CHKD News Releases

View our archive of past news releases. Media inquiries can be made by calling (757) 475-8839.

Recent News Releases and Stories

Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Contact: Elizabeth Earley - (757) 668-9049 or Elizabeth.Earley@CHKD.org

Christine Neikirk Elected Chair of CHKD Health System Board of Directors

NORFOLK, Va. – Christine Neikirk, an executive administrator with 30 years of experience in nonprofit governance, was elected Chair of the CHKD Health System Board of Directors beginning July 1, 2019. The CHKD Board of Directors has authority over Children’s Health System and CHKD.

“Ms. Neikirk’s extensive experience in management and organization will serve us well as we take on our next phase of development, a critically needed mental health initiative,” says Jim Dahling, president and CEO of CHKD Health System. “We are extremely fortunate to be able to bring her intelligence, her business acumen, and her passion for the community to the table as we continue our mission to care for the full scope of children’s health needs.”

Neikirk is part owner of Smartmouth Brewing Company, where she oversees community engagement, event planning, and a variety of administrative duties. Besides her experience in marketing and communications, nonprofits, and startup ventures, Neikirk has volunteered on various boards, including The King’s Daughters Board of Directors, Friends of the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation, the Hermitage Museum & Gardens, and the Norfolk Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

“I’m honored to work with the talented members of the board, the dedicated management of the hospital, and all the physicians and nurses who work each day to care for the children of the community,” says Neikirk. “That becomes even more imperative as we seek to close a critical gap in mental health services for children.”

Neikirk succeeds Edward A. “Buzz” Heidt, chair and CEO of The Penrod Company, who will remain on the board.

News Releases_Christine Neikirk

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CHKD is the only freestanding children’s hospital in Virginia and serves the medical and surgical needs of children throughout greater Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and northeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit CHKD Health System operates primary care pediatric practices, surgical practices, multi-service health centers, urgent care centers, and satellite offices throughout its service region.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2019
Contact: Elizabeth Earley - (757) 668-9049 or Elizabeth.Earley@CHKD.org

Registration Open for Anthem LemonAid Stands to Benefit CHKD

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Lemonade and summer go hand in hand, and now you can stir in a serving of charity, too. This July, hundreds of lemonade stands will pop up throughout Hampton Roads to raise money during Anthem LemonAid weekend.

Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has teamed up with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to help raise awareness and funds for the fight against childhood cancer at CHKD.

The annual Anthem LemonAid weekend will be July 19, 20, and 21, 2019. Families, businesses, and community groups are encouraged to register and participate to benefit childhood cancer treatment at CHKD. Last year, 785 LemonAid stands raised more than $95,000 for CHKD’s cancer program.

To support the success of the LemonAid stands, each participant will receive a free LemonAid kit that includes lemonade mix, cups, a pitcher, signs, and more. Lemonade is sold for a $1 donation and 100 percent of proceeds will benefit CHKD’s cancer program.

To register, visit AnthemLemonAid.com.

About CHKD’s cancer program

CHKD follows 500 local childhood cancer patients, ranging in age from newborns to survivors in their mid 20s. Nearly 70 new cases are diagnosed each year. The CHKD team of pediatric oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, pediatric oncology nurses, and nurse practitioners provide the nation’s most up-to-date treatments through CHKD’s participation in the world’s largest cancer research consortium. Learn more at CHKD.org/Cancer.

About Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the trade name of Anthem Health Plans of Virginia, Inc. (serving Virginia excluding the city of Fairfax, the town of Vienna and the area east of State Route 123). Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and its affiliate, HealthKeepers, Inc., are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Anthem® is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Additional information about Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia is available at Anthem.com.

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CHKD is the only freestanding children’s hospital in Virginia and serves the medical and surgical needs of children throughout greater Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and northeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit CHKD Health System operates primary care pediatric practices, surgical practices, multi-service health centers, urgent care centers, and satellite offices throughout its service region.

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Monday, July 01, 2019
Contact: Elizabeth Earley - (757) 668-9049 or Elizabeth.Earley@CHKD.org

Virginia Recognizes July as Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – For the first time, Virginia will recognize July as Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month.

The month has long been recognized by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association, and Virginia legislators followed suit by designating July as awareness month earlier this year.

CHKD’s Craniofacial Center, which is accredited by the ACPA, will celebrate the month with fun activity books and awareness bracelets for children. Officials and advocates of the center reached out to legislators for the statewide designation to raise awareness for the need for comprehensive, integrated medical care, counseling support, speech therapy, and dental and orthodontic care of patients with cleft and craniofacial conditions.

The center also wants to salute patients like Paige Rooney, 12, of Virginia Beach, who is a veteran of five surgeries at CHKD for a cleft lip and palate. She’s not complaining, in fact she celebrates it, because she feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to have corrective surgeries.

Paige was only 19 days old when she had her first surgery at CHKD to correct the birth defect, and her most recent surgery was a year ago. When she was younger, “No one understood why I looked the way I did, and why I have scars on my face.” She thinks more awareness about these conditions will give people more compassion when they see others who look a little different.

She now raises money for a longtime CHKD partner, Operation Smile, a Virginia Beach-based nonprofit organization that performs cleft lip and palate surgeries for children across the globe.

News Releases_Ronney 1   News Releases_Rooney 2

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CHKD is the only freestanding children’s hospital in Virginia and serves the medical and surgical needs of children throughout greater Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and northeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit CHKD Health System operates primary care pediatric practices, surgical practices, multi-service health centers, urgent care centers, and satellite offices throughout its service region.

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Friday, June 28, 2019
Contact: Elizabeth Earley - (757) 477-7268 or Elizabeth.Earley@CHKD.org

San Diego Zoo Kids TV Begins Broadcasting at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk

Featuring Amazing Animal Stories from the Virginia Zoo

Young patients, their families and invited guests were treated to a visit with some amazing animal ambassadors—including a Flemish giant rabbit, a hedgehog and a Harris’s hawk from the Virginia Zoo—at a gathering at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters earlier today (June 28, 2019). This special event was held to announce the arrival of San Diego Zoo Kids, a closed-circuit television adventure channel, at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk.

San Diego Zoo Kids is an innovative television channel with programs produced primarily for medical facilities that serve pediatric patients and their families. The creation and development of the channel has been funded by businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford. In 2017, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded San Diego Zoo Global an outstanding Museums for America grant to bring San Diego Zoo Kids to 75 children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald House Charities facilities across the nation over the next three years. The generous grant from IMLS has made the channel available on TV monitors at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk.

San Diego Zoo Kids’ programming offers family friendly, animal-oriented stories that are both entertaining and educational. “We know that children in the hospital benefit tremendously when they turn their attention from their injury or illness and focus instead on something that engages the mind and stimulates the imagination,” said Jim Dahling, CEO and president of Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia. “This adventure with the San Diego Zoo provides exactly that opportunity to virtually transport them outside of their hospital experience. We are grateful to the San Diego Zoo for collaborating with our own Virginia Zoo and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk on this project.”

The service is also making its debut at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk. "When you have a sick child, trying to maintain a sense of normalcy is important to families,” said Elyse Brown, executive director, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk. “Having access to the San Diego Zoo channel provides a fun, entertaining and educational option for families to sit and unwind after a hard day at the hospital. We appreciate the partnership!"

The channel also features animal stories from the Virginia Zoo. “The Virginia Zoo is thrilled to partner with San Diego Zoo Global and the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters to deliver heartwarming and educational animal stories to children who are unable to visit the Zoo,” said Greg Bockheim, executive director of the Virginia Zoo. “Sharing these special stories with children, their families and caregivers while they are in the hospital furthers to strengthen the bonds between humans and our animal friends, lifting our spirits and affection for all living things.”

The San Diego Zoo Kids channel offers up-close video encounters with animals, stories about caring for animals, quizzes about animals and habitats, and a wide variety of short video vignettes hosted by San Diego Zoo Global ambassador Rick Schwartz and San Diego Zoo Kids hosts Olivia Degn and Michelle Myers. Viewers can see best-of videos from the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Cam and other online cameras, as well as content from other zoos across the world.

“We continue to be humbled by the healing properties of San Diego Zoo Kids,” said Debra Erickson, director of communications, San Diego Zoo Global. “Parents and caregivers share that the channel, which has no commercials or inappropriate content, not only calms children but makes them happy.”

San Diego Zoo Kids debuted in 2013 at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Since then, it has been installed in 248 children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses in 42 states across the U.S. and the District of Columbia, and in facilities in Mexico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Pakistan, Qatar, Curaçao and South Africa.

DOWNLOAD VIDEO & PHOTOS:  https://sandiegozoo.box.com/s/btgckht0ze1q6w2ezqg6rymup3hr93fr

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About Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD)

CHKD is the only freestanding children’s hospital in Virginia and serves the medical and surgical needs of children throughout greater Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore of Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit CHKD Health System operates primary care pediatric practices, surgical practices, multi-service health centers, urgent care centers and satellite offices throughout its service region.

About Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk

Our Mission: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk helps families stay together, and close to the care they need, when they have a sick child.

Our house has served 21,046 families since we opened in December of 1981. We provide each family with a private bedroom/bathroom, living areas, and playroom, kitchen and laundry facilities. Ronald McDonald House Charities® is a non-profit organization supported by contributions from our community. Local McDonald’s restaurants help support the house through canister donations and special events. A small professional staff manages the house with volunteer support. Several national corporations provide in-kind donations including food, paper products, milk, laundry services and beverages.

About Virginia Zoo

The Virginia Zoo, located in Norfolk, Virginia, is home to more than 700 exceptional animals representing over 100 fascinating species. Founded in 1901 and residing on 53 beautifully landscaped acres, the Virginia Zoo has demonstrated a commitment to saving and protecting the world’s wildlife by inspiring a passion for nature and taking conservation action at home and around the world. The Virginia Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is recognized as a global leader in education, recreation, science, wildlife conservation, and animal care and welfare. For more than a century, the Zoo has connected adults, families and school children with the natural world and its wildlife. To learn more, visit virginiazoo.org.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s approximately 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums, and related organizations. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. IMLS grant making, policy development and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive.

About IMLS Community Anchors Program

IMLS promotes the role of museums as essential partners in addressing the needs of their communities by leveraging their expertise, knowledge, physical space, technology and other resources to identify and implement solutions. By strengthening museums’ capacities for civic engagement, these projects contribute to the creation of livable, sustainable communities. IMLS welcomes applications for projects that empower museums to transform their roles in their communities from being community resources to being community catalysts. Museums have a role to play providing civic and cultural engagement, facilitating lifelong learning, promoting digital inclusion and supporting economic vitality through programming and services. IMLS encourages projects that demonstrate collaboration, adopt co-creating strategies and engage with a wide variety of cross-sector stakeholders to accomplish a sustained collective-impact goal.

San Diego Zoo Kids

San Diego Zoo Kids reaches out to millions of children each year who might not otherwise be able to experience the wonders of animals, plants and their habitats, with the goal of making nature accessible to children everywhere. As part of San Diego Zoo Global, an international nonprofit conservation organization that works to save plants and animals worldwide, San Diego Zoo Kids seeks to fight extinction by raising awareness, building respect and igniting a passion for wildlife and conservation among younger audiences. The San Diego Zoo Kids website ( kids.sandiegozoo.org) provides a learning experience about animals, habitats and conservation for children anywhere. San Diego Zoo Kids provides free and discounted education programs in San Diego that meet LEAD standards for science curriculum and provides teacher training (kids.sandiegozoo.org/grownups). The San Diego Zoo Kids channel ( sandiegozoo.org/kidsnetwork) broadcasts television programming in more than 240 children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses around the world, providing joy, comfort, laughter, and learning to children and their families who are experiencing challenging times. To learn more, visit the links above or connect with us on Facebook and YouTube.

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Link includes:

  • B-roll of media conference announcing launch of the San Diego Zoo Kids channel at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and Ronald McDonald House Charities Norfolk
  • B-roll of Virginia Zoo animal encounters with patients
  • Interview with Jim Dahling, CEO and president of the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters
  • Interview with Elyse Brown, executive director, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk
  • Interview with Greg Bockheim, executive director of the Virginia Zoo
  • Photo with embedded caption.

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Media Contacts:

Elizabeth Earley - CHKD
Cell Phone: (757) 477-7286
Email: elizabeth.earley@chkd.org

San Diego Zoo Global - Public Relations
Office Phone: (619) 685-3291 
Email: publicrelations@sandiegozoo.org

Elyse Brown - Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk
Cell Phone: (757) 235-5538
Email: ebrown@rmhcnorfolk.org

Ashley Mars - Virginia Zoo
Cell Phone: (330) 257-1138
Email: ashley.mars@norfolk.gov

News Releases_San Diego Zoo

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Contact: Elizabeth Earley - (757) 668-9049 or Elizabeth.Earley@CHKD.org

CHKD Patient is First in Virginia to Receive Gene Therapy Drug Since FDA Approval

NORFOLK, Va. – A 3-month-old patient at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters was the first child in Virginia, and among the first in the country, to receive a new gene therapy drug since the Food and Drug Administration approved it to treat a disease that’s the top genetic killer of babies.

Pediatric neurologist Crystal Proud diagnosed Kaeli Price of North Carolina with spinal muscular atrophy in May when she was 8 weeks old. SMA is a progressive neuromuscular disease that gradually wears down muscles to the point where children are unable to walk or breathe easily. Children with the most severe forms need ventilators to breathe and usually die in childhood.

But on May 24, a week after Kaeli was diagnosed, the federal Food and Drug Administration approved a new gene therapy drug, Zolgensma, for treatment of SMA. Dr. Proud arranged for Kaeli to receive the drug on June 20 at CHKD just weeks after the first baby in the country received the newly approved treatment in Florida.

“My hope for Kaeli is that she’ll be able to sit and stand and walk and live a fruitful life,” Dr. Proud said. “It’s a life-changing drug that’s given us new hope and optimism we didn’t have before.”

This is the first gene therapy treatment for a neuromuscular disease, and it’s made headlines across the globe because drug company Novartis priced it at $2.1 million a patient, setting a world price record.

Kaeli’s parents, Kelli and Brandon Price of Belvidere, N.C., feel fortunate that the drug, which is for children 2 years of age and younger, became available when it did, and that their insurance company agreed to cover it. “It’s hard to put into words how we feel,” said Kelli Price. “We feel like the timing was all God’s doing.”

There was no approved medical treatment for SMA until 2016, when the FDA approved a drug called Spinraza, which allows a backup gene to produce more of a protein needed for motor neuron development. Dr. Proud, a pediatric neuromuscular neurologist, began administering Spinraza in 2017 and now treats about 30 patients with the injections into the spinal canal.

Zolgensma, though, is a one-time infusion that uses a virus to provide a normal copy of a gene that is missing or mutated in children with SMA. The drug could ultimately be less expensive and less trouble for patients than Spinraza, which must be administered repeatedly. Dr. Proud treated a 5-month-old patient with SMA at CHKD with the gene therapy in February when the drug was still in the clinical trial phase. The baby was authorized to receive the drug by the FDA under the compassionate use, or expanded access, program, a way patients with an immediately life-threatening condition can gain access to an investigational drug outside a clinical trial. That baby, who lives in another part of the state, is doing well.

Patients in clinical trials of the gene therapy showed improvement in the two years following treatment — they could breathe without a ventilator and some were able to talk, sit and even stand on their own, developmental milestones that many patients with SMA never reach. Studies are still tracking its long-term effectiveness.

Spinal muscular atrophy affects one in every 10,000 births. Dr. Proud has been involved in a statewide steering committee to recommend newborn screening for SMA in Virginia, so early intervention can provide the best development opportunities for these children.

For more information and to view a video about the infusion, visit CHKD's Spinal Muscular Atrophy Center webpage.

News Releases_Gene Therapy 1      News REleases_Gene Therapy 2

Left: Kaeli Price sits in the lap of her mother, Kelli Price, as she receives an infusion of a gene therapy treatment, Zolgensma.
Right: CHKD Neurologist Crystal Proud checks on Kaeli Price just before she begins the gene therapy infusion expected to extend her life.

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CHKD is the only freestanding children’s hospital in Virginia and serves the medical and surgical needs of children throughout greater Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and northeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit CHKD Health System operates primary care pediatric practices, surgical practices, multi-service health centers, urgent care centers, and satellite offices throughout its service region. Learn more at CHKD.org.

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(757) 668-6960