A Soup-to-Nuts Foundation

From pairing dogs with cancer patients to helping new moms, Rocky Mountain Children's Health Foundation does it all

Courtesy Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation

They’re an unlikely duo: a mom who in 1983 was unable to produce enough breast milk for her preemie son and a 6-year-old whose dog helped her weather brain cancer treatment. But without them, the Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation would not have launched two of its most important programs, the Mothers’ Milk Bank and the Stink Bug Project.

The Arvada-based foundation, established in 2008 and led by Luanne Williams, is also the main distributor of Best Start Baby Boxes and administers a patient assistance program that distributes car seats, diapers, gas and grocery cards, taxi vouchers and blankets to families whose children are being treated at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and other area pediatric facilities.

The Mothers’ Milk Bank, North America’s largest nonprofit mothers’ milk bank, has distributed 5 million ounces of donated mothers’ milk to neonatal intensive care units at 130 hospitals in 28 states.

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Courtesy Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation

The Stink Bug Project began when then-6-year-old Allison Winn underwent surgery and chemotherapy for a brain tumor she referred to as “stink bug.” Her puppy, Coco, who was from the Prison-Trained K-9 Companion Program at Colorado Correctional Industries, gave her such comfort that Winn later sold homemade dog biscuits and lemonade to pay for the adoption of a companion dog for another child with a brain tumor. “She chose a black Lab named Lucky Bug,” says Winn, now a senior in high school. “Little did I know that word would get around, but in 2010 we started the Stink Bug Project,” which by 2018 will have matched 100 dogs to kids aged 1½ to 18.

Distribution of the Best Start Baby Boxes began on July 11, with the goal of providing a free Baby Box to any mother who enrolls in babyboxuniversity.com, where medical professionals and maternal health and child development specialists post videos to educate parents. Four thousand boxes, each containing a portable sleep surface, a onesie, diapers, wipes, nursing pads and educational materials, have been distributed so far. The goal is to reach parents of the 65,400 babies expected to be born in Colorado this year, especially those in rural, disadvantaged communities.

Before becoming the foundation’s executive director in 2011, Williams was executive director at Colorado Neurological Institute, a vice president at the St. Joseph Hospital Foundation and president/CEO of the Northwest Metro Chamber of Commerce. “Everything we do as a foundation involves a lot of heart,” she says. “We take pride in the fact that we’re not a onesize- fits-all organization. We have filled pharmacy prescriptions for kids whose parents do not have insurance, and provided airfare so a dad who lived in another state could come to Colorado to visit his hospitalized child. From our generous donors to the grateful recipients, it’s all about heart.”

5394 Marshall St., Arvada

Volunteer: Opportunities include labeling books and car seats for distribution; baking dog biscuits for the Stink Bug Project; general office work; and lending a hand at fundraising events. Sign up by filling out a volunteer form at rmchildren.org.

Attend: Kaleidoscope, the foundation’s signature fundraiser, takes place February 24–25 at the Ritz-Carlton Denver and includes spa services, a five-course dinner with wine pairings, dancing, an overnight stay at the hotel and brunch the next morning. Tickets are $2,500 per couple or $10,000 for a table of eight. Call 303.839.6782.