WVU Children’s Hospital patient meets President Obama at White House

Samantha Stalnaker participates in Champions Across America

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Nicholas County native Samantha Stalnaker had the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama during a visit to the White House with Children’s Miracle Network March 24.

Five-year-old Samantha toured the White House and met the President, who then invited Samantha and her fellow champions to play on the playground on the South Lawn.

Samantha’s trip came from Champions Across America, a program of Walmart and Sam’s Club, which recognizes the 17 million children treated each year at Children's Miracle Network hospitals across the country. West Virginia University Children’s Hospital is the only Children’s Miracle Network hospital in the state.

Champions Across America designates a champion child in every state who is coping with serious injury or illness. The 2009 champions have suffered illnesses such as brittle bone disease, brain tumors, leukemia and cerebral palsy and survived car accidents and plane crashes.

In 2003, WVU Pediatric Neurosurgeon John Collins, M.D., performed surgery on a then 3-day-old Samantha to close a low-lying opening in her spine caused by spina bifida. By the time she was 2 years old, she had to have surgery three more times to drain fluid from her brain. To date, Samantha, a kindergartner, has undergone a total of six surgeries, but she is on target developmentally.

“The Champions Across America program has been raising awareness about the importance of children’s hospitals for the past 13 years,” said Scott Burt, president and CEO, Children's Miracle Network. “It is always a privilege to be at the White House, and we hope that President Obama was inspired by the children he met today.”

In addition to the White House visit, the champions visited with their senators and congressmen during a lunch at Capitol Hill where Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) addressed the group.

Joining the champions were Miss America, Katie Stam, and country star Mark Wills. “One of Miss America’s most important and most rewarding duties is to serve as the official Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network,” said Stam. “Being able to get to know each of these champions on a personal level has connected me forever to them and their families. I look forward to visiting their hospitals and helping them raise money throughout the year.”

Wal-Mart’s support for the Children’s Miracle Network began in 1987. Since then, Walmart and Sam’s Club associates, customers and members have raised and contributed more than $460 million for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

Each year, WVU Children’s Hospital provides care to more than 7,000 newborns and children, who come from every county in West Virginia and also from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio. On average, 1,600 babies are born annually at WVU Children’s Hospital. Almost three-quarters of the deliveries are high-risk. WVU Children’s Hospital physicians provide care for children at the hospital in Morgantown and at clinics throughout the state.

For photos of Samantha in Washington, D.C., see




For more information:
Angela Jones, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
asj: 03-26-09

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