Minnesota Charity Launches Global Initiative to Help Children and Families Fighting Chronic Illnesses

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MN's First Lady salutes The Priyanka Foundation at its first annual benefit

Priyanka Rao in hospital

Our organization now needs funding to help us hire, train and create a curriculum to educate and make child life a career option for students of Child Development in India.

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What started as a mother and her daughter's vow to help children and families struggling with chronic illness has progressed into a global initiative that has earned the support and admiration of Minnesota's First Lady, Mrs. Mary Pawlenty.

Mrs. Pawlenty, a strong supporter of The Priyanka Foundation since its inception, stood with Leela Rao, founder and CEO, at its First Annual Benefit Event, which helped generate funding and broaden awareness of global child life service programs for chronically-ill children. These programs provide professional support to help patients and their families cope with the emotional toll caused by chronic illnesses.

"After years of hard work, it's exciting to finally showcase our mission with our family, friends and supporters," said Rao. "Our organization now needs funding to help us hire, train and create a curriculum to educate and make child life a career option for students of Child Development in India."

Leela Rao's daughter, Priyanka, endured a four-year battle with leukemia, countless hospital visits, surgeries and other procedures that put a tremendous emotional strain on the family. Thankfully, the Child Life Center at Minneapolis's Children's Hospital and Clinics provided professional, individualized care and support for the entire family.

Between treatments, Rao and her daughter visited India. Instead of finding similar programs to help families coping with the emotional burn out of illness, she found hopelessness, despair, and terror in the eyes of children and parents. She and Priyanka hoped to be able to reach out to these children by starting child life services in India. Following her daughter's passing, Rao founded The Priyanka Foundation, and it eventually opened Manipal Hospital's Priyanka Child Life Services in Bangalore India, the country's first program of its kind. Mrs. Pawlenty attended the October 2007 opening ceremony.

"It has been a slow process, but with a lot of patience and the help of many, we have created a sustainable model for this program at the Manipal Hospital," said Rao.

For more information about The Priyanka Foundation, call Leela Rao at 952-451-8148 or visit the website at http://www.thepriyankafoundation.org.

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