For the past 5 years I’ve had the privilege of working with a wonderful organization called the Hannah Storm Foundation. Now many of you will note that one of my closest friends happens to be Hannah Storm so it may not sound all that special that I work with her foundation. While it’s true Hannah and I have been friends for more than half our lives, and have shared pretty much every life occasion together – happy and sad – one of the most special things we’ve shared is the work her foundation does for children.
For a little background, the Hannah Storm Foundation helps raise awareness and fund treatments for children born with disfiguring and debilitating birthmarks. Why did Hannah found such an organization? Simple, she was born with a port wine stain under her left eye. I’ll be honest, when I first met her, when we were at the tender ages of 19 and 21 respectively (see photo), I had no idea she had a port wine stain birthmark and in fact, it was actually Hannah who pointed it out to me. I could have cared less if she had it or not but clearly, this was something she was living with and had endured pain from others in her past. If I’m being honest, the only thing that scared me about her looks, and made me look away, had nothing to do with what was on her face. It was the big 80s hair and clothing we both wore that was most frightening (again, see photo)!
Hannah has teamed with world-renowned vascular birthmark surgeon, Dr. Milton Waner of the Vascular Birthmark Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She first met Dr. Waner when she was at CBS News and was producing a segment on birthmarks. In this segment she actually took off her makeup and revealed her own birthmark, nothing short of courageous. At that moment, the idea of the Hannah Storm Foundation was born.
What is a vascular anomaly or birthmark?
Many babies are born with birthmarks and maybe you’ve seen a child with a cute one on their cheek or tummy. While the majority of these birthmarks will be nothing, and in some cases disappear or fade and become less noticeable over time, some children will have a significant vascular birthmark that will require a specialist. For these children, approximately 40,000 in the U.S., parents are often left wondering what to do and who to turn to for help.
Celebrity Waiter Night 2015
One of the perks of being the public eye is that you can call upon your “celebrity” friends to help you when trying to promote an important cause. Over the past 6 years the Hannah Storm Foundation has hosted several celebrity-focused fundraising events and one such event took place just this past week. Once again Hannah gathered a number of her friends from the world of sports, media and entertainment at the New York Athletic Club for a Celebrity Waiter Night. While she has hosted this event in the past, this one was even more special as we were able to recognize two great partners in this journey – the Ronald McDonald House New York, and the man responsible for transforming literally thousands of patients suffering from vascular birthmarks, Dr. Milton Waner.
If you’ve ever planned a big party you know nothing is more challenging than putting it all together. Luckily for Hannah, she has formed a great team to help her host these events that Executive Director of the foundation, Carmen Belmont, and I like to refer to as, “2 people in a room!” Because Hannah is so beloved among so many different groups of people in the sports, media and entertainment spaces, these great celebrities come to participate to support her – and Carmen and I do all the rest – and have the swollen feet to show for it. But it’s all-good because the night was a huge success and a lot of money was raised to fund surgeries and treatments for so many children.
One child in particular that we directly raised money for that night is a little girl from Montana named Sloan. The minute Dr. Waner showed us her picture we all just knew this was our patient. This sweet little girl has a huge hemangioma on her face. The generosity that poured out of the room the night of the fundraiser was overwhelming. Because of it Sloan and her family will be traveling to New York City this January for her to undergo surgery to make her even more beautiful than she already is. And this is what makes all the hard work of putting on an event meaningful.
As a parent you want nothing but perfection and the best for your child. Meeting so many of these little patients I have learned to count my blessings daily. Hannah always tells the story that when her mother first told her about her birthmark she said, “This is where you were kissed by an angel before you were brought to me.” Luckily for so many of these children they have extra angels helping them thanks to people like Dr. Milton Waner – and Hannah Storm.
For more information on the Hannah Storm Foundation please visit the website.