Eileen Howard Dunn, Vice President, Corporate Communications and Community Relations, CVS Caremark

Eileen Howard Dunn, Vice President, Corporate Communications and Community Relations, CVS Caremark

As vice president, corporate communications and community relations for CVS Caremark, Dunn is responsible for the company's public relations, employee communications, and community relations, and also oversees its philanthropic efforts. The CVS Caremark Charitable Trust supports health programs serving children with disabilities and public schools that are expanding programs which promote the inclusion of children with disabilities.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is the CVS "All Kids Can" program?

Eileen Howard Dunn: It's a five-year, $25 million commitment that the CVS Pharmacy Charitable Trust and CVS Pharmacy have initiated to make life easier for children with disabilities. We're partnering with national and regional organizations to find ways to help through learning-adaptive technology, play, and healthcare-related initiatives. We're working with an organization called Boundless Playgrounds, a leader in creating barrier-free playgrounds, to help build fifty playgrounds across the country over the next two years. Many children with disabilities — those in walkers and wheelchairs, for example — don't have access to standard playgrounds. They need swings with back support, slides that aren't too high, and surfacing that doesn't limit their mobility as standard wood chips can.

PND: So the barriers to participation for the kids you're targeting are primarily physical?

EHD: Yes, but we also recognize how difficult it can be for a child standing outside the playground fence looking in — the isolation he or she must feel. "All Kids Can" isn't just playgrounds; it's actually five different programs. It's designed to give children of all abilities a chance to learn, play, and succeed in life. Through our learning initiative we're working with Easter Seals and several other organizations to give children with disabilities the opportunity to learn like everyone else. Inclusion and providing support to organizations that are working to foster inclusiveness, with respect to all children, is a major theme of the program.

PND: How does health care figure into the effort?

EHD: We're partnering with a number of different children's hospitals across the country, including Children's Hospital Boston; their Center of Communications Disorders helps kids that have complex health issues such as Down's syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy. In Providence, Rhode Island, we're working with Hasbro Children's Hospital to help children with physical and neuromotor disabilities. We're also working with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, to create a physical therapy component for children recovering from a variety of diseases — physical disabilities, developmental, and sensory, which can include cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, spina bifida, neuromuscular diseases, and partial or total loss of sight or hearing.

PND: How do you measure success? Is it purely about creating access and enabling children to utilize these services, or is it about more than that?

EHD: Success for individual children is relative. For CVS Caremark, success is measured in how we've created and provided opportunities for as many children as we can. So whether that means we've helped to provide thousands of hours of physical therapy, or supported dozens more school-inclusion programs, or raised hundreds of thousands of dollars by participating in fundraising walks, at the end of the five years we'll be able to say we made a significant difference in the lives of these children with disabilities. Through the "play" segment of the initiative, success will be measured by the number of playgrounds that are created. Our goal is not only to help support these programs, but also to help drive awareness of the difficulties and challenges that children with disabilities face each day. There are more than six million children with disabilities in the U.S. today, and most have more than one.

PND: How are issues related to education, health care, and communications changing for children with disabilities?

EHD: I think awareness of the issues facing children with disabilities is evolving. One reason CVS Caremark chose to focus on children with disabilities is because we didn't think there was enough awareness around the issue. As a large national corporation and employer of more than 180,000 employees, we felt we had the resources available to help drive awareness to the needs of these children and their families.

— Matt Sinclair