At almost 9 years-old, Richard Kizner and his brother were some of the first patients to be served by the brand-new Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital back in 1955.
“I was there to get my tonsils removed,” Richard says. “I can still remember the room I had — second floor facing M.L.K. Jr Way. I remember the kind nurse and eating all the ice cream I could stomach.”
Mary Bridge Children’s is also the place where Richard’s passion for generosity was ignited. He watched his mother give back to Mary Bridge Children’s and decided to do the same. So, he built a lemonade stand and raised $5.18. He fondly recalls driving to the hospital with his mother to drop off the donation.
Now 74, Richard gives every year to child abuse prevention and treatment programs at Mary Bridge Children’s. He wants to prevent other children from experiencing the same abuse he suffered at the hands of his own father.
“In our time, there were no support groups — no one to talk to except family and friends. Even then, it was always hushed under the table,” Richard says. “The worst thing about abuse like that is that you live with it forever. Any place can trigger a memory.”
Richard’s hope is that programs offered through the Children’s Advocacy Center of Pierce County (CAC), on Mary Bridge Children’s campus, will help put an end to child abuse and assist victims in finding a healthy way to cope.
“Abuse needs to be talked about, to be let out,” Richard explains. “Children have to be reminded that this is not their fault — they did nothing wrong. My abuse started at birth, and I thought when my father passed, the nightmares would go away. But they didn’t. I held it in for a lot of years. My hope is that these programs address these issues immediately.”
Thanks to donor support from community members like Richard, the CAC is working on program enhancements, such as trauma and mental health screenings for children age 4 and older, social determinants of health screenings to address resource needs for every caregiver and developing a trauma-informed mental health network to meet the needs of kids and families impacted by child abuse in conjunction with Kids’ Mental Health Pierce County. Each aspect works to treat the effects of abuse as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
In 2012, Richard was diagnosed with cancer and has been undergoing treatment since then. The diagnosis made him think deeply about the legacy he wants to leave. He’s decided to leave his estate to Mary Bridge Children’s, inspired by his mother.
“When my mother died as a result of domestic violence in 1986, in lieu of flowers, we asked for donations to the child abuse programs and services at Mary Bridge Children’s,” Richard says. “When I pass, I want my money to go in memory of my mother for the new hospital, supporting all the new ways they’ll care for children in this community and beyond.”
If you’d like to join Richard in his efforts to end and treat child abuse, sign up to volunteer, donate or ride with Courage. Mary Bridge Children’s Courage is a weekend cycling and fundraising event in August. All proceeds benefit child abuse prevention and treatment programs at Mary Bridge Children’s.