Rachael Russell's family spans much of the history of the All Children's Hospital Guild. She is a third-generation member of the volunteer organization that has boosted and raised money for Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital and its patients and families since 1949.
In the beginning, Guild members went door-to-door raising money. They were socialites, school teachers, neighbors and nurses. Anyone and everyone who saw a need, especially in the desperate polio days where so much as touching one of these children was taboo. The Guild's first event in March 1949 was a garden party and their first gift was nearly $9,000 for a hospital elevator and sun terrace. Guild membership ran the length of Central Avenue from Beach Drive to Gulf Boulevard. Tickets for the Charity Ball were $3.
While many things have evolved over the years, the dedication of Guild members offering their time, talent and treasure to the patients and families has not.
In fact, the Guild has become known over the decades for elegant, memorable and nearly always sold-out parties, luncheons, fashion shows and other fundraisers that raised money and awareness throughout the St. Petersburg area and far beyond, extending the hospital’s reach into nearby counties including Hillsborough, Citrus and Sarasota.
On July 1, Russell and the Guild begin a new chapter, combining with the Johns Hopkins All Children's Foundation to continue benefitting children. A project that began during former Guild chair Judy Keyak’s successful tenure now comes to fruition.
“Meaningful moments like this transition mark organizations,” says Russell, chair of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation Guild. “In the early 1960s, polio was eradicated and the American Legion Hospital for Crippled Children needed a new direction. Change can be challenging, but one can only imagine where Johns Hopkins All Children’s would be today if leadership then hadn’t asked, ‘What’s next?’ Imagine how proud those leaders would be today as we stand before our new research and education building, offering the most sophisticated pediatric biorepository in the country and hosting research studies that will certainly change the trajectory of pediatric medicine.
“It’s inspiring,” Russell concludes.
The Guild’s Impressive History
The Guild laid the groundwork of community advocacy and fundraising on the hospital's behalf. Through the years, the Guild, with its nine branches along Florida's west coast and hundreds of volunteer members, has raised more than $10.3 million in philanthropic support for many hospital initiatives. A sampling of projects:
- A new ambulance
- Financing for nurses' excellence through education
- Funding for the neonatal intensive care unit during the current hospital's construction
- Money to support a pediatric research chair
Joining forces with the Foundation allows the Guild's volunteers to focus on their relationship building, fundraising, advocacy and event planning as they share the hospital's story throughout the area. The Foundation's infrastructure will handle the administrative details and help avoid duplicating efforts.
“The Guild has been, is and will remain an institution at Johns Hopkins All Children’s," explains Foundation executive vice president Jenine Rabin. "The commitment of our Guild members to the mission of this hospital since 1949 is truly unparalleled. It speaks volumes about their dedication and love for the hospital that members of the Guild’s founding family are still members and participants and that today’s Guild president, Rachael Russell, is one of several third-generation family members.”
A History of Support
As a history buff, Russell can recite statistics and figures by heart of roster numbers, top events and longest-serving members, but at the end of the day, it’s all about love for the hospital and its mission.
“I was raised in a family that firmly believes to whom much is given, much is expected. I can’t recall a time that our family hasn’t been involved in the hospital,” Russell adds. “My grandmother, Sarah Longquist, volunteered in the gift shop and my parents, JC and Carol, served on the Safe Kid Coalition and Development Council. It is a privilege and an honor for me to continue this legacy—for my own family and my Guild family—as we grow together the way this hospital continues to grow in the name of leadership in pediatric health. I’m so proud of my fellow Guild members for embracing this moment.”
Over the past 70 years, the Guild has seen the hospital's care improve, the mission expand, the facilities renew and the name change, “But what remains constant is passionate Guild volunteers each using their time, talent and treasure to support the children and families of this beloved hospital,” Russell adds.
The Guild shares a long legacy of support in helping Johns Hopkins All Children's become a leading pediatric academic health system. The Foundation couldn’t be happier with their immense contribution.
“Leveraging these areas of strength can only make us stronger,” Rabin concludes. “And we look forward to what the future will bring for these incredible, dedicated, hardworking leaders that make up our Guild.”