Today we’re so excited to announce that our own Heather Thomson has been selected to receive the SPIRIT OF LIFE® Award from the East End Chapter/Jeanne Kaye League of City of Hope.
As you may know, Heather gives all of her energy to making people’s lives better, and it’s a great honor for her philanthropic efforts to be recognized.
In a conversation full of her usual energy and enthusiasm, Heather shared her thoughts on a range of topics related to this recognition.
Heather, tell us about City of Hope and the SPIRIT OF LIFE Award.
City of Hope is a biomedical research and treatment and education center. They treat patients with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Since they were founded in 1913, they’ve been responsible for many breakthrough procedures that have had world-wide significance. For example, they conducted pioneering research in bone marrow transplants. They were the first to figure out how to do it and they have the most successful program in the country.
The SPIRIT OF LIFE® Award is their highest philanthropic honor. They recognize the notable contributions that women have made to their profession, community and charitable causes. So in my case, they focused on my advocacy for pediatric causes, particularly with the New York Organ Donor network.
The Kellner Pediatric Liver Foundation was founded the year my son, Jax, was diagnosed with bilary atresia, a rare and life-threatening disease of the liver, and I’ve been active since the organization’s inception. Jax’s life was saved by a liver transplantation, so this is a cause that is very close to my heart.
Through the Kellner Pediatric Liver Foundation we raise money for fellowships to further research, and to help pay for the costs associated with transplants. This year we saved the life of a baby girl from Guatemala. We flew her to New York, paid for a place for her family to stay, and all of her medical costs.
How does it feel to be honored like this so soon after starting your own business?
My success will be the success of pediatric charities – one of my friends always says, it’s not how you go down, it’s how you get up off the mat, and for me that means being able to support the charities that are important to me.
You work so hard so that you can give back, and it feels amazing to be recognized. Particularly since I am the youngest recipient of the award to date, just prior to the big 40! In fact, I’ll be celebrating my birthday in LA with my husband, touring the new City of Hope research facility.
What are you most looking forward to seeing when you visit the City of Hope facility in LA?
I’m excited for the whole trip — to see the biomedical research center, meet the doctors and scientists in charge of the research, and talk to the administrators about how we can use the funds we raise on their behalf. Before I accepted the award, I asked if we could focus the money on a specific area, they said yes. So my donation and fundraising will all be focused on pediatrics.
But I am most excited about touring the children’s oncology unit. For the past few weeks, my husband and I have been buying hats to bring with us, so we can set up a yummie hat closet. All of the kids who have lost their hair from their cancer treatments can pick out a cool hat. It’s a small thing, but it really raises their spirits to have something fun to look forward to.
How did you get involved with City of Hope?
They found me! People get recommended for the honor. They review your contributions, and see who they think can help bring awareness to the cause. Some of the past honorees are Hoda Kotb, Kelly Ripa, Brooke Shields.
Kristin Chenoweth and Kathie Lee Gifford are also being honored this year. What’s it like to be such great company?
It is amazing to be in such great company! I really respect and admire, Kristin Chenoweth – she’s a Tony Award winning actress, and is really inspirational to young actresses. And Kathie Lee Gifford is an icon. She’s a brave and outspoken woman, who’s been through a lot, and her spirituality just shines through. I can’t wait to meet them both in person!
And your friend Kelly Rowland is presenting the award. That must make it even more special!
It does. I’m so thrilled that Kelly Rowland will be there. She’s an amazing advocate for children – just one of the warmest, most sensitive people I know. Kelly was one of the first phone calls and visits when Jax was born. When he went into organ rejection, she was there at the hospital, cradling him, singing to him.
Kelly was very involved in trying to help a little girl in New York City named Jasmina Anema, a young leukemia patient, who at the age of six lost her battle to cancer. Kelly was there to help her find a bone marrow donor. That’s why I asked her to present this award, because our hearts are in the same place when it comes to bone marrow, organ transplantation, anything to help a child.
How is Yummie Tummie contributing to City of Hope?
We are raising over $50,000 immediately. And this summer we’re launching the Survivor Tank, which is specially designed for women to wear post-mastectomy, and 100% of the proceeds will go to City of Hope.
We’ll also be communicating with our entire Yummie Tummie community all year, raising awareness and keeping the momentum going.
Tell us more about the Fashion Show at the awards luncheon. We hear you’re partnering with Rue La La– what’s your goal, what are you going to highlight?
We’re making this one of the most exciting fashion shows to ever be held during a fundraiser luncheon!
We want to show people what Yummie Tummie is all about, how the three-panel, patented design we invented has revolutionized the industry. We’ll start with an homage to the girdle, where it all began, and fast forward to the future. We’ll get into the fashion that demonstrates who we are, what we invented, and the tank that turned the industry on its ear. And the music is incredible! We’re using Beyonce, the Rolling Stones, the Eurythmics, Lenny Kravitz, and Simon and Garfunkel.
Given your experience with Jax’s life-saving liver transplantation, and all of your advocacy for organ donation, what are your plans for raising awareness of April, National Organ Donor Awareness Month?
I strongly believe that everyone should be an organ donor. In fact, I think we should all automatically be organ donors on our license, and have to opt out, instead of opting in!
In April, organ procurement centers across the nation sponsor special awareness events, recognition ceremonies. At Yummie Tummie we have a special lime green tank for Organ Donor Awareness, and 50% of the proceeds — $31 from every tank – go to organ donation awareness causes.
There are five life-giving “Points of Life” that you can donate:
Some you can give while you’re alive, others after death – there’s no reason for anyone to be buried with a healthy heart, liver, or pair of lungs! It’s a chance at life for someone. The moment when Jax’s donor came through, it’s something we’ll never, ever forget. And every time I site in a clinic and look around at the hundreds of people in the waiting room who are alive because someone chose to donate life, I’m just incredibly moved by the generosity of the donors.
What else can we expect from Yummie Tummie?
The new ready to wear collections! We are changing the face of fashion, building shapewear into everything, to make you look and feel great. We’re eliminating the need for the 3rd layer and keeping you on trend.
If I have to pick one thing, I think the new leggings that are coming out next week are going to be explosive. In true yummie style, they bring together form and function – they rock! They’re comfortable, they don’t stretch, they look amazing – talk about a must have basic, I just wore a pair for three days in a row!
Please join us in congratulating Heather on this honor, and thanking her for the inspiring example she sets for all of us: giving back is the best way to be Yummie!