The Hartford Whalers, 22 years after departing Connecticut, remain the gift that keeps on giving.
When the state legislature added a Whalers commemorative license plate to the list of more than 60 specialty plates available from the state Department of Motor Vehicles for an additional fee, it was determined that a percentage of sales of the license plates would go to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The bill was approved in the 2017 legislative session.
In less than a year and a half – the plates began to be produced in 2018 – 487 Whaler plates have been issued, as of May 1, 2019. That has meant $21,780 for Connecticut Children’s. The facility receives $45 for every Whalers marker plate purchased.
The department issued 369 Whalers branded license plates during 2018, and 118 so far this year. The cost to consumers for the Whalers license plates vary, from $60 to $149, depending upon whether it is a new or existing plate that is to have the Whalers background.
In launching the program a year ago, former Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman said the proceeds would help Connecticut Children’s with plans for developing the state’s only pediatric outpatient dialysis center.
“We are honored to be selected as the beneficiary of this specialty plate,” Connecticut Children’s President and CEO Jim Shmerling said last year. “We are thrilled it will help support the lifesaving care Connecticut Children’s experts provide to so many kids across the state and region.”
A subsequent $1.5 million gift from the Robert R. Rosenheim Foundation is driving the project’s completion, and led to the naming last fall of the planned facility in memory of Robert Rosenheim, a longtime resident of Sharon, CT, who died in 2015.
Once the Robert R. Rosenheim Foundation Dialysis Center is completed—projected for late this year —children who require outpatient dialysis to live will no longer have to receive dialysis at local centers designed for adults with different needs. Instead, they will receive treatment in a state-of-the-art facility designed with children in mind and caregivers who are trained in pediatrics.
The new center will be located on the fourth floor of Connecticut Children’s main Hartford campus. It will feature three treatment areas—two treatment bays and an isolation room—as well as a home-treatment education room.
“It’s very gratifying to know that because of the Rosenheim Foundation support, all of these patients will get a more appropriate level of care that lessens the burden on them and their families,” said Cynthia Silva, MD, Division Head of Nephrology and Medical Director of Connecticut Children’s Center for Kidney and Bladder Disorders. “It’s hard enough for a family to hear that their child needs dialysis. Having them leave their medical home is pretty devastating, on top of the shocking news they just received. Their care gets dispersed and they hear different information. Now, they will be able to stay with the people who know them best. They know the way their care providers communicate, their expectations, their commitment.”
“We’re just so grateful that the institution and the state have taken it upon themselves to make this a priority,” Dr. Silva added. “It is time that we take better care of the more vulnerable children in our population and put their needs first.”
The Whalers license plate, officials hope, will continue to provide funding that can be used in support of the initiative. The Whalers National Hockey League franchise was relocated to North Carolina in 1997, but remains immensely popular in Connecticut. Merchandise sales of Whalers gear continues to run strong locally and across the country.
The Whalers license plate is available through the Department of Motor Vehicles website. The fee for a new license plate is $60, available in passenger, combination, commercial, camper and camp trailer. Remake of a current marker plate is $80; new vanity plates are $149. To order these special vanity plates, the vehicle must be currently registered in Connecticut. Applications for vehicles registered out-of-state or with a temporary registration will not be accepted, according to the DMV website.
Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is the only hospital in Connecticut dedicated exclusively to the care of children and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation. With a medical staff of more than 1,000, Connecticut Children’s provides comprehensive, world-class health care in more than 30 pediatric specialties and sub-specialties.