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Best Local Hero 

Children's Mercy Hospital

In the first days after Hurricane Katrina hit, while many of us were still paralyzed with horror at the helplessness and suffering in New Orleans, Children's Mercy CEO Randall O'Donnell was on the phone with the CEO of New Orleans Children's Hospital -- the two doctors have known each other for 20 years -- asking what he could do. Before long, the answer was clear: Get these kids out of here. On August 31, a team of nurses and respiratory therapists flew to New Orleans, where they quickly saw that their small plane wasn't nearly big enough to bring back all the patients. So Randall called Sen. Kit Bond, who lined up two C-130 transport planes from the Missouri Air National Guard. The team from Children's Mercy arrived home at the downtown airport that night with 24 patients and 30 of those kids' family members. Since then, the hospital's social workers have arranged temporary housing for the families and provided them with food, clothing and whatever else they needed. "It was a huge effort. The entire hospital came together to pull this off," Children's Mercy spokeswoman Jennifer Benz tells us. "We didn't have a lot of notice. We didn't wait for FEMA or the government or anything. We just knew what we needed to do for those kids and did it."

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