FAIRFIELD — It might seem like a disconnect initially as to why a group of women who live around Solano County would want to raise money for a children’s hospital in Oakland.
To be specific, they are generating funds to support programs for the University of California, San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, formerly Children’s Hospital Oakland.
That disconnect becomes reality when confronted by the numbers for 2013. The children’s hospital saw 652 Solano County children on an inpatient basis, 6,446 as outpatients. The numbers supersede those of Solano County’s neighbors many times over. Napa County numbers are 106 inpatients and 1,237 outpatients and Sonoma County’s are 188 inpatients with 2,065 outpatients.
“A lot of people don’t realize how many (children) come from Solano County,” said Jeanne Mackie, a Fairfield resident who is a retired nurse. She joined the nonprofit fundraising Lilac Branch more than a decade ago because it was “a way to give back.”
“And I had the time finally to do it,” she said.
Solano County’s Lilac Branch, which noted the numbers in its most-recent flier, is one of several “branches” that operate as a community fundraising arm around the East Bay Area. In addition to representing Solano County, Lilac Branch also represents Napa and Sonoma counties. It has about 27 members. A majority of them live in Fairfield.
A small group of the members recently gathered at Mary Lou Carter’s home in Green Valley to discuss the Lilac Branch, its function and to get out the word they need new members to help raise awareness of the hospital’s needs.
The group, which formed in 1955, raised $42,312 in 2013 for the hospital, largely with its two main fall and spring fundraisers. The money raised by the branches goes to programs such as the Family House, the Parent-Infant program, Katie’s Clinic for Rett syndrome and the Art for Life program. Other contributions throughout the years have helped buy medical equipment and aided in hospital building and expansions.
But the branches are becoming smaller or disappearing altogether. Founded 100 years ago, there used to be 65 branches in the late 1980s and early 1990s that aided the children’s hospital, Mackie said. Now there are 11, with others representing Contra Costa and Alameda counties.
Changing social and financial times plus aging members and branches took its toll and changed the formation of the branch system, including Lilac, several members said. Lilac Branch was originally for young mothers who brought their children to meetings in other members’ homes.
“It was quite the social thing to do for young mothers who didn’t have to work,” said Vallejo resident Gloria Taft.
These days they don’t have time, Carter said.
While fundraising is the focal point of the group, the women talked of camaraderie and friendship gained through the years of membership. Aside from the desire to help, they all joined for a different underlying reason: a love of children, to give back or to find new friends.
“It’s more than just a fundraising organization,” said Betty McMahon, the group’s current president.
The name of the hospital was recently changed after a $100 million donation in April from Bay Area tech leader Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne Benioff. The hospital is affiliated with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, which also received a $100 million donation in 2010.
For more information about Lilac Branch or its events, contact Carter at [email protected] For more information on the hospital branches, go to www.childrenshospitaloakland.org/main/Branches-Auxiliaries.aspx or www.childrenshospitalbranches.org/default.aspx.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.