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The gift of joy

The Schüle Scheuermann Foundation supports chronically ill children at the Freiburg Center for Pediatrics

Freiburg, May 26, 2017

The gift of joy

Photo: Britt Schilling/Universitätsklinik Freiburg

They help students to go abroad and to conduct research, they support researchers with their projects, and give teachers the opportunity to turn new ideas into reality in their seminars and lectures. The University of Freiburg's 51 foundations each have the unmistakeable character of their founders. In this series, Sarah Schwarzkopf outlines the work of some of those foundations.

Hello, doctor! Playing with dolls at a ward in the Center for Pediatrics
Photo: Britt Schilling/ Freiburg Medical Center

To bring some happiness to poor and sick children was the aim of Dr Adolf Schüle when he founded the organization named after his wife, Frieda Schüle-Scheuermann, in 1927, the year in which she died. The Schüle Scheuermann Foundation is the smallest at the University of Freiburg. It is for children of any religion who are inpatients for any great length of time at the Freiburg Center for Pediatrics.

"The special thing about the Foundation is that we spend the money on things which bring joy - in accordance with the express purpose of the Foundation," Isolde Krug explains. She is the head psychologist at the Center for General Pediatrics, Adolescent Medicine and Neonatology. The psycho-social service at the hospital uses money provided by the Foundation to fulfill the children's special wishes on their birthdays, at Christmas, Easter - and sometimes in between. It was the founder's express with that the benefits should not be "useful" - for example, they often take the for of toys, excursions, and parties.

What the heart desires... The gifts are not meant to be useful or practical - the main thing is that they bring joy to sick children.
Photo: Britt Schilling/ Freiburg Medical Center

Dressing table and school satchel

One severely chronically ill girl wished for a dressing table, Krug remembers. "That is not a thing you absolutely need. But to the girl, the dressing table was a wonderful thing. It gave her a great deal of joy as she lived with great restrictions. That gift sent the message to her that her wishes had meaning." Useful gifts are the exception. A small boy who was meant to be starting school wished for a good school satchel. "Whether they are practical or not - we use the Foundation funds to give presents which will help the child emotionally in his or her current situation," Krug explains. "For the boy, that schoolbag - which was every bit as good as the other kid's bags - meant that he was one of them, despite his chronic illness."

Top-up donations

The Center's psycho-social team is familiar with the families' situations and decides how the annual funds are to be spent and which children are to receive presents. The criteria are how needy the child is, and how much pressure he or she is under. "Some parents cannot give their chronically ill children anything for Christmas. Normally, they do not come to us. We go and speak to them," Krug says. "For many parents it's not at all easy to accept such an offer."

The Foundation supports children of any religion who are inpatients for any great length of time at the Freiburg Center for Pediatrics.
Photo: Britt Schilling/ Freiburg Medical Center

The Schüle Scheuermann Foundation is part of the joint administration for foundations, the Vereinigte Studienstiftungen-Verwaltung, and was founded with a nest egg of just 1,000 US dollars. So its yields are small. In 2016, it yielded just 138 euros. "You can't make a big difference with that. The Schüle Scheuermann Foundation survives on donations," says Andreas Lang, head of the University of Freiburg's Stiftung und Vermögen section. "We often suggest to businesses that they donate the proceeds of an employee event or a raffle." Lang tops up the Foundation's dividends with the donations. In 2016, the Freiburg Medical Center was able to give the children presents to a total value of 638 euros.

Foundations at the University of Freiburg

Some of the 51 foundations at the University of Freiburg have their origins in the late Middle Ages. The 17 older ones make up the Vereinigte Studienstiftungen-Verwaltung; all but three of the more recent ones are part of the Stiftungsfonds. The University receives the starting capital as goods or money and invests it. Each year it pays out two-thirds of the yield of each foundation and reserves the other third as a hedge against inflation. The founders give clear instructions as to who can apply for the funds. Generally, need takes priority over performance. The articles of endowment also specific the individual purpose of each foundation.

The foundations at a glance