When Jared Behnke moved to University Park in 2011, he wanted to find a philanthropic outlet to get involved in his new community and give back. Through friends, he found Passion for Children’s, a nonprofit that supports grassroots fundraising for the Children’s Health Dallas and Plano campuses.
Flash forward two years to 2013 — Behnke was rushing to the Dallas hospital, 18-month-old in tow, only to find that the hospital he had spent so much time supporting would turn around to support his family.
His son, Wynn, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He spent weeks in the Children’s Health endocrinology department while his parents and grandparents learned how to tackle the disease.
“What I had once thought of as a worthy cause suddenly became very personal. This hospital, these nurses and doctors, saved our kid’s life,” Behnke said.
Three years later, the Behnke family keeps giving back to the hospital that gave them so much by supporting the Passion for Children’s Red Balloon Run and Ride. The 5K run, walk, or cycle, and enormous carnival on April 23 at the Children’s Health Plano campus is open to all, with free activities for the whole family.
Founded by Highland Park mayor Joel Williams, Passion for Children’s is a different kind of nonprofit. Instead of searching for the Dallasites willing and able to write $1 million checks, the group focuses on word of mouth to collect smaller donations, said Passion for Children’s executive director Preston Walhood.
Teams and individual donors raise money each year on the Run and Ride website and, while there is no specific fundraising goal for each team, according to Walhood, many raise thousands of dollars for the hospital before competing.
Each donation can be directed to a specific department, research, or for more iPads in the waiting rooms. The Behnkes and their team have raised more than $40,000 through their Run and Ride team page since joining the race last year. Wynn’s Warriors have designated funds specifically for the endocrinology department, because of its impact on Wynn’s life.
“We didn’t know this at the time, but eventually you or someone you know will lean on support from Children’s,” Behnke said. “We are just one of thousands of stories in the area of the incredible power of Children’s.”
According to Passion for Children’s, one in four children in Dallas County and one in three children in Collin County will visit one of the Children’s campuses in their lifetime. More than 20,000 attendees are expected at this year’s event, Walhood said.
For those not participating in the ride or run, there will be face painting, bounce houses, food trucks, and live bands for entertainment. You will find the Behnkes in their decorated tent wearing Wynn’s Warriors shirts.
“For a boy who has to get four shots a day and dozens of fingerprints, this day, the Red Balloon Run and Ride, is all about him,” Behnke said. “We have about 60 people come into town from all over, even out of state, just to celebrate how lucky we are to have a hospital like Children’s in Dallas.”