Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Coalition Aiming to Support, Strengthen Kids' Palliative Care Fox Chapel Church Influenced Statewide Effort

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Coalition Aiming to Support, Strengthen Kids' Palliative Care Fox Chapel Church Influenced Statewide Effort

Article excerpt

Amid the worst of the steel industry's collapse, a group of former steelworkers began disrupting Sunday services at churches across Allegheny County, hoping to draw the attention of powerful company executives where they worshipped.

When they showed up at the Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church in the spring of 1984, the Rev. John Galloway stopped the service and invited them to address the congregation. Their stories that day were followed by emotional meetings with church and community leaders in which they described life without medical benefits for their children, according to church records.

Charlie LaVallee, longtime executive director of the Highmark Caring Foundation and former Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield vice president, called Fox Chapel Presbyterian the "catalyst" for the program he helped develop into state law that later served as the model for the federal Children's Health Insurance Program.

"They listened to what people were going through," said Mr. LaVallee, now CEO of Variety the Children's Charity. "To get a leader like John, and a church that was looked at as a leader, that was critical."

Now, another organization with roots at the church is gaining momentum, with medical professionals around the Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland region taking note.

Formed in 2012 and based in a space donated by the church, the Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition aims to help those caring for children with life-threatening illnesses. Most hospices don't accept pediatric patients, and few resources exist for families and medical professionals about end-of-life care for children, said coalition executive director Betsy Hawley.

"The biggest goal of the coalition from the get-go has been to bring people together, to let people know that they're not alone," she said.

In the early 2000s, to celebrate the church's 50th anniversary, members decided to take on a project focusing on pediatric hospice and palliative care. The idea to form "Helping Hands - Healing Hearts" stemmed from the story of parishioners Joan and Allen Hogge, whose 7-year-old son had died of a rare genetic disorder. …

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