With smiles on their faces, Matt and Tiana Ayotte made their way through the crowd, talking with others in attendance, waiting to be recognized for their generous donations to the N.C. Children’s Hospital through the N.C. Children’s Promise.
Through the N.C. Children’s Promise, the couple has raised more than $25,000.
Yet, there is more to their story than their fundraising efforts; the hospital holds a special place in the their hearts.
In 2002, the couple’s daughter, Asheton, was born at 23 weeks and spent the first 107 days of her life in the Newborn Critical Care Center at the N.C. Children’s Hospital.
At one pound, five ounces, Asheton was one of the first occupants of the NCCC, a unit made possible by donations.
Today, thanks to the NCCC, Asheton is a healthy 10 year-old.
“We wouldn’t have had the same outcome anywhere else,” Matt said.
The Ayotte’s work to increase public awareness in pediatric care and research by volunteering on the Board of Visitors for the Children’s Promise.
Because 6 percent of the hospital’s budget comes from the state, it relies on donations for much of its success.
The N.C. Children’s promise began as the vision of Phil Zachary, president and COO of Curtis Media Group, and Don Curtis, owner of CMG and current member of UNC’s Board of Trustees. The pair first hosted a radio-thon in 2002, raising $183,253 for the hospital.
Now, N.C. Children’s Promise is a year-round operation, working to improve the lives of children and families who visit the hospital.
Children’s Promise donors who’ve given more than $25,000 are recognized on the Wall of Honor, located in the lobby of the Children’s Hospital, with colorful plaques bearing their names. The wall was recently moved in order to provide space for new donors.
Crystal Hinson Miller, vice president for children’s programs, opened the reception by discussing the relocation of the wall.
“We have come into a good problem,” Miller said. “We have run out of space on the wall, so we have moved it to provide space for more families, friends, corporations, individuals and foundations that support us.”
Following Miller’s introduction, Dr. Wesley Burks, director of pediatrics at the N.C. Children’s Hospital, commended the donors for their generosity.
“Our goal at the hospital is to provide care for every child in the state of North Carolina as needed,” Burks said. “You all play a big part in making a difference.”
Donations made to the fund provide for research initiatives, training and education programs and family centered care. Burks said research is one of the key aspects to the treatment of individuals.
“We want to participate and lead the edge in research because in research, you make local children better, faster,” he said. “If you do it here, the healthcare of that child changes tomorrow or next week.”
Any contribution to the N.C. Children’s Hospital is beneficial, the donors noted.
This past October, Asheton Ayotte raised $460 by asking her neighbors to donate the amount they would spend on Halloween candy to the hospital. This money allowed her to buy a surgical wagon for the PICU.
For the Ayotte family, their first visits to the hospital with their infant daughter have come full circle. They said they’re thrilled to help children at the same hospital where their daughter received treatment 10 years ago. The Children’s Promise plays a central role in their lives, they said.
“It is certainly an honor to be recognized, but it seems a little inverted,” said Matt. “It’s a little ironic that they are thanking us when everyday we thank them for being here.”
This article was written for the JOMC 253 Reporting class at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.