Walmart Managers Gear Up for Children’s Miracle Network Campaign

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Walmart manager Tonna Zortman knows how difficult it can be to raise a special needs child.

Zortman’s 3-year-old nephew, Blake, has at least a dozen different challenges, ranging from vocal cord paralysis to chronic respiratory failure. He hasn’t laughed out loud for more than two years.

Zortman told her family’s story at a meeting of Walmart managers on Friday as they prepared for the annual Children’s Miracle Network campaign.

Although her brother feels blessed to have his awe-inspiring son, she told 17 colleagues, there are huge fears that go along with having a special needs child, ranging from finances to what Blake’s future will hold.

The work being done by Children’s Miracle Network helps settle some of those concerns and helps provide support, she said. “Every dollar counts.”

Last year, the Walmart campaign raised more than $366,000. This year, the stores throughout the region have set a goal of $400,000.

“This is why we do this every year,” said Zortman’s colleague Terry Butler, touched by her story. “It’s not just about buying equipment and supplies, but it’s about giving children a better quality of life.”

Walmart’s fundraising campaign for Children’s Miracle Network begins May 1st and extends through June 16th.

Erika Grasse, the director of the Children’s Miracle Network campaign for Tucson Medical Center, said an important facet of the program is that every dollar raised locally stays locally.

“There is truly a great need,” Grasse said.

The group traveled from stores across Southern Arizona, including Nogales, Sahuarita, Sierra Vista, Douglas and Benson, bearing bags of toys for the children. They toured of the children’s outpatient therapy division, where manager Mary Lou Fragomeni showed them the programs and equipment their dollars support.

Manager Matt Baller tried out equipment designed to capture hearing loss in children long before they are able to verbally communicate. The team members saw a treadmill-like device designed to help children learn to walk, as well as special playground equipment geared to help children with strength, coordination and balance.

The dollars also support a program targeting obesity, and another with the goal of helping special needs students work on skills in a pool-based environment.

Fragomeni calls her program “high-tech and high-touch all the way through.”

“I get to touch these children because of the funding that comes from all of you and from the community,” Fragomeni said, extending her thanks.

Butler, who has been involved with the program 12 years, said he’s looking forward to the challenge of raising more money this year. “I think it’s just an incredible program that touches so many families and children in so many different ways. I’m just happy to play a part in it.”

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