Michelle & Victoria Lund
You might say that Michelle and Victoria Lund have elected to lend their considerable financial support to the kids at Phoenix Children's Hospital
But it would probably be more accurate to say "their hats are in the ring."
The two sisters are the executive directors of the California-based Lund Foundation, which committed $2.5 million to help underwrite renovation of the hospital's new 20th Street and Thomas facilities. For the Lunds, the best confirmation of that commitment probably came from a Fourth-of-July visit to Phoenix Children's.
The two went hat in hand - literally - and they caused a sensation.
The Lunds roamed from room to room, nurse's station to nurse's station, as emissaries of "Happy Hats," a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization that provides Dr. Seuss-ish chapeaus (made by female prisoners and local churches) to kids in children's hospitals all over the country.
"We handed out hats to the kids and the staff. They were so much fun," said Michelle.
The fun was sufficient to stretch a planned one-hour visit to two-and-a-half hours, and to bring the Lunds back for another hat handout at Halloween.
"It makes me so happy," said Victoria. "You walk in and see these kids, and they're so sick, and they don't want to be there. And then you hold up a hand mirror, and they see this hat on their head, and they see how funny and silly they look, and they smile.
"And also, they see doctors and nurses come in with these same hats on, and you hear giggles all down the hall.
"Everyone gets a hat," she explained. "Family members, even stuffed animals."
On their Halloween visit, the sisters were surprised by a group of Phoenix Children's patients who presented them with some home-made medals of appreciation for their good-cheer efforts. It's the kind of happiness Victoria said she would like to spread around.
"I've been working on some of my friends to go down there," she said. "Giving money is one thing, and giving of your time is something different. Anyone can write a check. I want to volunteer my time."
"It all stood out to me," Michelle said. "When you hear the words, 'My kid's in the hospital,' I don't think you have the full impact of what that means until you go and see the kids yourself. I think it brings it that much closer to home."
The sisters carry their own "close to home" memories of what hospitals are like. Michelle's twin brother, Brad, spent considerable time in a children's medical center as a boy. (He, too, is now a member of the Lund Foundation board.)
The Lunds drew particularly strong impressions from their first visit to Phoenix Children's, when they visited the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
"We saw the premature babies," Victoria said. "That just rips your heart apart.
"But the people there in the NICU really care. They think of those kids almost as their own children, in a way."
The sisters also sat in on a meeting of the Children's Advisory Council, listening as the youngsters gave their ideas and input to architects of the new Phoenix Children's Hospital.
"I'm really impressed with those children," Victoria said. "They have such insight into everything - the schoolroom classes, the activities, the meals. It seems to help a lot."
"It's really important for children to have a hospital of their own," said Michelle.
The sisters have long lent their Foundation's financial support to non-profit organizations, on behalf of battered women, victims of substance abuse, and kids in need. They were already contributing to a children's hospital in Los Angeles when, having moved to the Valley, they began to look around for local projects.
"I said, 'Well, we live in Phoenix, and there's a hospital here for kids,'" Victoria said. Soon, the two were in contact with David Phillips, the former Executive Director of the Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation.
"Both Victoria and Michelle obviously have a great heart for kids," Phillips said. "From our first meeting, they showed enormous interest in the work we are doing, and a real desire to become personally, hands-on involved with the kids we're trying to help.
"It's really gratifying to meet two people, both with an incredible number of professional responsibilities and commitments, who want to make the time to meet our kids, look in their faces, and find a tangible way to make our patients' lives better."
Victoria pointed out, though, that the children weren't the only ones helped by the Lunds' personal investment.
"It has changed me," she said. "I used to be scared of hospitals, and I'm really not anymore. I look forward to going to Phoenix Children's.
"Hopefully, this is something I'll be doing for a very long time."