Pediatric patients experience the tailgate of a lifetime

DOWNEY - Start with some wonderful kids, feed them dinner with Dodger Dogs, sausages and hot links, throw in Farmer John's giant "Tailgater" food truck and add the kindness of Supervisor Don Knabe, and you have the recipe for an amazing tailgate party for nearly 100 Rancho Pediatrics patients, their families and the clinicians who care for them that took place at the world-renowned hospital last week. Supervisor Knabe won the Farmer John "Tailgater" party at the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation's Amistad Gala Live Auction in April. He knew exactly what he was going to do with it.

"I wanted to do something fun for Rancho's kids and their families to let each and every one of them know how special they are and how much we think about them each and every day," Supervisor Knabe said. "Every one of these beautiful children has had a remarkable recovery at Rancho. Whether they are an inpatient or outpatient, participate in my Pediatric Arts Program or Wheelchair Sports or any of the other special Rancho programs, they deserve a chance to have some fun. It was a pleasure to make this day possible for these truly special kids."

The Tailgater is a 33-foot rolling restaurant that was created by West Coast Customs for Farmer John. It is equipped with three 55-inch flat screens, a 12-foot sports ticker, and even a flat-screen television mounted in the rear that broadcasts a live feed from an in-kitchen camera to bring the grilling experience outside.

Rancho's Chief of Pediatrics and the President of its Professional Staff Association, Dr. Luis Montes, put the impact of the event into perspective.

"Our kids work so hard to overcome their disabling injuries and illnesses that they have truly earned a day like this. Our children and their families had great food, and especially enjoyed the videos that played on giant monitors on the side of the Tailgater. For a few hours, they felt like celebrities."

Julie Helgren, Rancho's noted Recreation Therapist who has spent virtually all of her adult life working on the Rancho Pediatrics unit, said, "Our kids had a blast. Bonnie Barler and everyone associated with the Farmer John team created an atmosphere of fun that made it easy for the kids to smile and laugh."

The kids and their families got a delicious dinner, including all the Dodger Dogs, sausages, hot links, appetizers, sides and drinks they wanted.

"We're very grateful to Supervisor Knabe for everything he does for Rancho and our patients," Rancho CEO Jorge Orozco said. "He constantly surprises our patients with wonderful events like this, and he supports so many of our programs that make a difference in the self-esteem of our patients.."

Greg Longstreet, president of Farmer John Foods, made the Tailgater available as a live auction prize for the Amistad Gala.

"Farmer John is a company with a big heart," said Rancho Los Amigos Foundation President Connie Martinez, "because not only did they help us raise money for vital patient programs at Rancho, they brought a magical experience to Rancho for its inpatient and outpatient children and their families."

One of the Pediatric patients spoke for the group when he said, "I loved the party! I loved the food! I loved the videos! When can we do it again?" Mission accomplished.

********** Published: Aug. 8, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 17