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Uplifting Families, Instilling Hope

Civic Warriors Episode 20 with Embrace Kids Foundation

"Love kids, love dogs and all animals, and love people - embrace them all."

Embrace Kids Foundation supports families whose children are facing serious health issues. Glenn and Armaan talk with us on how they have become a trusted source for families and children during some of the most daunting times they may face in their lives.

Families find themselves in hospitals where stress levels and worry are high and Embrace Kids takes their time to get to know the families and through their genuine compassion, have become a beacon of hope in the hospital, an extension of family. Embrace Kids makes themselves present and understands that hard times aren’t meant to be and never have to be faced alone. “We’re going to uplift every one of our patient families, everyone in our community together”.

Learn about the many ways to support the Embrace Kids Foundation.

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This podcast was transcribed through a third-party application. Please disregard any misrepresentations.

Civic Warriors:
Innovative, dynamic, gritty, determined, warrior.

Hosts:
This podcast is about the innovators, the leaders on the front lines of adversity, the all around good people doing good deeds. They are the civic warriors of the world. Withum’s guests are the leaders in the nonprofit industry affecting change. They try, they fail, they overcome. Through their stories we can join forces to become civic warriors.

Brad:
Hey warriors. On this episode of Civic Warriors we talk with Glenn Jenkins and Armaan Saxena about the extraordinary efforts being made by a special foundation, Embrace Kids. Embrace Kids Foundation makes it their mission to assist families whose children are facing serious health challenges, supporting them through emotional financial and spiritual means. We dive into the programs, Embrace Kids has to support their mission and how they pivoted in the recent months to continue supporting their community. Let’s welcome, Glenn and Armaan to the show. Welcome to the Civic Warriors podcast. Appreciate your guys’ time Glenn and Armaan for taking the time to chat with us, kind of share a little bit about, uh, Embrace Kids, which is, which is a wonderful charity that we’ve known for a long time at Withum, Just, uh, one of our partners is, is, uh, actively involved on the board and, um, and really we just, you know, we heard your story. We we’ve seen a lot of it. I know we’ve been involved in various capacities as a Firm, and, and so, um, just wanted to hear a little more and, and really just get some, get some conversation going and, and really how the world can help you. Um, so I guess, I guess Glenn and Armaan if you guys just want to give a quick, a quick introduction to yourselves and, and a bio about, um, Embrace Kids, I think that will help get the conversation going.

Glenn:
Sure. Uh, my name is Glenn Jenkins on the Executive Director of race kids foundation. I just completed my 19th year in that role. Yes, I started one month after September 11th. So my first year was highly challenging with an unbelievable crisis. And my 19th year has been challenging with an unbelievable prices.

Armaan:
Yeah. My name is Armaan Saxena and I started at Embrace Kids full-time six years ago, but my history extends a little bit longer than that. When I was in college, I was very much involved with Rutgers Dance Marathon, which is a year long fundraising event student run at Rutgers University, which benefits embrace kids. And I was very involved with our, with RUDM and I worked for Embrace Kids part-time and when my college career came to an end, I, I couldn’t leave it. I wanted to, uh, explore more with Embrace Kids and, and do more. So I took a full-time family liaison role where I was the liaison between Embrace Kids and the patient families. And I developed my role more, took on more responsibilities. And now I’m the Manager of Programs and Services, which is really nice. I have the pleasure. We all have the pleasure of working directly with the patient families, building relationships with them and providing direct support, which is really what Embrace Kids is all about. It’s very much relationship based as an organization, building relationships with donors, uh, the families, uh, volunteers, everyone who was involved. It’s really nice, nice community.

Glenn:
And then in terms of background on Embrace Kids Foundation, we are starting our 30th year on January 1st, 30th year. I’m based in New Brunswick, New Jersey and assisting local families whose kids have cancer, sickle cell, all blood disorders now, serious traumas, um, genetic disorders, cystic fibrosis, but with, um, the overwhelming majority of help being, um, pediatric cancer and blood disorder cases.

Brad:
And you operate, you’re operating mainly in New Brunswick. I think one of the things that, um, you know, I’ve, I’ve noticed just in, in knowing your organization is, um, you know, you, you’ve developed a lot of very strong partnerships on so many levels and Armaan, I think you, you know, you mentioned it kind of like a family environment, but, um, I guess why don’t you talk a little bit about how you’ve worked with, worked with Rutgers, worked with, uh, RobertWood Johnson Hospital, um, you know, worked with work with the students at Rutgers to, to really just create, um, a great, uh, atmosphere and, and, and really it really helped fulfill your mission.

Glenn:
Yeah. So when, um, Embrace Kids was formed in 1991, it was very grassroots. It was a couple of parents from our program, a nurse, a counselor, and they started doing bake sales at the hospital for rolls of quarters for laundry. And the now obsolete pay phone and

Brad:
You don’t use payphones anymore?

Glenn:
And in 1991, uh, Rutgers cancer Institute did not exist. And Robert Woods children’s hospital did not exist. So there was just small programs based on a floor in the hospital. So what was great was Embrace Kids was there as these huge institutions were, um, developed and built. So what it’s meant over the 29 years is that we’re really woven into the fabric of the medical programs in New Brunswick. We’re considered an in-house agency, um, close family and friends of the medical programs since we’ve been here so long and then have a track record credibility relationships that has given us on special access to both the outpatient clinic and the children’s hospital. It enables us to meet families there and kind of, you know, exist behind the firewall of medicine. Especially pediatrics on firewall is particularly high because people are very protective of kids and then pediatric families. So, um, that’s the history that we’ve been there since day one before the two big buildings or institutions, um, were built.

Armaan:
Hmm. And then speaking more on that really, uh, being there since day one, I guess sort of is a one of our mottoes because when we meet these families, that’s, that’s what we focus on is building a relationship with them. And when a family’s child is first diagnosed with cancer or a serious illness, they might not want to meet us that day. You know, they’re just put into this vulnerable position and there’s a lot of uncertainty in their lives and there’s getting a lot of information thrown at them, new things. And the only thing they’re thinking about is whether their child will survive, which is very tough. So when we come in and we meet them, there are some times where families are like, who are you? They’re a little bit hesitant as is, you know, I always joke in New Jersey people are standoffish as is. So imagine, um, imagine it now. But what we do is we slowly break that wall down. We visit them every day. I tell the family, or I meet them. You don’t know who I am right now, but you’re going to get to know me. We’re gonna be here for you every single day. We’re going to check in on you and anything that you need, uh, please bring it to us because we’ll come up with a solution. We might not be able to solve it directly for you, but we’ll figure out a solution. And we, we live up to that. We are there every single day. We check in on them. You know, we might be the first ones who make their kids smile for the first time. You know, maybe after weeks of getting injected, um, with needles and stuff, we’re the ones who go in there and play with them, make them laugh for the first time that they see that we bring them a warm meal, um, from a local restaurant, bring them, we bring them a new patient bag, which is really nice filled with goodies that they might not have thought to bring the first time. And so we slowly break down that barrier and that wall, and we really become an extension of their family from there. And they really come to trust us. And with that, we’re able to really a lot of the problems that these families have because trust goes such a long way. And as I said before, relationships are the bedrock of everything and the rest are just, just detail. So we’re really able to provide full comprehensive support, know exactly what the family wants because they let us in and they feel safe with us and they trust us and we make sure that we’re able to resource their, their, their needs.

Ashley:
That’s great. And what’s the process of you guys getting introduced to the family? So how does that work?

Armaan:
So, as Glen said, we are sort of woven into the fabric of the medical program there. So whenever a family is diagnosed a new families on, on the unit or on the floor, as we say, the medical team will actually reach out to us and they’ll say, Hey, this is a great family that you should meet. Give us a little bit of background on them and then we’ll take it from there. So that’s really, it’s just referral based from the medical team usually.

Glenn:
Yeah. And what happens is we’re there a lot, um, the medical team refers us, but then other parents refer us and that’s very powerful. Also, now these parents are thrust into this highly unique situation of their child being sick, but there’s actually other parents that are going through that unique experience. So there’s an immediate bonding. And then the parents had been part of the program for awhile are always saying, you have to meet the Embrace Kids, people, you have to get to know them. And so, um, through all of that begins, um, the process of trust, but still we take it slow. Um, people are overwhelmed, they’re guarded a lot less times. People will say, well, what do you want? Or, you know, what’s the angle or it’s understandable. Um, because people are just used to nice people showing up and helping with no strings. That’s actually what we do. So you just keep showing up every day and we find a way to help whether it takes a week or a month.

Armaan:
Yes, that’s really nice. And it’s also, um, that’s a Testament to the Embrace Kids community. You know, when we walk into the clinic or the floor, as Glenn said, a new parent might be, there might be new for them, and they’re a little bit in shock, but then they’ll see kids laughing, having a good time with will show up, maybe with food, the kids run up to us and, um, immediately start playing with us and they see that comfort. So that helps them ease, uh, ease into the world, I guess, and into their, their new, unfortunate, normal, you know,

Brad:
Sure.

Glenn:
Weekly, which, um, is a great bridge, you know, bring dinner, ice cream for everybody.

Brad:
No one could pass up ice cream,

Glenn:
Especially from Thomas Sweet in New Brunswick.

Brad:
Especially from Thomas Sweet New Brunswick. Yeah.

Ashley:
Never had it.

Brad:
No, you’ve never been to Thomas Sweet new Brunswick?

Ashley:
Nope.

Brad:
Um, there’s actually, there’s actually one in the town I lived there. The, the gentleman that owns it actually lives in the town I live in and he has, he has a couple of them, but yeah, now they’re, their ice cream is phenomenal.

Glenn:
You need to go and get a blended.

Armaan:
A great a great story about Glenn and Thomas Sweet’s. Cause we occasionally do Thomas suites at the floor and we’ll plan it out. Uh, but then, you know, we’re, we’re so busy throughout the week. We can’t spend like hours and hours on end at the children’s hospitals. Sometimes on a Friday afternoon, we’ll go over to the children’s hospital and, you know, just meet the families and really just get to spend time with them. Cause we’re wrapped up with our day. We can really sit down and enjoy and relax and enjoy the time. And I think, and it was a cold day too, it wasn’t more, but we’re talking about Thomas Sweets and then blend ins came up and the one of the kids was like, I’ve never had that. I don’t know what that is. I’m just gets up in the morning

Brad:
Having experienced, like, I’ll be right back.

Armaan:
He just walked. I think it’s like a eight minute walk in the call. I was like, Oh, this won’t do , this kid not having Thomas Sweet. So that was, that was really nice.

Brad:
Erroneous on all counts. Great story. Yeah.

Glenn:
And so besides us liking ice cream, the small things build bridges too. And then when you build bridges, there’s confidence and then confidentiality in the communication from the families to us and that sensitive information then allows us to help whether it’s pay bills, whether it’s the kids having challenged with school, whether there’s family dynamics, babysitting, they only have one car and it needs repair these things, you know, they’re not easy, um, for, uh, parents to bring forward. And so, um, we have fun and then we also build bridges and that then creates the opportunity for the parent. Um, they feel more comfortable and um, eventually one way or another, we, we build that communication bridge so that we could then be told, you know, how we can help.

Ashley:
Yeah. Well, you’re basically you guys come in and you’re basically inserting yourself into a situation trying to become close knit, family, friends in a sense during a time when their stress level is at its highest. Cause that’s really what it becomes they’re gonna right. Ideally you want them to lean on you to trust in you, to talk to you, to confide and open up. So it’s like, Hey, we really want to be there for you and be your friends first. And really, we want you to utilize the, that we have to offer. And that’s, I’m sure that, like you said, at the beginning, I’m sure they’re like, well, what do you want out of this? And really, you just want to be there for them, but that’s a high stress level time in their life that, um, gives them even with the parents. I’m sure that creates such a nice dynamic to in the hospital because, um, I’m sure, you know, doctors can’t always socialize and bring their, um, like the personality to the equation all the time or bring that kind of light-hearted spirit to the situation all the time. So then you guys kind of are like the family, the family, the close knit family, friends who really just want to help you.

Glenn:
Yeah. And then also, um, the parents, you know, it’s, it’s hard to get into all those other problems with your doctor or your medical team don’t relationship. And then a lot of people, they don’t want to tell their doctor, they’re struggling to pay bills or have no one to watch their own kids. So as a third party group, which is what we really are friends, you know, of the medical program, um, where, uh, we’re a good group of people for them to then bring all those other things too. A lot of them wish are solvable problems. Unlike medicine that’s so complex and unpredictable, the problems that we ask people to bring us, they’re actually solvable, you know, with resources, with focus, with communication, most of those non-medical programs could be addressed.

Brad:
So how many people are on your team like employees and volunteers?

Glenn:
We have four full-time, so you’re with half the full-time team. Um, there’s another family liaison, Matt, and then our administrative manager. Cynthia, we have a teacher who works time and then we have a roster of Rutgers college students who work for us as ambassadors to the patient families there at the clinic and hospital, a they attend to all our big events. They help facilitate, um, games, phone communication, just a lot of the things we can’t get to. And they act as an additional um, bridge.

Brad:
Yeah. Armaan that’s how you got started with, with Embrace Kids, right?

Armaan:
Yes. That’s exactly how so. My role when I was in college was I would help out with the events and then my day-to-day would be just at the children’s hospital, playing games with the kids. So it’s honestly the best, the best type of role that you could have. And then to further supplement that. Uh, and I was involved in this as well. We have a, you know, many volunteers, but we run a program called a RU For Kids where we are actually able to pair up individual student organized, um, student organizations, fraternities, sororities, athletic teams, clubs, um, co-ed professional groups, any group that you could think of, we can pair them up with a specific family. Uh, and that’s so great because you know, they build a relationship of their own, the, are you for kids, student volunteers that visit that family. When they’re in the hospital, uh, at the clinic, they come to events with that family, they plan events outside as well. So that program really is the, the true gem of Embrace Kids, because we’ve seen some amazing relationships formed from that. And it’s transformed treatment for a lot of children into a, uh, into a positive experience, actually as wild, as absurd as that may sound. But there’s so many times where the kid doesn’t want to leave the hospital because his college buddies are there and they just want to play video games with them because there’s so much fun. The college students are really the right, the right fit for this because they’re, they’re emotionally mature enough to handle something like this, but then they’re also young and still very fun. Yeah. And that’s in that we’re not funding anymore, but college students is dope.

Brad:
Yeah. We’re not as good at Call of Duty as some of the, uh, some of the college kids do or whatever games, whatever games they’re playing, the latest lingo.

Armaan:
I don’t know. I can’t keep up with that. So.

Brad:
No, not now.

Glenn:
Besides addressing, um, tangible, real world world problems that were also embraced, also addressing a lot of, um, themes that everybody in life deals with. So one of them is loneliness and then the college students come in through RU For Kids and make our child patients feel special and they have laughs and that’s invaluable to the kid. Then also the parent parents sees their child’s morale pickup, but then there’s even another piece that social interaction then allows a parent to step out a little bit from being with their child, maybe chat with us about what problems the family is facing. So, cause that’s another challenge parent, last time as a parent is there with a child and then they’re already dealing with medical consultations. How do you get into all these other problems? You don’t want to talk, um, you know, about those problems in front of your kid. So now we have college students there and the child’s having some laughs and then it allows our mom myself, um, you know, a chance to talk to the parent, maybe dive into something that’s tough. So let down their guard a little bit. Yeah. Yeah.

Ashley:
I feel like that was a big yeah.

Armaan:
Yes.

Glenn:
To leave. So, um, it’s a bunker mentality, you know, the child’s there, parents, there. Parents not leaving the bunker. There’s a bathroom in the room in each individual room. So parents don’t leave. And when I say they don’t leave days, weeks, sometimes months. So, um, if a solid person that, you know, is there sometimes the parent just taking a walk outside and getting fresh air that’s novel and special. So, you know, just think about it also if people, I don’t know about you guys, I, I love fresh air, um, to not go outside for long periods of time that, you know, it has a psychological effect. So I can’t say that many times because Armand or, um, you know, another responsible person in the team are there to get fresh air. Maybe just take a walk to get coffee things, you know, that we really, um, you know, definitely take it for granted. It’s powerful to be able to get a little fresh air step out.

Ashley:
Oh yeah. There’s studies on that too. That was one of, one of our episodes. We talked about that 20 minutes of fresh air a day or a half an hour, a day can really make a difference. And I’m sure when they do get out or if you guys are helping them bringing them coffee or whatever, but if they let down their guard a little leave, then you know that they’ve kind of mentally, unwinded even just in notch. And I’m sure that makes you feel good.

Armaan:
Oh, it is. It’s a nice pressure valve for them. Yeah. Cause it’s, it’s a lot being in there constantly with your child. See, and then maybe go through a tough day. And as he said, being bunkered down, it’s, uh, it’s not healthy. It’s, it’s important to get out and you lose sight of that. You know, you’re too busy, worried about taking care of your child, that sometimes you lose sight of taking care of yourself as well. So it’s great. We’re able to really help out in that aspect

Glenn:
Opportunity to maybe not be brave, which, you know, the parents are trying to do with their kids to step out and make a call to your spouse, to your sibling, to your best friend and express how you’re actually feeling.

Ashley:
Yeah. It’s an intense, it’s an intense environment and I’m sure they don’t even realize how like nonstop their minds are constantly just making sure that they’re there, that they’re doing the right thing. Like just grinding themselves kind of out through the day mentally. And I think a lot of times when somebody needs help, I think it’s just in our nature to just wear ourselves as thin as possible most of the time, especially when it comes, I’m sure you see it. I can’t speak to this situation cause I’ve never been in it, but it comes to your own children. You don’t really want to ask anybody to help step in. So when somebody does and they’re comfortable enough and you see that, that must be very rewarding of course, for them and you guys as well.

Glenn:
So the Rutgers students go through intensive training, um, so that they can then conduct themselves, um, in a fit and proper productive and fun way to, um, visit kids at the children’s hospital. And as the person in charge of all this and you say, Hey, Oh my gosh, I’m in charge responsible for foul, you know, over thousands of college students, along with the advisors, their advisors at Rutgers. I mean, I can tell you that in the now I think 14 years of having this program fair up student groups and child patients, we’ve never had a complaint or issue that we had to sit down and seriously address through the training. And then the culture through, um, the student groups through the years, through the culture at Embrace Kids, through the nurses and, um, the counselors helping us train, manage, maintain this, these college students we’ve not had, we’ve not had an issue. I mean, that’s amazing. Like I could tell you that incredible now every day, I still sweat it because you know, you’re only as good as your first big fail that everybody will then. Um, yeah. But so to give an example, Armaan I think this is the one thing we had in like the past five years, there was a Rutgers student who would sometimes scold or correct the kid a little bit when he would misbehave in the clinic. I mean, not even like in a bad way, not yelling or cook, but just would say, Oh, you know, you really shouldn’t do that. Or you should… That was like the problem that we dealt with yes. To minor when it comes to college students.

Brad:
Yeah. You took the question right out of it right out of me. Cause I was going to ask, how do you, how do you, how do you maintain, you know, your farm club of college students? How do you keep them? Not only not, you know, I don’t want to say in line, that’s not the right word, but more like, how do you, how do you have a consistent message where, you know, this is, you know, the code of conduct, this is kind of what our goal and our objectives are. Like, how do you go about like coaching them up or, or kind of getting them assimilated in the right way so that it is somewhat of a consistent, I’ll say consistent model, if you will, like, how do you go about doing that?

Armaan:
That’s part of the training. So training we do at the beginning of the academic year after that, the follow-up is what’s really more important. Uh, we’re constantly communicating with the student organizations, we’re helping facilitate communication with them and the patient families to help build a relationship. And then on top of that, about once a month, uh, we’ll have a check-in meeting. So each student organization, they have two, uh, student leaders who are the liaisons from the organization to embrace the kids. So, okay, go ahead. And myself are in constant contact with them. We get to know these students. So well, uh, actually, and, um, another benefit, which I never really saw coming, I guess unintended consequence of this was we get to build relationships with these students. We maybe meet them when they’re 18 years old, you see them throughout their college career because once they’re part of this community and once the part of the already for kids program, they never leave. And we see them develop and mature and grow as from a college student to becoming a young adult and we’ve seen them and even assisted them in getting jobs and starting their careers and you get to see them become productive members of society. It’s so great. So that’s really, um, what the playbook is, can consistently keeping in contact, making sure that this, the, the, um, the students who visit are healthy, you know, that they’re going, they’re following the guidelines in terms of visiting rules, uh, posting on social media, all that stuff. We make sure we’re on top of, and we’re constantly following up. And then with that, uh, we’ve been able to just build these incredible relationships with student volunteers who are just amazing, um, amazing individual. I can’t say enough good things about these kids because they’re giving up time, um, from their college experience to spend time with these kids and they really grow to love these families. So that’s always, you know, that’s something that we’re always checking in on with them. And then even beyond that, one of the toughest parts is sometimes the child’s health situation doesn’t turn out well, the child passes away, student group. Glenn and I always make sure, you know, we are the ones who informed the, the, uh, college students that the, uh, about the bad news of their, of their child. And that’s the toughest part of this job is because to see the, to see someone else suffer is so terrible. And it really hurts me a lot. When you know, these, these college students are visiting, they’re having fun experiences visiting. It might be that they visited their child and then two weeks later, the child passes away. And for them, they can’t comprehend it because they were playing games. There were laughing two weeks ago. And then now that the, the child’s is gone. So that part, that aspect of this is, but we make sure that we’re really there for the students, um, to, to support them. We speak to the whole student group and we make sure that they’re there for each other as well. And that we’re there for, for each other, because at the end of the day, it is, you know, uh, one community and we get through it together. But that, that aspect of it can be really tough. So we really try to make sure that we’re there to fully support the students. And then also, you know, work with them, train them on that.

Glenn:
It’s all part of the culture. So the light interaction, fun and laughs are part of the culture. Um, the loss is part of the culture. And so then that’s, uh, we, um, treat the student groups when, yeah. How do you end up with students, college students, you know, that perform so well that come through it’s selection. The student groups usually, um, send us their best ambassadors. It’s training, it’s daily, obsessive follow-up and communications. It’s having high expectations, if you want someone to perform well, have high expectations of them, but then also follow up. And then we hold people accountable. So, um, with, you know, the policies that we have, We, we don’t get into exceptions. As an example, you need to have certain vaccines to visit, um, no medical program there. Um, exceptions you might have, who knows, got reasons from religion to my mom, doesn’t want me to do it. We say, I can’t make you get a vaccine, you can’t make me let you visit us at kid. So that’s all we just, you know, we have word tracks, um, for things. And, uh, because over time we work with these groups, they take pride in it. They feel the fun emotion of it. They also know the weight from the other part. So I think all that is a tapestry or a more educated prepare responsible college student that could then hit the ball out of the park with college, energy and fun and laughs that adults, you know, you get to a certain point in your life. The college students, this is fascinating. They date often, even though they know it’s kids or cancer or blood disorders, they just don’t have the same sense of seriousness about it. But that’s a great thing. When you go in and play video games and they try to beat the kid, they tried to beat the kid, which is what the child needs. Everyone’s already thoughtful. Yeah. They need somebody to go in and have laughs and play with them. That’s priceless. So that’s where a college student is so invaluable. And because they’re invaluable, we worked so hard to make it work from a behavior compliance mean even down to a tire for, for the men. Um, there’s a Glenn rule that this, yeah, it’s a little arbitrary, a little arbitrary. There’s nowhere in baseball, hats at the clinic for the children’s hospital. Why does a guy? I know. Well, you likely didn’t that day. So we had women laugh. They don’t get all this, but men, they get it from college. I’ll just throw on your roll out of bed. You go and do stuff. No, you will show up at the

Ashley:
No, that’s good.

Glenn:
Zero tolerance. You’d see a guy. Excuse me. No, no, no. You’re going to come looking a certain way, starting with the shower that day. Okay. That’s a key part. T-shirt that’s appropriate. You know, it doesn’t, you don’t have to dress fancy, no inappropriate t-shirts um, yeah.

Ashley:
Yes. Girls can’t wear baseball caps either then because girls aren’t, you know, sometimes they don’t wash their hair and stuff, so it’s gotta be both ways.

Speaker 2:
Well, I’ll tell you sometimes. So with the young men, it’d be the baseball hat. And then sometimes with the young ladies, it would just be maybe, um, showing a little bit too much for a kid’s clinic that, you know, sometimes girls in college tops or things, you know, you just yeah.

Ashley:
Yeah. Just being careful. Yeah. Very like neutral playing ground where, you know, basic plain. Sure. Yeah.

Glenn:
Think Disney rating.

Brad:
I’m gonna incorporate that part with our first-year staff. I’m going to teach you guys the Glenn rule.

Glenn:
When you set those small expectations and follow that leads to the bigger expectations and like, Oh, they’re no nonsense. That guy rolled up and said, I got to go. Cause I’m wearing a baseball hat.

Armaan:
And it’s happened before we send kids home. Yeah. College students. Yes. Yeah. Well, it’s important because also, um, you know, we expect them, as Glenn said, we ha we hold them to the highest standard and they’re visiting this clinic in the hospital and they’re representing themselves, but also representing embrace kids and medical team is there, the nurse is there, the doctors are there and they need to do their job. They can’t be worrying about what some college student is doing. So it’s important because they know that we got this, they know that Glenn and Armaan you know, they’re on top of this, they’re running this program. Well. So like when those little things are going are going right. Um, and, uh, and they’re running smoothly. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at that point, you know, everyone knows that the machine is well-oiled and it’s, it’s going, it’s going well, there won’t be incidents.

Armaan:
Yeah, no, no distractions for really what the whole goal of what everybody’s trying to do is yes, exactly.

Glenn:
Set high expectations.

Ashley:
That’s a good thing.

Brad:
You know it is, and if you don’t that, you know, you get a schmorgage board so that’s how you create consistency among, among, you know, constituents. And really, I mean, a lot of times people are more naive than they are violating rules. Right. So they just don’t know. And if you say, listen, don’t do it. They’ll be like, Oh, okay. I didn’t realize that was, you know, I didn’t realize that was the thing or that was, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t know the Glenn rule. Well now you do now don’t do it again. But if you don’t have that, if you don’t have those, those very simple, um, I don’t know, calm traditions, but very simple, um, protocols you’ll get a wide variety of just across the board because you know, most people just don’t know. So it’s, it’s good that you do that I think that that really just helps in building the culture that you’re mentioning and really kind of, uh, solidifying it if you will. So that’s cool. So how have you guys, so now obviously we’re, uh, you know, we’re, we’re in 2020, how have you guys pivoted your, your programming and your, and your, um, activities now that now that we’ve kind of went into this very contagious world that we live in with, um, our COVID 19 friend that we’re all dealing with, however, you kind of transitioned if you will, into, into our next level of 2020.

Glenn:
So I don’t, I don’t think we’re going to say that we, um, have pivoted, we were going to be candid and just say, we’re getting by, we’re getting by, because everything that we just talked to, you guys about these in person it’s showing up, I was trying to think of concepts of, you know, showing up. So we show up for tears, hugs, laughter. Um, those things are tough to do remotely. Um, so we’re doing web chats with families. We’re starting to do that between the student groups. Um, but most of what Embrace Kids does right now is sidelined. The best parts are sidelined. Okay. Um, the parts of really, you know, um, move a person, the parts that are soulful they’re on hold. Um, but we can pay bills for families, which Armaan will really explain in a minute and we can help solve other problems, transportation, babysitting, things like that. Um, so the most special parts are on hold. Some of the most critical parts like bills we could do remotely.

Armaan:
Yes. So we’ve actually increased the financial assistance that we provide for families because this pandemic has really affected well in a financial sense affected the, the working class. And a lot of our families that we support are working poor. They live paycheck to paycheck, uh, week to week and many them beyond the struggles that they experienced going through cancer treatment or treatment for whatever illness their, their child may have. They already have those struggles. And then the financial burdens added with that treatment. But the, a pandemic shut down only exacerbated those, uh, issues. So during this time we’ve really stepped up and do so. What we do to help offset costs of, um, um, added expenses in return in regards to treatment, you know, travel, copays, stuff like that expensive medication, and then on, and also to help offset lost income. We paid bills directly for patient family. So rent, mortgage utilities, phone, bill, cable, bill, some stuff like that. We’re able to just cut a check directly to of the, to the biller and, you know, obviously with the families, uh, account number to try to get to them. And that way it’s just, we can wipe the slate clean for a lot of these families and they don’t have to worry about those bills. And then also it could free up money for them to use on gas, groceries, or other other expenses. So it really gives a family the freedom and peace of mind, uh, to, to, uh, continue on with their lives and focus on what matters, which is their, their child and the child’s house. So the, uh, financial, the emergency financial assistance program, that’s what it’s called is really crucial for these families. So we’ve really, uh, stepped up in diverted all our resources and all the fundraising that’s come in directly to that. And every two weeks we’re cutting checks, we’re sending out, um, money for bills cause the families really need it right now. And then on top of that, we also have visa debit cards. I see. I have a really nice brand embrace kids, but right over here. So yeah, so this is really nice. So we just, uh, give us the families. They can just use those as they, um, as they need for gas groceries. So it’s, it’s really, um, important right now to help these families financially. And as Glenn said before, we’re always going to be there for these families, read, do what, what we need. And at this moment, right now they need that extra financial assistance. Many of them for different reasons, didn’t qualify for unemployment insurance. So they’re, they’re really struggling. Uh, so we’re really, uh, stepping that part, the emergency financial assistance op right now, and all donations are going 100% to that direct aid to these families.

Brad:
That’s phenomenal. So do you go through those, those, uh, branded cards? Is that like through like a, like a visa program? Is there a, uh?

Glenn:
It is.

Brad:
That’s cool.

Glenn:
Oh, we love it because the front, which Armaan. Showed you how it says Embrace Kids in the actual card is Embrace Kids. Um, branded. So, um, I’m going to give you an example of one case today. We’re, um, we’re FedEx, FedEx and out, um, cars, visa cards to a family. Um, single mom child has a very rare progressive cancer. And so she’s on government programs. Um, you know, what she gets from the government is fixed. She was behind on her utility bill. She thought she was setting up a payment plan, future payments out of her one bank account toward the utility. Um, the bill went to collection, the bill collection company then had her account information hold the full $400 that she owed to keep the power on. So now she has a negative, $140 balance. So until she gets her next government assistance, um, deposit, which literally this lady and kid, they have nothing, they have no resources and we know them. So that hits you that, um, if they needed something today and it’s hard, you know, it gets to me, we get upset about it. Like they can’t go today and buy something if they need it. So the gift cards are great because they’ll be at her apartment tomorrow morning. And then at least it’s a backup plan for some groceries or a prescription, you know, or whatever.

Armaan:
Yes. That story is all too familiar. There’s so many single parent households, single moms who we help out who are, um, you know, and just vulnerable positions. And you know, that they’re unsure on certain how to handle certain things. So we’re really able to empower them and uplift them, uh, and give them as, yeah, empower them really, uh, by helping them out financially. So they really have a provide for their families. So it’s really, really special. We’re very proud to support, um, the, these patient families who really need it right now.

Brad:
Yeah. And the last thing, anybody, anybody needs to just put, you know, tip the scale, the wrong way is financial, you know, financial issue or that exact issue that you just described. And by you in a, in a very, very positive and powerful gesture, correcting that, you know, it probably helps on so many levels that people can’t quantify, right. If you’ve ever been in those scenarios and some of us have been in those scenarios, you know, you don’t know, you don’t know what it does for you just to be like, Oh my God, like I just corrected this thing that was just weighing me down. And now I can focus on the thing that’s really important, which is my child. Okay. What am I going to do tomorrow? Okay. We need to, you know, we need immediate supplies and food to, to, to, um, just our basic needs for the day. And now I don’t have to worry about it. I think that, like, you know, probably just creates hope for people that, you know, when you don’t, when you have those, you know, everything seems like it’s working against you. And then all of a sudden, some things corrected out of the goodness of someone else’s heart. I think that goes, I think that that should be a message for everybody to take in account, you know, donate when you can, the, this is the real impact that’s having. And I think that’s an important, very important message.

Glenn:
It was a solvable problem. And one with resources. It’s actually the kids on birthday this week as well. Oh, I have to know that actually. Wow. I didn’t even get to call so many things happened in our world. We do this all the time, like four hours ago, eight hours. Uh, yeah, so it’s, it’s her birthday. So now also the gift cards, you know, cake or whatever, mom, whatever mom wants to do,

Ashley:
A sense of normalcy a little bit.

Armaan:
That that really hit me. Um, I was, I think it was a year ago or two years ago maybe. And the one mom, she had no resources left for her child’s birthday, not even to do like a $5 cake from ShopRite or something like that. He didn’t have any money for that. And I remember she came to me and she sort of broke down. It’s like one of the first times that she broke down really. Uh, but she just felt so low because she couldn’t give her kid the birthday that, that, that she wanted. So she was, you know, just it, and that really hit me because, you know, you see someone just break down and they can’t, um, provide their kid a birthday. You always, I know my parents always tried to make my birthday special. I’m sure that’s a big part of parenthood is making your child’s birthday memorable. You know.

Brad:
No question. Yeah, you want it, you want to do everything in your power, no matter what that, you know, whether it’s your last dollar or whatever it is, you, you know, you know, that, that day, for whatever reason, it’s just a traditional, very important thing for a child to experience. And it’s just, it’s, it’s a big thing.

Armaan:
It’s, it’s that it’s their child’s day, you know, that’s, that’s their day. And, uh, so, you know, just by being able to help her out with gift cards and then, um, getting a cake and stuff like that, organizing the birthday party for, for the child as well, really able to make a difference. And you can just see the way that her eyes lit up, you know? So that’s it.

Glenn:
And that’s why it all goes back to where we started chatting today with the communication, with the bridge, with the relationship, um, with the confidence, with the trust, because we need the parent to come forward and tell us these things so that we could solve them. Listen, the four of us, each of us on this befall could help afford get a kid a birthday cake. You know, you just think it’s, we have to know. So we have to have the confidence to have the confidence and trust and comfort. It’s not easy, you know, for sometimes for the parents to communicate these things, when they do, we can solve, we just need to know we can, we can solve can’t solve medicine, a lot of everyday issues. So.

Brad:
Yeah, well, one of the biggest issues in our society historically and now, and even more now is how do you get the right resources to the right people, right? Like how do you get there? How do you get resources, you know, in an effective manner, in an efficient manner, in a cost-effective manner to the right people and, and what you’re doing is doing that. So how do you, you know, how do you kind of expand on that? I wish our country could expand on that model to a degree because, you know, even with all this COVID stuff and, uh, all the funding COVID stuff with the cares act funding and everything going on, it was like they were trying to create these massive programs. And, and still, there were so many people that were left out of these programs, even though they spent, you know, trillions of dollars to try.

Brad:
There are still so many people that were left short of that, of those programs. And there are people that actually, you know, sadly enough, that benefited from, from all of this stuff, whereas other people, you know, didn’t get that aid. So, you know, what you’re doing is such an important part. And I wish there was a way to, to, to build that to a bigger degree in the sense of, you know, how to more people find out about, you know, how to give to you, how to more people find out, you know, about the benefits you’re doing, you. I think it’s just important to like focus in on that and just have more embraced kids of the world to, to really make a direct impact. I mean, you’re, you know, you’re, anytime you’re working directly with families and children, you, you know, you’re making that direct impact. And, uh, it just goes such a long way

Glenn:
You have to relate it to the cares act and, you know, government spending, um, we’re doing something that no one’s really doing for the poorest or least fortunate people that’s lobbying, okay. We call it advocacy or we’re ambassadors. You know, what you’re talking about is lobbying. And the truth is there’s no lobby for underprivileged people, there’s lobby for big companies and special interests and a lot of other things. And for people, you know, that earn under $40,000 a year, there’s not a lobbyist for that. Okay. There’s certain groups or try a little bit to advocate. So, um, yeah, we’re ambassadors. And then we try to tell the stories, everyday stories to people so that they get. And what we can say is that will help the family immediately. If we have a donation online today, we could translate that into cards that go out by FedEx tomorrow. So you take pride in the immediacy.

Armaan:
Yes. And it’s so great being able to do that because there’s so many times where the family might come to us a little late in the game where they might have a $1,500 PSE&G shut off notice they don’t. And by this time, and, you know, uh, for, for many reasons, maybe they were ashamed or they, you know, they felt bad or want to come to us, but even no matter what the reasons maybe that they’re weighted or it’s last minute, we can put that money into youth and we can make sure that that light bill doesn’t get shut off. You know? So. \

Ashley:
Definitely, well, we’re glad that you guys came on today because that’s a, that’s a part of what we’re trying to just linking the right people together, getting messages out there. So if people want to support you or donate their time, um, whether it’s a college student or an adult or someone in their twenties, is there anybody wanting to volunteer, just, um, any sort of resource they can give to you? What, um, what can our listeners do?

Glenn:
So, um, for throughout the COVID period, which seems like, you know, it’s at least going to be for six months, we’ll say in general, it’s really donations. If you go to embracekids.org, you can donate. And then when you go and donate, you could, um, put a note in the memo, you know, pay a families rent or provide a kid’s birthday. So, um, people could go and do that immediately, and we can turn around those donations, um, quickly. And then for after May 1st, we are going to work. We’re planning to go back to having events. We’re going to have a huge walk in late may. Hopefully everything will stay on track, you know, to be able to have a big outdoor walk in late may. That would be the first really, um, could have volunteers at, um, the Rutgers students come through certain programs, certain organizations, um, through dance marathon, through Rutgers Dance Marathon. So if a Rutgers student heard this and wanted to do something today, we would say, go get involved with dance marathon. Then there’s a structured student leadership team advisors, all that helps embrace kids.

Ashley:
Great. Well, keep us in the loop on the walk cause we’ll get a big Withum team showing up.

Glenn:
Well Withum has been great, you know, for 15 years, um, with them has had representation at our events. You guys have done Thanksgiving, which, you know, I can’t believe we’re not doing, it’s a reality with provides meals, Thanksgiving meals at the children’s hospital. And we go in set up a beautiful spread and we bring Thanksgiving to people that are stuck at the children. So thank you with them. And boy and Hertz, we won’t be doing that this year,

Armaan:
As Glenn said, thank you very much. Those, the Thanksgiving meals that the employees at Withum have always provided are so good. The families love them because it’s great because the people sign up for the best side dish that they can make. And so it’s like, everyone’s Oh yeah, your dish. So it’s delicious. Uh, but I know

Brad:
I always hit up the mashed potatoes. I’m like mashed potatoes, baby.

Armaan:
Yeah. That feels wonderful. But it’s, um, but even beyond that, just all the events and the support that as, um, a whole community with, um, supported embrace kids were really great with that. So thank you for even giving us this platform as well, to share our story. And we’re really grateful for this.

Brad:
Yeah, no, it’s phenomenal. And, and Glen, I know, I, I, uh, I forgot to ask, but I know before this, um, you know, we converse a little bit about, you know, what you learned kind of as a non-profit, uh, through this COVID time and, uh, you know, small little message. I know you’re talking about, you know, providing financial assistance and all of that. Um, do you want to share a little bit about that? Just about a reserve fund?

Glenn:
Sure. So for the past 15 years, each year, Embrace Kids, we made sure we took two, three, four or 5%, you know, of what we raised throughout the total year and put it into a rainy day fund. And when you do that year over year, then you have a reserve fund that gets us through a tough year, like 2019 or 2008, 2009. So, you know, it’s hard to believe we now had two massive, um, financial plus crises in 12 years, but that’s definitely a message, you know, to other groups. And obviously it’s tough to say that today it’s the non-profits. Um, but for 2021 or 2022, whatever, you can just take a small piece and put it aside. So you can be there when people need it most, this year and next year will be the years people needed it most in a 10 year period. So if you can do that and put something aside, because you know what, you can always find a way to spend the money a great way, adjust way I needed way, but when times are tough, like now it’s very hard to come up with the funds.

Brad:
Yeah. They’re very important. And you know, like, like we’ve been saying, we really appreciate the, uh, the work that your organization is doing. And obviously, you know, we notice it and we see it and we’re, we appreciate you just sharing your message and just sharing some information stories and, and kind of what’s going on on the ground. It’s very helpful. Um, you know, to put contacts to people’s donations, just know how far your donation goes. I mean, a hundred dollars could keep the lights on for somebody for a month, for two months, for three months. And otherwise they wouldn’t have that. And so, you know, I’m going to put in that, you know, a lot of times we don’t, it doesn’t always get to contacts when you get an email or you get some, you know, communication, but when you hear it and you hear, you know, you gentlemen who are actually physically in the hospital who are physically working with the Rutgers students who are physically, um, you know, writing the checks out to the families, I mean, you, you know, you know, the impact it has. And so, um, just, you know, being able to hear that directly and to hear that fully, you know, not just a, not just an email or anything like that, it really goes a long way. So I really appreciate you just sharing the message and, and, uh, yeah, I, you know, I hope that, uh, uh, you know, people continue to support and to provide funding to, to the programs because it, it really does go a long way.

Glenn:
The patient families are so appreciative, they’ve even, you know, given us permission to share the child, their child’s first name and a photo, you know, back to donors, they want to do that. They want to say, thank you. And they, they want to be known and put a face forward. And they also want to validate people’s generosity. They understand that that’s important, um, with giving that you really need to show documented, validate, um, donations. So we can do that. We do that.

Armaan:
Yes.

Brad:
Yeah, no, that’s, that’s phenomenal. It really is. Um, yeah. So, like I said, we really, really appreciate your guys’ time today. Um, and any other closing thoughts and it, we just talked about a lot. Anything else you want to end on or good to go?

Glenn:
Love, love, kids, love dogs and all animals, love people.

Armaan:
Well, thank you for your time. And, uh, as Glenn said, seriously, just try to support the people around you, as best as you can. There’s always someone who’s struggling and I’m going through something. So that’s what the embrace kids is all about. It’s just uplifting everyone. And we’re just one community we’re getting through this together. So as cliche as that is, that’s true for Embrace Kids. We are, we’re going to uplift every one of our patient families, everyone in our community together

Glenn:
When people are struggling, go toward them. Don’t second guess. Well, maybe I shouldn’t bring it up. I don’t know if I should do this… Go toward them. Okay. With communication and even something else that hopefully we all get back to, a hug. Hug goes a long way in life. And especially I say this to people, sometimes you don’t know what to say. You don’t know the – you just don’t have the words. And a hug… a hug can say a lot, and say it better.

Ashley:
A hug can change somebody’s day and beyond. There’s studies behind that too. Getting outside, giving people hugs both.

Armaan:
Yes.

Glenn:
Alright have a blessed day. Goodbye.

Brad:
You too. Thanks so much. We’ll see you.

Brad:
Hey warriors. Thanks for tuning in. Make sure to subscribe to Civic Warriors and thanks for all your support. Have a great day.

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