Center and Children's Hospital of Alabama broke ground for the construction of a four-floor building. The third floor of this building, located at the corner of 6th Avenue South and 16th Street in Birmingham, will be the future location of the Children's Harbor Family Center.

All these services are provided to children and their families through generous contributions from individuals, businesses, clubs, churches, foundations, our founders, and others.

Contributions can be made in honor of special people or occasions or in memory of special people. All honors and memorials are listed in our newsletter, The Beacon, which is published three times a year.

Please contact Children's Harbor to learn more about how you can help calm troubled waters for children and their families.

For more information please contact:

Children's Harbor, Inc.
1 Our Children's Highway
Children's Harbor, AL 35010-9534
Phone: (334) 857-2133
Fax: (334) 857-2516
E-Mail: [email protected]

Children's Harbor Family Center
at Children's Hospital
1600 6th Avenue South, Suite 200
Birmingham, AL 35233-1711
Phone: (205) 939-6123
Fax: (205) 939-6313

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