Friday, July 31, 2009

Festival of Trees and Lights

Dear Friend,

My name is Leah Churchman and I would like to introduce myself as Chair of the Book Tree Committee for this year’s Festival of Trees and Lights which will take place at the Polk County Convention Complex (5th & Grand) November 25-29. I am writing to share my family’s story about our experiences with the services Festival supports and to ask for your help in filling the Festival’s Book Tree with new books that can be given to young patients throughout the year.

What is the Festival of Trees and Lights?
The Festival is an annual event supporting the Child Life and Advocacy & Outreach programs at Blank Children’s Hospital. The Book Tree stands more than 18 feet high and holds thousands of donated children’s books which will be given to patients and family members.

What services do the Child Life and Advocacy & Outreach programs provide?
The Child Life and Advocacy & Outreach programs have a direct impact on children and their families at Blank. Child Life Specialists provide recreational, therapeutic, developmental, and educational programming for hospitalized children and their families in order to make the healthcare experience as positive as possible. The Center for Advocacy and Outreach is a statewide resource for education and information regarding children’s issues. Both of these programs are provided to everyone at no cost, and no one is ever turned away for any reason.

How do these programs directly impact families?
My family has personally experienced how important these programs are to hospitalized children, their parents, and their siblings. Due to a severe illness, my daughter, Jess, spent extended periods of time at Blank which, of course, also affected me, my husband, Drew, and Jess’ twin brother, Kade. The Child Life specialists not only ensured Jess had everything she needed to pass the long hours, but also provided Kade with books, craft supplies, toys, and trips to the playroom; planned birthday parties; dropped off holiday goodies; and made frequent visits to Jess’ room to check on her progress. Their kindness and compassion helped soften the edges of difficult situations our family faced.

Thank you for your support. We look forward to talking with you about ways you can help us fill this year’s Book Tree. In the meantime, if you have questions about the Festival or the Book Tree, feel free to contact the Festival Office at 241-6494.

Leah Churchman
Book Tree Committee Chair

State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council Now accepting Applications

Strengthening Youth involvement in State Government Des Moines, IA-

With the passage and signing of HF315 this spring, the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council (SIYAC) was formally established in the Code of Iowa. SIYAC, which originated under the aegis of Governor Tom Vilsack, consists of 15 to 21 diverse students who represent youth throughout the state. Applications are being accepted now for the 2009-2010 school year. Motivated students from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply. SIYAC members benefit from leadership and civic engagement experience, numerous trainings, and opportunities to network with statewide organizations, communities, legislators, and youth across the state. SIYAC members have tackled a range of issues facing Iowa’s youth, including school drop out rates, health and nutrition, teen drinking, bullying and improvement of after-school programs. As representatives of SIYAC, members are expected to identify issues and engage their communities to promote youth development and involvement. SIYAC holds quarterly meetings in Des Moines. Mileage and meal reimbursements are provided for meetings and related SIYAC activities. For more information on SIYAC and how to apply, contact SIYAC Coordinator Annelise Plooster at or visit the website at

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Polk County 4H Photography on Facebook

I've created a page for Polk County 4H photography on Facebook. This could be a great opportunity for Polk County 4H photographers to discuss their photography projects with other 4H'ers. If you're on Facebook, go to, become a fan of the page, create a photo album with some of your pictures, and let other fans of the page offer their comments and critiques of your work. Let the discussions begin!