Kathy Funderburk's love of children is evident in both her jobs as a pediatric nurse at The Regional Medical Center and as executive director of the Orangeburg-Bamberg-Calhoun Safe Kids Coalition.
And it is because of her tireless efforts promoting safety among kids of all ages that Funderburk has been recognized for exemplifying the September Community of Character trait: safety.
"It is imperative that we get our safety message out to the public," Funderburk said. "Accidental injury is the number one killer of children birth to 14."
She has worked with Safe Kids since its beginnings in The T&D Region in 1995, when she was tapped by TRMC president and CEO Tom Dandridge to lead the local chapter.
"She epitomizes passion for what she does," Dandridge said. "She's got more energy than 10 people. She embarrasses me half the time she runs circles around me."
Funderburk's work with the coalition is a testament to her commitment to children and keeping them safe, he said. The passion she has for life and her nursing career, Dandridge said, overflow into her work with Safe Kids.
"Everything is a passion and this is no different," he said. "Somewhere along the line, she's probably saved a youngster through her efforts."
Funderburk applauded TRMC for its support of and work with O-B-C Safe Kids Coalition.
"It's very positive that The Regional Medical Center is taking a proactive role to keep people, particularly children, out of its emergency room doors, and this program does that," Funderburk said. TRMC's Foundation, along with the S.C. Hospital Association and dozens of corporate supporters, sponsors the tri-county Safe Kids program.
O-B-C Safe Kids Coalition is affiliated with the National Safe Kids Campaign and aims to prevent unintentional injuries among children ages birth to 14 years.
Funderburk said children in The T&D Region area are at great risk because accidental injury is more prevalent in low-income and rural households.
"It is not ethnicity. It is poverty that increases the chance of accidental injury," she said.
Car seat safety and education is among the coalition's top priorities, as car crashes are the number one killer of children, Funderburk said.
In 2004, 29 percent of child deaths were caused by motor vehicle crashes, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. That's double the amount caused by airway obstruction or drowning.
"We work hard to make sure parents and caregivers know how to correctly restrain their children," Funderburk said.
She is the founder of a program titled "Just the Ticket," which combines the efforts of O-B-C Safe Kids Coalition, law enforcement and the local judicial branch. Under the program, first-time violators of the child restraint law in Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties are issued a special ticket that allows them to attend a class on child safety seats and, in turn, the fine is dropped.
"I'm the education component to help make sure children are restrained correctly," Funderburk said. "It's just really positive violators are getting educated."
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When violators complete the class "they're very clear about what they need to be doing to keep their child safe," she said.
"Just the Ticket" is the recipient of a national award from Safe Kids Worldwide and spin-offs are being used in the Midlands and Upstate regions of South Carolina.
Additionally, since its beginning, O-B-C Safe Kids has hosted a Safe Kids Super Saturday, inviting youngsters and their parents to learn more about health and safety issues.
"I see her and her Safe Kids board working day in and day out, trying to prevent preventable death among children," said Babs Westbury, a public relations specialist with TRMC. She nominated Funderburk for the honor.
"Just seeing how she and her team have come around it's just given me a greater awareness of safety," she said. "It's going to take all of us working together to help improve safety."
The 10th annual Super Saturday event was held Sept. 10 at the Orangeburg County Fairgrounds and featured, in addition to a drive-through safety seat check, the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety's "Smoke House," child identification cards, a bike rodeo and free health screenings for blood pressure and vision. There were also activities just for fun, including pony rides and cardboard hill sledding.
Area teens attending the event learned of the importance of buckling up and not driving impaired.
"Teens in the area continue to consider themselves invincible and are not buckling up," Funderburk said. "Our teens are the ones that control themselves and we're trying to get the message out to them."
Funderburk is quick to point out that her recognition for promoting safety is only possible because of the scores of volunteers and agencies that lend their hands to the cause.
"I am lit up by so many community agencies and persons because of their cooperation and their commitment to childhood safety," she said. "If it were not for their cooperation, Safe Kids of Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties would not be glowing."
Richard Lee, a circuit workforce consultant with the Department of Social Services and a member of the O-B-C Safe Kids Coalition board, said working with Funderburk is a joy.
"In that role, she is tireless," he said. "She goes nights, weekends, whenever, wherever, to promote safety among kids.
"She's a very caring, tender-hearted person who is very suited for the job she does."
In addition to her dual duties at TRMC, Funderburk is district training chair for Boy Scouts of America, education coordinator at St. Andrews United Methodist Church and an active sustainer with the Junior Service League.
"I love what I do," she said. "I am surrounded by talent and energy and concern for people.
"I am blessed."
- T&D Staff Writer Wendy Jeffcoat can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 803-534-1060.