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10/23/18 news article

Panera's annual 'Pieces of Hope' campaign results in largest donor contribution to autism services at Dayton Children's Hospital

four-year fundraising total of $110,000 allowing for advancements, improved outcomes for families

The partnership between Covelli Enterprises, the Ohio-based franchisee of Panera Bread, and Dayton Children’s Hospital was recently recognized as the largest donor investment in autism services at Dayton Children’s since the 2014 opening of its new autism diagnostic center. Four years and more than 1,500 patients later, the center is achieving the goal of improving outcomes for children and families affected by autism, doing so with the help of Covelli Enterprises and its Panera Bread locations in Dayton. The partnership has resulted in nearly $110,000 in support over four years and the funds are having a major impact.

Every April, Panera Bread hosts its annual Pieces of Hope for Autism cookie campaign through which 100 percent of the proceeds from every puzzle piece cookie sold is donated to Dayton Children’s. The Dayton Panera Bread cafes have also raised funds through its Covelli Cares Community Breadbox collection canisters at the registers and through its new Change Roll-Up program. These programs have generated funds to support the autism diagnostic center and autism support programs at the hospital.

Mary Beth Dewitt, PhD, a clinical child and adolescent psychologist at Dayton Children’s Hospital, has witnessed the positive effect of the partnership on outcomes for her patients and their families. The funds have been used to expand diagnostic services, add staff members, advance training, purchase books and other resources for families to receive upon diagnosis, and create sensory distraction kits to entertain children hospital-wide while they are being treated. With the additional staff, Dr. Dewitt said they have been able to cut down on wait times for assessments and improve access for their patients.

“We are typically able to get kids in for an assessment within a week, which has really helped to relieve anxieties of concerned parents waiting for answers,” Dr. Dewitt said. 

The funds have also allowed the hospital to expand services into Springboro to serve the population south of Dayton with a new behavioral health facility that opened last year. The center was able to be designed specifically with children with autism in mind including special accommodations like small, soundproofed waiting rooms for children to be able to wait in comfort rather than in a larger, crowded waiting room that may overwhelm a particularly sensitive child. 

Dayton Children’s is planning another expansion with a new building set to open in the near future close to the main hospital. The Center for Community Health and Advocacy will be home to the hospital’s community outreach programs including primary care, specialized clinics, foster care and kinship programs, nutrition services for families in need, and child safety programs. The facility will also be designed with children with autism and special needs in mind and will include a closed circuit set-up where parents as well as trainees may remain involved as observers in the patient care without disturbing any assessments or interfering with results.

Dr. Dewitt said, “I’ve seen it in my kids and in the research. Early diagnosis and intervention with a multi-disciplinary approach is key. You can’t put a price on getting the optimal care for a child to allow them to live a successful and healthy life. The bottom line is we really can help these kids; they do get better with our help.”

Adam Blanchard, director of donor engagement for the Dayton Children’s Hospital foundation, said, “Our partnership with Panera Bread is just that, a true partnership. Both parties are genuinely concerned about bettering outcomes for children with autism. It’s all about coming together to elevate each other’s organizations in the goal to solve a common problem.”

Blanchard also said one the biggest benefits of the partnership with Panera Bread is that it has helped to strengthen the Dayton Children’s connection to the community. There is now awareness that families don’t have to travel outside of the Miami Valley for expert care for their children.

This past July, representatives from Covelli Enterprises presented a check to Dayton Children’s for $35,355.33 as a result of the 2018 Pieces of Hope cookie campaign. Next year’s campaign is set for early April 2019.

About Covelli Enterprises

Covelli Enterprises operates more than 315 Panera Bread bakery-cafés in eight states. Headquartered in Warren, Ohio, Covelli Enterprises is the single largest franchisee of Panera Bread, LLC. In 2017, Covelli Enterprises donated more than $32 million to hunger relief agencies and non-profit organizations through Covelli Cares. 

About Dayton Children’s

One of only 45 independent freestanding children’s hospitals in the country, Dayton Children’s is the region’s only medical facility dedicated to children. Accredited by The Joint Commission and serving 20 Ohio counties and eastern Indiana, the experts at Dayton Children’s care for more than 320,000 children each year. Consistently recognized as one of the country’s best and most cost-effective pediatric hospitals, Dayton Children’s is home to the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics and together with the United States Air Force shares the nation’s only civilian-military integrated pediatric training program. For more children’s health and safety information, visit our web site at

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Mary Beth DeWitt, PhD.

division chief behavioral health, psychology
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