For more than five decades, singer Marie Osmond has performed at the top of the entertainment industry. Despite fame also as a dancer, actress, author, entrepreneur and headlining with brother Donny Osmond at The Flamingo for five years, it’s her role as a philanthropist that is dearest to her heart.
Her debut single, “Paper Roses,” reached No. 1 on two Billboard charts, a feat that catapulted her to international stardom. Since then, she has achieved two Grammy nods, a CMA Vocal Duo of the Year Award, chart-topping singles and albums and three The New York Times bestselling books. She has entertained millions through film, television, radio, concerts and Broadway.
But as a founder of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, she has helped raise more than $5 billion to date, and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals assists more than 11 million children annually. She has influenced countless audiences and benefited innumerable lives worldwide.
“Music Is Medicine” marks her latest and perhaps most important studio release. It was partly recorded here at our St. Rose Dominican Children’s Hospital. With producer Jason Deere, Marie recruited guest artists such as recent fellow Flamingo headliner Olivia Newton-John, Sisqo and John Rich of Big & Rich to capture a lifetime of experience, music, love, loss, hope and joy as a representation of her remarkable life.
On Monday she kicked off Children’s Hospital Week (#childrenshospitalweek). You’ll find full details at CMNHospitals.org, and Marie has been leading the cause all week taking photographs with Band-Aids to bring awareness to the incredible work of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“I believe that we now treat 11 million children a year. It was all done, Robin, a dollar at a time,” Marie said. “The figure of $5.6 billion was a dollar at a time. So when people say, ‘Does my dollar really make a difference?’ you better believe it does.”
“We started this when I did a show with John Schneider. I’d dated him, and we loved the chemistry we had. John has a wonderful heart, and he’s just a really sweet guy. We both love children, and when somebody asked if we would co-host, it just evolved from there.
“When we started that first TV show, we went out and asked television stations, and it has just grown and grown and grown. So we co-founded it, John and myself, and we did the first show at The Osmond Family Studios. I had just given birth to my first son. It was one of those things that changed my life.
“There are so many great causes out there, but they all have to be treated, and that’s really where the money should really go. That’s really how Children’s Miracle Network started; we wanted to keep 100 percent of the money local, have it all go to the kids, 100 percent of it.
“To date, we have raised $5.6 billion for kids, and all the money has gone to the kids and stayed in the local market. You have all these causes, and they have to be treated, and that’s what Children’s Hospitals do. They’re last on government funding, which is beyond me. We provide over 32 million treatments every year to kids across the U.S. and Canada. Every minute, 62 children enter one of our Children’s Hospitals. That’s a little over a child a second.”
I told Marie that she must find it equally rewarding and emotionally draining. She replied: “You know it’s not, Robin. I had a really interesting experience. My brother Tom, who was deaf, his daughter was born without a skull. Her birth was life changing to me. To that point, I had a very hard time being around sick children.
“My brother called me from the hospital. Of course he couldn’t hear on the phone, but my mother said, ‘Your brother needs you. He wants you here.’ Long story short, holding that little girl in my arms changed my life forever. To this day, whether it’s going into a burn unit or a cancer unit, whatever it is, I love these kids, and my heart is so deeply devoted to them and making sure that this charity serves them and them only.”
Last week Marie brought one of her “miracle kids,” James, a patient at St. Rose Dominican, to her show. Said Marie: “He’s not doing great, so a night out on the town in Las Vegas was a good tonic for him. It was part of our promotion for Children’s Hospital Week.
“We want everybody to wear a Band-Aid to show their support for Children’s Hospitals. All people have to do is sport a bandage, write on it the name of a child who has benefited from a Children’s Hospital, take a photo and post it to social media with the Children’s Hospital Week hashtag.
“This little guy James is one of those families. His mom is a single mom; he doesn’t like to mention the cancer word. It’s something he doesn’t like to talk about. We’re going to spoil him, and he’s going to see the show. Just do something to change his life a little bit. He’s struggling at this moment.
“Our big slogan is ‘put your money where the miracles are!’ Whether it goes, to an emergency helicopter, to help pay operating costs, to help children in hospital care, whether it’s research, whatever it is, whatever your local hospital needs, that’s where this money goes. It’s pretty phenomenal.”
Has Marie been affected personally? She told me: “I have eight children, and I have three grandchildren. With how many times my children have been in Children’s Hospitals, I should have a punch card. I’ve had two children have their lives really in scary situations. I understand what these parents are going through.
“There is nothing more challenging, and statistics prove, Robin, that everybody will use a Children’s Hospital at some point. Whether it’s a child they know, their own child, themselves as a child, whatever it is, grandparents, you will be in a Children’s Hospital.
“When you need it, boy are you ever glad that it’s there. I’ve received hundreds of thousands of letters and emails and comments on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, people telling me how Children’s Hospital Network saved their granddaughter, me, my daughter. Thank you for helping the kids.
“I love doing this for the children, honestly, Robin. You’ve known me for years. In 50 years, no one’s going to know who I am, but they’re going to know what Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals are. That’s the legacy that I am proud of. I put in a lot of hours and miles and phone calls and time and no sleep and everything to see this thing become what it is.
“That’s all I care, that the legacy lives on, and people know it’s the highest form of charity you can give to these days. Where you can say all of the money stays local and all the money goes to the kids. It’s very unique, and all the people who are participants in it feel the same way I do. They’re all there because of the kids, and it’s pure love of these children that drives people to participate in this.
Today starting at 10 a.m., there’s a Facebook live-a-thon hosted by Nick Cannon with Marie live from Walt Disney World. Marie told me that Steve Young and Miss America will be joining them. Before our interview ended, I wanted to know if Marie cried every time when she met the kids.
“Oh, Robin, I could talk to you for months with the stories I have on these kids. We founded this in 1983. We were the first charity that Disney let shoot 21 hours live from Disneyland. It was the first time Mickey Mouse ever aligned with the charity. I believe it was because we did all causes, all different causes.
“In our fifth year, there was a little boy … I had this little boy sitting on my lap, and I could feel his little heart beating. What was so unique about that, Robin, was that he was the first successful heart transplant in a child. He was only 7 or 8 years old. The camera was just a few feet from us, and standing at the front of the camera were two ladies.
“They were crying, and one lady said to the other, ‘Thank you so much for giving my child life.’ I assumed it was the boy’s doctor, right? Because everything was live and quick and fast, then the other woman looked at her and said, ‘No, thank you for letting my son live on through yours.’
“I realized that this was more powerful than anybody could imagine. The miracles would go on and on and on, and I could tell you story after story after story. Not just those things, but besides accident victims and burn victims and muscle diseases and blood diseases, but like last year at the big broadcast in Orlando, one of our boys, he was 7 and had cancer and had his leg amputated, it’s amazing what they can do now that they couldn’t even do five years ago.
“He was there, and he came up and hugged me and he goes, ‘Remember me?’ They’re all my kids, these are my kids, these kids that I met. And he gave me a big hug and said, ‘I want to introduce you to my wife.’ They had just gotten married, and she worked for one of our Children’s Hospitals.
“The cutest little couple you have ever seen, and he’s a motivational speaker, he helps people know that you can overcome anything. This kid is a dynamo. These kids don’t just have their lives saved. They go on and become amazing human beings and people I aspire to be like. They are amazing kids.
“And they fight. They learn to be tough at young ages. They learn to overcome, and I wish … sometimes you go to adult hospitals, and they’re so depressing. You go to a Children’s Hospital, and it is so powerfully healing. They’re just amazing kids.”