Valley families Give Back to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with Change for Children’s.
Makes perfect cents.
Written byHeather David
Photographed byMichael Becker
Encino resident Jeff Kreshek was walking out of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles when it came to him.
“My son had a back injury and needed surgery there. We feel so blessed that we had an amazing but short experience,” he explains.
“As my wife, Lani, and I were walking the hallways, peeking into various rooms, it really hit us just how difficult the process of being in the hospital can be on people. No matter how serious or not serious the injury or issue is, it can be lonely, difficult and even boring. We wanted to do something to help.”
PAYING IT FORWARD
Samantha Stromsborg with son Dane
As Jeff pondered this, he was jangling the change in his pocket and thought: What if we could take people’s spare change and use it to help?
He turned to close family friend and Sherman Oaks resident, Andrew Apfelberg, whose two kids had also received care at the hospital.
Andrew then thought of another Valley family, Ryan and Samantha Stromsborg, whose son had been treated at Children’s for leukemia. In less than a year, the three families had a concept: Change 4 Children’s.
The idea behind the organization is simple—people can place a jar at their business, a sporting event or any gathering place, encouraging others to deposit loose coins and bills. The hope is that once people return a filled container, they’ll grab another.
All of the money raised goes directly to one of the most underfunded branches at CHLA, the department of Child Life Services. This office distributes items like video game consoles, stuffed animals and anything else that brings a happy distraction or comfort to a patient and their family. Many patients spend days, weeks and even months waiting for their next treatment or recovering in their isolating hospital room.
The Stromsborgs are all too familiar with the challenges of that scenario.
“When my son Dane was originally diagnosed with cancer, my wife, Samantha, and I had begun spending a lot of time there. I think the thing that we all have in common is that it becomes really difficult to see the other families just struggling. We knew we had to do something immediately,” says Ryan.
“We’re not trying to cure cancer or trying to fix someone’s heart with our jar of change. That’s not the goal. The goal is simply to make the experience for patients better,” explains Samantha.
In March 2018 the group made a plan: to officially launch Change 4 Children’s at an Encino Little League game, with their colorful, hand-decorated jars.
“The energy was palpable. We had everyone over to our home, and it was like an assembly line, 10 to 15 people decorating and filling jars with information. It was truly incredible to watch. The kids—not the parents—were and still are the driving force,” Lani recalls.
At ELL, the three families began sharing their heartfelt stories and why Change 4 Children’s is so meaningful. The reaction was powerful; people began emptying out their wallets and asking for containers.
The organization—which has applied for 501(c)(3) status—has quickly taken off. Notre Dame High School, The Heschel School and St. Mel Parish are among the local organizations that are collecting change. There is also help from corporate sponsors like Bank of America (waives change counting fees) and Staples (provides collection jars).
The families hope to expand the program to other children’s hospitals across the country.
“Studies have shown that if you can raise people’s spirits, you can keep them having hope, and the outcomes are vastly improved,” says Jeff.
To receive a Change 4 Children’s jar or start a collection challenge at your child’s school, visit change4childrens.org.