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"I'll pretty much try anything twice," Program Manager Breanna Anderson said with a laugh, "I say 'pretty much' because I won't do skydiving!"
The thought of physically opening a door of a plane and stepping out into the expansive sky may seem too daunting for Breanna; yet, her role within The Center for Children's Health can be quite like that.
When working with families in the community discussing the issues they are facing, Breanna needs to embrace the vulnerability that a novice skydiver would feel on that first jump.
"They have a trust in Cook Children's because of our incredible reputation," she said, "but we have to connect on a more personal level at times."
"So when there is a mother dealing with abuse, they need to know someone understands and is here to help," she openly shared. "Having been in an abusive relationship in the past, I can I come from a place of understanding. Making myself vulnerable is uncomfortable but I know it's beneficial to our work when meeting with families."
Making meaningful connections are what it is all about for the work that The Center for Children's Health is doing. Specifically, Breanna's role in addressing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) through programming and community outreach and events.
As we have all come to know too well this last year, COVID-19 has been added to the list of traumatic events for children that will likely having a lasting impact on their mental, physical and emotional health. Fortunately, the team Breanna is a member of has launched a webinar series, "What's Driving Your Decision," to help guide families through questions and concerns about the disease and the vaccine.
Breanna is quick to point out that this team and its dynamics are exactly what she is most proud of when looking at her time at Cook Children's. "I get to see the way that this team of unique individuals gets to love on the families we work with," she explained. "We may come from different backgrounds and places than some of the families but there is such genuine heart in each interaction with people."
This reputation of sincerity is a hallmark of Cook Children's and, admittedly, is what brought Breanna here nearly nine years ago.
Even though I grew up in Keller, north of Fort Worth, I never really had any experience with or awareness of Cook Children's," she recalled. "Then, my nephews began to have medical issues and ended up at Cook Children's. Whether it was for heart surgery or appointments, these boys were never scared to come here. That's a huge testament to the care and attention Cook Children's offers. It's one thing for us to not feel like a hospital to the family or visitors but for the child who is physically going through a medical ordeal to view it as a 'vacation' is amazing. I knew that I wanted to work here."
After spending time working in Organizational and Professional Development as a conference coordinator, Breanna took another brave step in the unknown when she joined the ACEs program in its infancy that would eventually become part of The Center for Children's Health.
"The leaders of the program in the very beginning took a chance on me and I'm so grateful for that," Brenna said. "Now we have established our identity as a truly invested partner along with our collaboratives that is trying to help solve the issues and meet the needs that THEY are identifying. There's a mutual trust between us that's invaluable to achieving progress."
Fortunately, helping others is a deep-seated desire for Breanna. "When I was in college, I flirted with becoming a therapist because not spending the majority of my time trying to make a difference seems wasteful," she explained. "Thankfully, even though I decided to not pursue the therapist route back then, I've found another way to make a difference."
Such a 'difference' may not be readily or regularly visible to Breanna but it doesn't have to be because she has faith in the work we are doing.
"For me, seeing isn't believing because we don't always get to see firsthand how our work is curbing abuse or other circumstances we're trying to prevent," she explained. "But I believe in the work and, if we can positively impact the life of one child, then the work is worth it."
An earnest belief in Cook Children's efforts, like Breanna has, is how we will make seismic changes in our communities. Because that one child can then have a ripple effect and touch the lives of others. At that point, the cycles will be broken and a brighter future will be in store for countless others. Those will be the tangible results of a belief in our work, as Breanna holds dear.
Then, saying and believing proudly that #WeAreCookChildrens will take on a much larger meaning.