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Deirdre Imus and John F. Galbraith of the Catholic Medical Mission Board watch high schoolers pack 500 goody bags for the Kids-Love-Kids program for shipment to children in Haiti.
 
 
HACKENSACK, NJ, March 17, 2010 – Haitian children are receiving colorful bags filled with messages of love and goodies from U.S. school children through a new program of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center™ called Kids-Love-Kids.  This program is possible with the combined forces of Operation Goody Bag, the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), and an army of children from East Brook Middle School. 
 
The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center and Operation Goody Bag are marshaling resources and visibility for the program in the U.S.  CMMB, involved in Haiti since 1912, is handling logistics to get the "goody bags" into the hands of children on the ground.  U.S. school children supply hands and heart for the program.  They fill hand-decorated lunch bags with heartfelt messages and such items as organic lollipops, Glee Gum, Teddy bears, coloring books and crayons.  The goal of Kids-Love-Kids is to multiply the effort nationwide, enlisting teachers, students and others around the country. 
 
The Environmental Health Center is part of Hackensack University Medical Center, a 501(c)(3) not for profit corporation, and donations can be made through the HUMC Foundation. 
 
Turning Compassion into Action
 
"When a child here creates a goody bag and writes a note in their own words for a Haitian child, they learn real compassion and how to put those feelings into action. At the other end, we want the children in Haiti to know there are other kids in the world who really care about them," said Deirdre Imus, Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center™.   
 
Details of the Kids-Love-Kids program were announced at a March 10 press briefing at the Environmental Health Center, with dozens of colorful, kid-crafted goody bags and poignant images from Haiti filling the room, taken by a member of HUMC's medical mission team.  While cameras rolled, students sporting colorful Kids-Love-Kids T-shirts formed an assembly line to fill bags from bushel baskets of goodies. 
     
haiti_girl_kids-love-kids_3.5v72The first 200 goody bags were shipped to Haiti in early March, hand delivered by volunteers from HUMC. (PHOTO CREDIT: Maggie Lominy, RN-HUMC/Inspire Haiti)
 
CMMB received the filled goody bags from the kids, ready for shipment to Haiti following the event.  The colorful bags, many adorned with flowers and hearts, were prepared by children and graduates of the East Brook Middle School in Paramus, N.J., where Operation Goody Bag originated as a way to help kids cope after 9/11.
 
Jane Cosco, Founder and Director of Operation Goody Bag, reported more than $20,000 had been raised for Haiti's children so far -- enough to make 5,500 goody bags. 
 
Ms. Imus described Cosco as an "amazing woman," and said, without her response after 9/11, and the tremendous response from the children, "we wouldn't be here."  Other attendees included: Robert Garrett, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of HUMC; John F. Galbraith, President and CEO of CMMB; Bill White, President of the Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund; Paramus School Superintendent James Montesano, Ph.D; HUMC medical personnel who volunteered in Haiti; and several officers from the U.S. Navy. 
 
Resilience and Hope
 
Galbraith said the goody bags arrive in Haiti on naval ships traveling from Norfolk, Virginia, loaded with medicine and supplies to help children and the many suffering with HIV/AIDs and malnutrition. Since the beginning of the year, CMMB has made 45 shipments and delivered more than $7.6 million in supplies to the ailing country.  With a population of 9.8 million, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and home to about one million orphans. According to UN 2008 figures, about half the population is under age 20.  
 
Galbraith said the problems in Haiti are complex. "No one government or organization is going to solve this.  But if we work together, we can come up with these solutions." While visiting CMMB's Haitian missions, he spent time with those rocked by the quake.  In a moment brimming with emotion, he told the audience, "There is resilience in the Haitian people, a depth of the human spirit.  Maybe we have it, too, but we haven't been tested the way they have.  I want you to know, these bags will make a difference.  They represent your passion and compassion."
 
Bill White, who serves on the board of CMBB, spoke of the need to erect tent homes.  In the days after the quake, he witnessed people sleeping shoulder-to-shoulder on closed highways "to be sure that nothing else could fall on them."  In addition to the Imus' efforts to galvanize support for Haiti, White said the Imus' had helped raise more than $40 million for the Fallen Heroes Fund, and $60 million for a traumatic brain injury center at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence set to open in Bethesda, Md., later this year.
 
Jane Burke, RN, nurse manager at HUMC North at Pascack Valley, among the first responders from HUMC, felt privileged to volunteer in Haiti.  She was moved following early reports after the January 12 quake.  Burke's snapshots, enlarged to posters, captured the emotion on children's faces. Burke pointed to the remains of a church, "The earthquake totally destroyed this church, but look what was left." --A white stone cross stands against a blue Haitian sky.  Working on a soccer field in the first days after the quake, Burke said the medical team saw thousands of patients.  "The thing that struck us the most is that the people were so hopeful."
 
Garrett praised Ms. Imus as a "true friend of children" and "an international advocate for children's health."  He thanked Ms. Imus for her leadership in helping HUMC become one of the first to build a great hospital that is "green," and for spreading the word about the award-winning Greening the Cleaning® program.
 
 
How Big Are Kids Hearts?
 
 
    Operation Goody Bag originated as a service initiative at East Brook Middle School in Paramus, N.J. to help first responders following 9/11.  To date, this single school has distributed more than 125,000 goody bags to U.S. military personnel as well as local fire, rescue, ambulance, and K9 organizations, veterans' homes, VFW posts, military hospitals and U.S. military academies.
     
    Kristen Rayner, an East Brook Middle School graduate and now a high school junior, beamed about the new program:  "We want to unleash the power of kids to put a smile on the faces of other kids, because kids love kids." kids_love_kids_tm3She first
    got involved with Operation Goody Bag in the third grade in 2001.  Over 800 children participate in the program from East Brook and Rayner is among those now involved at the high school.  
     
    Coincidentally, Navy Petty Officer Sayie Rodriguez who attended the event, received a "goody bag" while serving in the North Arabian Gulf in 130 degree heat.  He recalled getting an "indescribable, overwhelming feeling" when he received a hand-crafted bag and a note of gratitude from a child back home who cares.  He said he and his buddies who also got packages, "instantly attacked the lollipops and Tootsie rolls" and kept the bag as a memento.  
     
    Contributors to the Kids-Love-Kids program include Larry Inserra of Shop-Rite; Alpha Graphics (Paramus, N.J.); Glee Gum (Providence, R.I.); and AppleLTD.com (East Rutherford, N.J.).  
 
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Paramus students of East Brook Middle School and Naval personnel joined Bill White, president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund; Mrs. Deirdre Imus, president and founder of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center™ at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC); Jane Cosco, founder and director of Operation Goody Bag; Robert C. Garrett of Morris Township, president and chief operating officer of HUMC; and John F. Galbraith, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), and members of HUMC’s medical missions to Haiti, during a press conference to launch Kids-Love-Kids, a program of Operation Goody Bag, HUMC, and CMMB.
 
 
 
Media Contact: 
Bonnie Eskenazi
The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®
551-336-8071
 
 
 
 
 
 
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