Imagine an emergency medical service provider responding to a call for a sick or injured child, yet due to inadequate pediatric supplies, precious time is lost locating, measuring, and testing various equipment to provide treatment. This dangerous gap in emergency medical care was a very real problem in Wisconsin. GFWC Oconomowoc Junior Woman’s Club member Elizabeth Davy decided to do something about it. As a single mother of two boys requiring emergency medical care in the past, Elizabeth was determined to work with her club and Emergency Medical Services for Children to fund pediatric jump kit bags for Wisconsin EMS departments. The results speak for themselves.
What attracted you to this project?
When my club was deciding which EMSC project to work on, providing essential pediatric equipment for ambulances struck a chord with us. Most members of our club are moms. What if an ambulance didn’t have the necessary equipment for our children? We can directly improve a child’s survival and recovery odds through this project. It has to be us, because children can’t advocate for themselves—that’s our responsibility and privilege.
Describe the impact for Wisconsin children.
When GFWC Wisconsin first adopted the EMSC Pediatric Bag Project in 2002, less than one percent of Wisconsin ambulances carried ped bags. Today, 98 percent are equipped with them. The standard of emergency medical care for children has dramatically improved in Wisconsin due to our effort and dedication. We impacted 30,000 children’s lives last year alone.
How does it feel to experience that level of success?
It feels fabulous! EMS providers are deeply appreciative, pre-hospital emergency pediatric care has improved, and we know lives have been saved. That’s priceless to the children, their families, and to EMS providers who aid these children.
We all have 1,440 minutes a day—I want to consciously choose to work, play with my kids, volunteer, read, or nap in the garden.
What was your greatest challenge?
Hands down, the biggest challenge was conquering my fear of public speaking. Focusing on the children in need motivated me to speak in public to raise awareness and money for EMSC. It took a few years, but public speaking is much easier for me now.
What advice would you share with your fellow GFWC members who are passionate about a cause?
Know the goal. Have a plan. Work well and kindly with others. Make a difference. Remember to breathe. Be tenacious. Keep your sense of humor. Don’t point fingers. I also learned that recruiting members comes more easily when you promote the work you are passionate about in your community. Since we started working on the ped bag project, our club membership has more than doubled!
How do you balance your roles as a single parent, active club member, and full-time engineering firm manager?
Balance is essential. My kids always come first, but not exclusively. They have volunteered alongside me over the years and understand my choices to attend some baseball games or robotics competitions, but not all. I’m involved and guiding in their lives, but not obsessive. Work is also high on my priority list, as I enjoy my job and it pays the bills. Family and close friends keep me centered, so I speak with them several times a month, if not weekly. Also, once a year, I spend a weekend away and contemplate where I am and where I want to be. I do not want to look back on my life and say “Seriously, that’s what you chose to do?” We all have 1,440 minutes a day—I want to consciously choose to work, play with my kids, volunteer, read, or nap in the garden.
Karyn McCarthy is a club-building machine. She has already helped form five successful GFWC Illinois clubs. How does she do it? A seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy certainly helps.
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