Make no mistake; Wine Women & Shoes is much more than sky-high stilettos and bubbly champagne. This annual, rapidly growing fundraising event is a meaningful and valued endeavor for the women involved, who are committed to improving the health and well-being of the region’s families.
Proceeds from Wine Women & Shoes support Children’s Hospital & Medical Center’s Carolyn Scott Rainbow House, a "home away from home" to thousands of parents and family members of children receiving services at Children’s who live 60 miles or more from Omaha.
"The Carolyn Scott Rainbow House is one of my love affairs," said Ellen Wright, philanthropist, volunteer and advocate for Children’s.
Wright and co-chair Erin Pogge initiated and led the first Wine Women & Shoes in 2012 at Happy Hollow Club. Around 260 women gathered at that inaugural event, raising $115,000 by sipping, savoring and shopping for the Rainbow House.
Fast forward to April 6, 2018: After outgrowing both the Happy Hollow Club and Champions Run, Wine Women & Shoes drew a crowd of nearly 600 people to the Omaha Design Center and raised more than $190,000. To date, the Wine Women & Shoes has raised more than $1 million for the Rainbow House.
"We are delighted to watch the excitement around Wine Women & Shoes grow each year as it introduces new supporters to the Carolyn Scott Rainbow House," said Beth Greiner, executive director of Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Foundation. "I love how this event was initiated by women, continues to be led by women and is enjoyed by women who value the community treasure that is the Rainbow House, a dream that became reality thanks to the tireless fundraising efforts of a woman!"
Carolyn Scott’s Legacy
It was the wish of community advocate Carolyn Scott to build this special place for Children’s families. She understood how scared and stressed parents with a sick child would feel, and was determined to offer them a safe haven of rest as they faced such daunting emotional and financial burdens.
Scott was so passionate about the need for the Rainbow House that she spearheaded fundraising for the project while she herself was fighting cancer.
Four months before she passed away, the Carolyn Scott Rainbow House opened and welcomed its first family in 1983.
"Mother’s personality made a big difference in making sure the Rainbow House came to fruition," said Amy Scott, Carolyn Scott’s daughter, who served as an honorary chair of the very first Wine Women & Shoes, along with her sisters Sandy Parker and Karen Dixon.
"She had her own personal struggles in daily life. Getting up in the morning and making it through the day was sometimes extremely difficult for her, and I think that allowed her to have that great compassion for what other families might be dealing with," Scott said. "As an adult, watching your child go through that is another story. She had unbelievable passion and compassion for making sure families could do that together. And the Rainbow House was that avenue to make it happen."
As Children’s grew bigger and busier—and attracted more patients regionally and nationally—the need for the Rainbow House increased. There were many nights when the original Rainbow House at 7815 Harney Street was full. Children’s leadership, along with generous hospital supporters, thoughtfully considered the evolving needs of patients and families and decided to build a new Rainbow House, which opened at 7825 Farnam Drive in January 2015. This beautiful facility features 56 private guest rooms and welcoming common areas for patient families to enjoy.
"I think Mom would be thrilled to know it’s still here," Sandy Parker said. "Hopefully in another 30 years, the facility is still there taking care of children and families."
Rainbow House Amenities
Tens of thousands of patient families have enjoyed the comfortable accommodations of the Carolyn Scott Rainbow House. Last year, those families came from more than 30 states, Puerto Rico, Belize and Guatemala.
The welcoming three-story building offers 56 rooms with either one or two queen-size beds, a pull-out sofa and private bath. The house has four guest rooms with zero-entry showers. Cable television and Wi-Fi access are available in each guest room. All families share a large kitchen and dining room where they have access to dishes, cooking utensils and some basic food items. A personal pantry and refrigerator is provided for each family. Media, game, meditation, exercise, computer and play rooms offer comfort and convenience for children and adults and free laundry facilities are available. A large patio at the back of the facility offers tables, additional seating and a play area for siblings and patients so families can enjoy time outside together. The Rainbow House also offers a shuttle bus which transports families to and from Children’s on a scheduled basis.
There is a suggested monetary donation per night at the Rainbow House, but no one is turned away due to their inability to pay. That’s where Wine Women & Shoes steps in to fund operations so that out-of-town families have an affordable, convenient place to stay when their children are receiving care at Children’s.
Recipe for Success
At the very first Wine Women & Shoes fundraiser in Omaha, guests enjoyed live and silent auctions and delicious hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Many of the recipes were from Carolyn Scott’s own kitchen.
Today, this favorite girls’ night out is a celebration of fashion and compassion that continues to attract Omaha women with a fabulous marketplace full of designer fashions, jewelry and accessories from national and local retailers; wine tasting; a glamorous fashion show; live and silent auctions; and much more.
Dozens of "Shoe Guys," handsome and helpful volunteers, provide another unique element that makes this fundraiser a huge hit. Through online fundraising of their own prior to the event, the Shoe Guys raised $14,000 for the Rainbow House in 2018.
Serving Children and Families for 70 years
"Children’s has a rich history of female leadership – women who insisted that children’s health should be a priority for the Omaha community," Greiner said. "Carolyn Scott and her family, Ellen Wright, and all of the Wine Women & Shoes leaders are in good company with Margaret Doorly, wife of Henry Doorly, the former publisher of the Omaha World-Herald, who saw a need for a children’s hospital in 1942 and took action."
Margaret Doorly was paying her bill after being discharged from a local hospital when she overheard the hospital attendant turn away parents who did not have the required $10 to admit their ill child. Mrs. Doorly stepped up and paid the bill, then went home and shared her concern with her husband. He agreed there was a need for a hospital where no child is ever refused for lack of ability to pay. In 1943, Henry Doorly met with Dr. C.W.M. Poynter, the dean of the University of Nebraska Medical School, whose dream it was to open such a hospital. And on March 14, 1948, Children’s Memorial Hospital opened its doors at 42nd and Dewey Avenue in Omaha.
The facility cost $850,000 to build and was funded by a communitywide penny drive and contributions made by 30,000 people in Nebraska and western Iowa. True to Margaret Doorly’s vision, from its first day open, Children’s has never turned away a child with a medical need due to the family’s inability to pay. In March of 2018, Children’s celebrated 70 years of serving children and their families.
The Carolyn Scott Rainbow House will continue to be an important resource for families as Children’s experiences significant growth in the number of patients served and the variety of programs and services provided.
Construction is underway on the new Hubbard Center for Children, a nine-story expansion set to open in 2021. This transformational project will include a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Fetal Care Center, Cardiac Care Unit, Surgical Services, Emergency Department, Oncology Care Unit and more, and will help Children’s accommodate growing demand for services and improve pediatric care for patients and families.
"We live in a tremendous community where you can volunteer your time for just about anything – health care, social service, the arts – we’ve got it all. But when you have an opportunity to become involved with Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, you want to continue," Wright said. "When you see 600 young women participating in Wine Women & Shoes and always remembering the Carolyn Scott Rainbow House, it’s truly emotional."
Carolyn Scott Rainbow House by the Numbers
- 45,000 square feet
- 56 guest rooms
- 15,000 stays in 2017
- 72% - Average occupancy in 2017
- 3-4 nights - Average length of stay
- 2 years - Longest stay
- 111 adults and children – Average number of people who stay at the Rainbow House on a typical night
- 60 miles or more – Families living this distance from Omaha are eligible to stay at the Rainbow House
- 30+ states, Belize, Guatemala & Puerto Rico - Where families staying at the Rainbow House traveled from in 2017
For more information about getting involved with Wine Women & Shoes, please contact Morgan Thomsen, Director of Annual Giving, Children’s Foundation, at 402.955.6852 or mothomsen@ChildrensOmaha.org.