Fostering Hope in Kansas City

When the Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City team set out to partner with their community, they set ambitious goals. Not only did they reach them, they blew them out of the water.

In late 2018, the resort’s executive team decided to break up into smaller groups, each leading a quarterly outreach effort. Senior Vice President and General Manager Keith Henson and Director of Surveillance Darin Roth led the spring 2019 campaign. After considering all of the great causes in Kansas City, their choice – Children’s Mercy Hospital – was the clear frontrunner.  

“Nearly every team member has been served by Children’s Mercy or knows someone else who has,” explained Roth. “We decided to focus specifically on childhood cancer awareness and worked with the hospital to involve team members at the resort as well as at the hospital and surrounding community.”

The team then developed an aggressive plan for their Hope Campaign with numerous opportunities for team members and guests to support Children’s Mercy.

Noshes for the NICU

Many parents of infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) spend days, weeks or months at the hospital. Caring for themselves is the last thing on their minds. While snacks are available in the unit’s parent rooms, parents usually have to leave the unit or the hospital for meals.

The Ameristar Kansas City team provided four days of meals this spring, serving 100 families per trip. All leftovers were then delivered to the local Ronald McDonald House, which houses families of hospitalized children.

Happy Kits and Hygiene Kits

The team then targeted the children, especially those in the cancer ward, who can spend months hospitalized while receiving care. To help keep them and their siblings entertained, Ameristar Kansas City team members assembled more than 100 kits with puzzles, books, stickers and other activities.

Many times, families come into the hospital for emergency pediatric care. When responding to a crisis, parents rarely think to pack a bag for themselves. So, the team packed 500 emergency hygiene kits with essentials like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and lotion.

“We’d hoped to pull together a good number of these kits with donations from the resort,” Roth recalled. “Then one of our vendors heard about what we were doing and donated additional materials, giving us enough to fulfill Children’s Mercy’s needs at their Adele Hall Campus and extras for other Children’s Mercy locations.”

Partners in Play

In addition to the efforts by team members at the resort, some ventured out in teams of 10-12 to spend time with the kids at the hospital, talking with them and doing crafts.

“We had kids as young as three and some in their teens,” said Roth. “Our team members left feeling so blessed to have the opportunity to help these young patients take their minds off their illnesses for a short time and focus on just being kids.”

Big Slick

Ameristar Kansas City joined in the partnership between Children’s Mercy and the Kansas City Royals professional baseball team for the “Big Slick Weekend” in June. The annual celebrity baseball game, hosted by Kansas City natives, including actors Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis, featured appearances by NBC national weatherman Al Roker, musicians Selena Gomez and Chris Daughtry and actors Olivia Wilde and Kevin Pollak. Team members purchased 150 tickets to the game, yielding $3,000 for Children’s Mercy.

Musical Windfall

While cleaning out a storage area, team members discovered leftover musical instruments that were used as decorations for an event years earlier. Since the resort had no immediate need for the never-used guitars and drum kits, a silent auction was held where the 10 items garnered a total of $1,000 for the hospital. 

Wearing Hope

Henson and Roth’s team brought the campaign into the resort by selling a special T-shirt with the resort and team logo to team members who were then able to wear the shirt in lieu of their regular uniforms every Thursday in May. The effort was so successful, they sold out, made more, and continued the campaign through June. Not only did this effort raise $5,000 for Children’s Mercy, it prompted conversations between team members and guests about the partnership. Guests wanted to get involved, so the special shirts went on sale to the public in the resort gift shop.

Fountain of Hope

Given the initial interest from resort guests, the team quickly brainstormed other opportunities to get them involved. Over the years, the resort’s fountain has become a receptacle for wishes in the form of lucky coins, creating a bit of a headache for the facilities team. Ameristar Kansas City’s Director of Facilities and a Cage Manager put their heads together and got permission to designate all of the coins collected in May for Children’s Mercy. Amazingly, they pulled about $3,200 from the fountain and added it to the funds collected from donation boxes stationed at each resort entrance. The team anticipated needing to empty the boxes every couple of weeks, but the response was so strong, they needed to be emptied every week. The donation boxes brought in an additional $2,000 over a two-month period.

All in all, the Ameristar team raised more than $15,000 for Children’s Mercy Hospital. More importantly, nearly every member of the resort team participated in at least one of the campaign’s outreach opportunities.

The outreach efforts aren’t over. Ameristar Kansas City will be working with animal welfare, veterans and other human services programs throughout the year. Given the outstanding success of the Children’s Mercy Hope Campaign, the Kansas City community will shine a bit brighter thanks to Ameristar Kansas City team members.