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Feature Story

Jonah and Jeremiah Harris, Kalia Benton and parents, and family at Odessa Brown Children's Clinic

50 Years Strong: Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic

“During COVID-19, what has been telling is that the families who have always had enough are turning to us for help. Families have been in this dark, dark place and then when we reach out to them and provide groceries or diapers. I can’t truly articulate the thankfulness they have. With all that’s wrong with our world today, this is such a bright spot and something that has made so many families smile, laugh and cry with gratitude.”
– Antwanette Lyons, manager, OBCC Community Health Programs and Advocacy

Battling two pandemics

Jonah and Jeremiah Harris

Guild members first met OBCC patient ambassadors Jeremiah and Jonah Harris at the Guild Association’s 2017 annual meeting. Today, the boys are growing strong thanks to their grandmother’s loving care. Marva Harris says OBCC’s Dr. Shaquita Bell is her super “shero” — always there for her and her boys. Jonah, 16, is training daily to achieve his dream of playing college basketball, and Jeremiah, 7, excels in math and gymnastics and idolizes his brother. (Photo of boys above from 2017.)

We’re marking two major milestones this year: the 100th anniversary of the birth of Odessa Brown, who founded Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC), and the clinic’s 50th anniversary. While we celebrate that the clinic has been serving as a model for community health and providing excellent quality care with dignity in Seattle’s Central District since 1970, we also recognize that its foundation of community trust is being tested now more than ever.

“We’re experiencing two pandemics right now: the pandemic of COVID-19 and the pandemic of systemic racism,” says Arlesia Bailey, director of Seattle Children’s community health and development, and member of the Friends of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic Guild. “Times like this amplify the need for clinics like OBCC, which came about due to national civic unrest. We have the opportunity to birth something really unique and beautiful through experiencing this discomfort. OBCC is Seattle Children’s very first investment in community health – think about what we have achieved in that time and what we can do moving forward.”

The success of the guild’s recent fundraisers illustrates that the community views OBCC as an indispensable asset. During two online fundraisers this year, guild supporters contributed more than $300,000 to OBCC discretionary funds, which included helping to support COVID-19 community outreach (see story below).

“The clinic’s origin story is really resonating with people right now,” says Micki Flowers, who co-founded the Friends of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic Guild. “Odessa Brown carried the banner that Black Lives Matter before protesters ever put a name to it. She saw what was happening to an African American community that didn’t have equal access to healthcare and fought to change that. She would be proud to see how her vision has grown and how the larger community is stepping up to support it.”

As soon as the pandemic hit, many OBCC parents lost their jobs. Many others with front-line jobs risked potential exposure and bringing the virus back home to their families.
“Without philanthropic support, there’s no way my teams could have pivoted how they have during COVID-19 to fill the gaps in communities we serve, including providing technology for kids doing schoolwork from home,” says Bailey.

Thanks to champions like the Friends of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic Guild, the clinic will continue to deliver community health innovation for another 50 years and beyond.
“Guilds have always answered the call in whatever capacity needed for Seattle Children’s, and this instance is no different,” Bailey says. “Guilds provide many opportunities for us to ensure every child can experience hope, care and cures.”

COVID-19 outreach

An Odessa Brown Children's Clinic (OBCC) Family

An OBCC family visits Madrona Elementary School resource room to pick up groceries, gift cards and hygiene items. Clinic staff provide COVID-19 relief packages two days a week at the school, which is part of OBCC’s community health network.

Thanks to contributors like the Friends of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic Guild, OBCC has been able to show up in a big way during the pandemic:

  • Mask Brigade: Members of an impromptu sewing network have made and delivered 750 cloth face masks to OBCC patients and families.
  • Food Brigade: OBCC staff and volunteers have mobilized to provide groceries and other essentials at several pick-up locations and make weekly deliveries to patient families as far away as Covington and Snohomish, serving nearly 300 families each month.
  • Phone Brigade: OBCC staff regularly check in with every patient family to ensure no one slips through the cracks. A call from someone they trust is especially important for those who are having to ask for help for the first time.

Diabetes made doable thanks to OBCC

Kalia Benton and family

Kalia Benton and her parents

Kalia Benton was diagnosed at 20 months with type 1 diabetes, and her parents are thankful for the support of Dr. Tumaini Coker and the rest of their team at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC) and in the hospital’s Endocrinology and Diabetes Clinic. Kalia is now an outgoing, happy 4-year-old. “We’re excited that one day there might be a cure for type 1 diabetes and Kalia won’t have to live like this anymore,” says Kalia’s mom, Jennifer. “Thanks to the guilds that support OBCC and research — you are making a difference for so many kids like our Kalia!”