An anonymous gift of $10,000 to the Children's Miracle Network came with a challenge for the Costco in Mount Prospect, where the donation was made.
Store officials needed to match the donation in a single weekend.
The excitement happened last month during Costco's annual 30-day "May Campaign" for Children's Miracle Network. The international nonprofit organization raises funds for 170 children's hospitals that treat 17 million children each year.
"As soon as we found out about the anonymous donation, we started letting customers know," says Dave Vega, assistant manager. "We had signs on every cash register and customers really responded."
While the campaign typically consists of sales of $1 "miracle balloons," customers instead made contributions of $100, $200, $500, and even one for $2,000, Vega says.
It all added up to more than $12,000 raised over that weekend, pushing the store's total to nearly $25,000 for the month. With the matching donation, it amounted to more than $35,000, store officials said, making it their best campaign ever.
"Even before the matching donation, it was our best ever," added store communications director Lorie Robanske.
Many were customers whose children had been treated at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which is an affiliated hospital of the Children's Miracle Network, and received the donations from the 13 participating Chicago area Costco locations.
Kate Costello of Arlington Heights is one of those customers. Her son, Phil, has been successfully treated for pediatric cancer twice and he now will be starting his sophomore year at DePaul University.
"We love Costco and the people there," Costello says, "and we feel so strongly about everyone at Children's. We were thrilled when we heard about this anonymous donation. It was so exciting, and just seemed to inspire others to give."
In all, the Chicago area Costco locations combined to raise $425,387, and with a partial match by the Costco Foundation, the final donation resulted in a $500,000 gift for Children's Memorial Hospital.
Liz Keating, an official with the Children's Memorial Foundation, said the first $300,000 has been designated for the interpretive services team at the hospital.
Interpreters are able to translate instructions from a physician or health care professional to a child's family in order to bridge language barriers.
Omar Torres-Kortright, manager of family interpretive services, says the department fields as many as 270 requests per day for help. His team includes 23 full and part-time interpreters, but even they have trouble keeping up with the demand.
"We interpret everything said by the clinical team - as well as by the family," Torres-Kortright says. "We are trained to repeat everything, exactly as it is said."
The remaining money will be used for capital projects in the new Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, set to open in 2012, replacing the current structure.