Celebration to honor 3 ‘hometown heroes’

LLU Children’s Hospital to observe 10th anniversary at foundation gala

( By ANNETTE WELLS, Staff Writer )

LOMA LINDA – There’s a decade of operation to celebrate and a trio of heroes to salute this Sunday at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital Foundation’s 10th Annual Gala and Dinner.”We are thrilled, because this is the 10th year of operation for the Children’s Hospital and we are awarding three more people as Hometown Heroes,’ said Patti Cotton Pettis, executive director of the Children’s Hospital Foundation.

This year’s heroes are:

Joseph Rodriguez of Redlands, a trauma nurse in the emergency room at Loma Linda University Medical Center. He started the nonprofit Gang Reduction Intervention Team in 1996 after noticing a large number of injured youths coming through the emergency room doors. His goal was to get youth away from violence and to take responsibility for their actions.

The San Bernardino Juvenile Probation Department uses the team.

Cherie Gruenfeld of Blue Jay, who for the last three years has been ranked the world’s No. 1 female Ironman triathlete in her age group. She recently started Cypress Kids, a program designed to encourage at-risk children at Cypress Elementary School in San Bernardino to stay away from negative activities and participate in triathlons.

Dr. Carla Lidner Baum, a Riverside dentist. She recently partnered with Head Start to offer free screenings to children. For the program, she was awarded a two-year, $1.1 million grant, and because of its success, the program has received a second grant for $2.3 million over two years, officials said.

This Sunday’s event at Loma Linda University’s Drayson Center marks the seventh year that the foundation has recognized Hometown Heroes in the community who have made efforts to enrich the quality of life for children.

“These are people from the community who share our passion for children,’ Pettis said. “These heroes have distinguished themselves through their giving to improve the lives of children.

Last year’s dinner was attended by more than 900 people and raised $186,000 for programs at the hospital. This year’s collection will benefit the Loma Linda University Pediatric Diabetes Treatment Center, Pettis said.

The center, inside the Loma Linda University faculty offices, offers education to patients and their families on how to better manage the disease.

Two board-certified pediatric endocrinologists, a nurse practitioner, two diabetes nurse educators, two nutritionists, two case managers, a nurse for special projects and an administrative secretary make up the center’s staff, medical center officials said.

“For the last 10 years, and even before the hospital opened, we have been treating diabetic children,’ Pettis said. “It’s a team-centered effort where, instead of just going to the doctor, children and their families can have access to an assortment of services. A child can come see a doctor, a nurse and a nutritionist all at once.’

The idea behind the center is to give children who may not have health insurance an opportunity to get care beyond just a doctor, Pettis said.

“We are committed to turning no child away,’ she said.

Gloria Loring, a singer, songwriter, actress, author and speaker, will act as master of ceremonies and entertainer at the gala.