As the lights went down and the Meydenbauer’s banquet room was plunged into darkness, tiny lights flickered at every table, giving the effect of hundreds of stars in the night sky.
Using the flashlights they had found at their seats upon arrival, guests were responding to the call to be a beacon of hope for children in need.
Eastside Baby Corner’s eighth annual Helping Kids Thrive Luncheon, held on Wednesday at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center and this year themed “Simple Ideas for Brighter Futures,” literally shone a light on the difficulties facing children whose families are struggling to get by financially.
The luncheon raised more than $335,000 for Eastside Baby Corner and drew about 865 attendees. KING 5 news anchor Steve Bunin acted as emcee.
The Issaquah-based nonprofit, which also has hubs in Kenmore and Bremerton, provides clothing, baby formula, diapers, toys, car seats, toiletries and more to children from birth through age 12, as well as provides maternity clothing and other necessities for expectant mothers. Over 80,000 items are given to children in need each year in King, Kitsap, south Snohomish and west Pierce counties.
“Eastside Baby Corner is a very simple idea with profound results,” stated Kim Foster, who co-chaired the luncheon with her husband Dan Foster.
Keynote speaker Benjamin Hoffman, a Portland pediatrician and former chief resident at Seattle Children’s Hospital, told the audience that 40 percent of kids in Washington come from low-income families, and one in 10 children live in deep poverty.
In expensive Washington state, Hoffman said, even households with two working parents often struggle to make rent.
“You can work full-time and still not even crack the poverty line,” he said.
Poverty can actually impact a child’s brain development. Living with the stress and disadvantages of a low-income background “builds a brain that’s not gonna be able to do what it needs to do,” Hoffman explained.
Unfortunately, Hoffman said, an overwhelming majority of charity dollars are given to children after their brains have mostly developed; it is the first 1,000 days of life that are the most crucial. This is why physicians “need partners like Eastside Baby Corner,” Hoffman said.
He pointed out that because no child has the ability to vote, children lack the power that is needed to effect change.
“We need you to give power to kids — to take over the ability to act and advocate on their behalf,” he said.
Kathy Wood, Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program family support specialist with the Issaquah School District, spoke about the people she helps every single day, such as Monica, a single mother raising first- and second-grade daughters.
“I could not give them a sense of hope if it wasn’t for Eastside Baby Corner,” Wood said.
For more information about how to volunteer or make a donation, visit www.babycorner.org.