Desert Financial Foundation Funds 1 Darn Cool School at Phoenix Children’s with $850,000 Donation

Desert Financial Foundation and Desert Financial Credit Union donated $850,000 to 1 Darn Cool School at Phoenix Children’s during a check presentation Tuesday, Feb. 15. This is the second donation of a four-year, $3 million commitment to Phoenix Children’s.

The 1 Darn Cool School is a fully accredited K-12 school with eight full-time master’s level teachers. The program provides patients at Phoenix Children’s with a traditional classroom setting or bedside instruction to learn, play and discover while receiving medical treatment.

Teachers give individualized instruction to students five days a week, year-round. The 1 Darn Cool School is available to all patients in kindergarten through 12th grade who are expected to be hospitalized for five days or longer.

“Desert Financial business partners, members and employees help raise funds for 1 Darn Cool School every year because they recognize the value in providing normalcy and education for the children at PCH,” says Ron Amstutz, executive vice president of Desert Financial Credit Union.

Teachers at the 1 Darn Cool School led 10,776 sessions with students in 2021. This includes 8,500 interactions with patients inside the hospital and more than 2,000 interactions with patients who had been discharged.

The school was invaluable for Gilbert mother Amanda Roush and her daughter Jackie. Jackie was admitted to Phoenix Children’s just over a week before her 11th birthday with a rare form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

She began chemotherapy immediately, but her body reacted to the medications, causing heart failure. Jackie spent more than five days on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine.

Afterward, she had to relearn everything – how to brush her hair, tie her shoes and even how to move her feet. She was hospitalized for six months. During that time, 1 Darn Cool School provided Jackie with multiple lessons per week.

“Jackie would get so bored with TV,” said Roush. “1 Darn Cool School gave her activities to do while in the hospital that would keep her mind busy. It was a beacon of light for her while she was at Phoenix Children’s.”

After Jackie was released from the hospital, her 1 Darn Cool School teacher coordinated with her public school to help Jackie transition to an online program and eventually back into the classroom. She also assisted with getting Jackie an appropriate individualized education program (IEP).

“With everything else going on, it was such a relief that I didn’t have to worry about school, too,” said Roush. “Our teacher was there to not only teach Jackie, but to relieve some of the stress for me.”

In 2021, 1 Darn Cool School used funding from Desert Financial Foundation to hire an eighth teacher, increase outpatient support services, expand service to the hospital’s emergency department, and update the school’s technology and teaching materials.

Founded in 2017, Desert Financial Foundation aids nonprofits in providing services to the community and supports education through the 1 Darn Cool School at Phoenix Children’s, three student scholarship programs and financial literacy programs. The Foundation also works to create innovative programs for Desert Financial Credit Union team members and to increase their outreach and impact in the community.

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