A Mighty Heart

From grand galas to golf tournaments, health care foundation volunteers put their all into fundraising.

It all began with a chance meeting at the Richmond International Airport,” says Hank Greenberg from a lounge area at the back of his elegant Richmond clothing store, Roan. Returning from a buying trip to Europe in 2001, he ran into an old friend, Susan Rickman, who had once worked part-time for him as a trunk show model. On that day, she had a little girl from Honduras with her. “Susan introduced us and said, ‘I really want to tell you about what I’m doing now.’” The girl, about 3 or 4 years old, was in Richmond for surgery with the support of what was then a new nonprofit, the International Hospital for Children (now World Pediatric Project). Moved, Greenberg says, “I told her, ‘Let me know how I can help.’”

Fast forward to 2015. Rickman is CEO of WPP, which now has offices in Richmond and St. Louis, and Greenberg is in his 11th year producing the runway fashion show for the organization’s annual “Treasures in Paradise” fundraiser in November. The event, which is being co-chaired by Pamela Royal Jenkins and Anna and Scott Reed, also includes silent and live auction items donated by supporters. Highlights of the auction are villa stays on private islands like Mustique. Last year, “Treasures” raised $800,000. This year, “maybe we will reach a million,” says Greenberg with a smile.

Individuals such as Greenberg, Jenkins and the Reeds are the lifeblood of Virginia’s health care and hospital foundations. Not only do they provide philanthropic support, but their creative energies and ideas draw others—and create buzz for important causes. Funds from “Treasures” will go a long way toward supporting the work of World Pediatric Project, which this year will include sending doctors on 48 medical missions to program areas, and bringing 80-90 children with complex medical needs to Richmond and St. Louis for surgery. The nonprofit is helping to develop a pediatric cardiac surgery training program in Panama, modeled after its successful Dominican Hearts program. It is also working to reduce infant mortality rates by providing newborn training to medical providers in Belize and to Neonatal Intensive-Care Unit nurses in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The project is also raising funds to provide critically needed equipment for an operating room at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, located in St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ capital, Kingstown.

The impact of their work hits home when volunteers meet the patients involved. The “Treasures” night of 2012 was attended by Maria and Teresa Tapia—formerly conjoined twins from the Dominican Republic, who were in Richmond for follow-up surgery. The nonprofit had arranged their separation surgery at VCU Medical Center in 2011. The night of the gala, when they were about 2 ½ years old, the twins were running around—separately—enjoying the glitzy evening. “It was pretty powerful, knowing that for a good part of their lives, they had been conjoined,” recalls Jenkins. Yet here they were, “happy and looking like normal healthy girls—up at night, past their bedtime, and having fun.”

Children’s Hospital Foundation, Richmond

It’s mid-September, and the Junior Board of the Children’s Hospital Foundation—specifically, the flowers, decorations and tables committees—are taking turns presenting their final designs for this year’s 52nd annual ball, Nov. 6, at the Country Club of Virginia. “The Heart of a Champion” sporting theme will play out in six ballrooms and other spaces, with visuals transporting guests to the America’s Cup, an alpine ski lodge, a fishable river, Wimbledon, the Tour de France and Grand Prix racing in Monaco.

The details are exquisitely planned—from a 7-foot wall sculpture made of zip-tied tennis rackets (Wimbledon) to bicycle bell napkin holders (Tour). “Their inner designer comes out,” says ball co-chair Kathy Houck of her committee, with a smile. The committee members are dreaming big. They share designs for a tar-paper Grand Prix racetrack that winds throughout one room to an upside-down tennis court on the ceiling of another.

Back in April, at the initial design meeting, some of the ideas seemed improbable. “But they really made them happen,” says Houck, who runs Commonwealth Financial Strategies Group with her husband Paul. Sitting next to her in the CCV banquet room is her co-chair Gentry O’Neill, owner of Paper On the Avenue, a fine stationery and invitations store, who balances a two-inch binder on her lap. Inside are plastic sleeves filled with prices, designs and other items necessary to plan the lavish ball.

Despite busy work schedules—like many of the other committee members who slip into the meeting on their lunch hour—the pair couldn’t say no to a good cause. The funds raised will help support a new pediatric heart center at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

“Without their efforts, we would not be able to accomplish as much as we have for the hospital,” says Matt Brady, vice president for development and communications for the Richmond-based Children’s Hospital Foundation. “Our Foundation office is just eight employees, so it is a wonderful gift to have the 50 women on the Junior Board, as well as other volunteer groups, working alongside us throughout the year.” The Ball is the foundation’s largest fundraising event, raising $3 million for Children’s Hospital since 2000 alone.  

Inova Health Foundation, Falls Church

“The devil is in the details now,” says Dr. Gary Mather, Booz Allen Hamilton senior partner emeritus, who is co-chairing the annual Inova Summit event with his wife, Tina. “We have some final tastings at the [Tyson’s Corner] Ritz-Carlton. We will also be meeting about décor and other last-minute items.”

Sponsored by the Falls Church-based Inova Health Foundation, this year’s program is centered on the theme “Make It Personal,” and includes a keynote address by Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts; local and national speakers on the topics of genomics, wellness and personalized medicine; social and leisure activities such as cooking classes and an afternoon tea; and a black-tie banquet featuring the B-52s.

Last year, the Summit raised a record-setting $2 million for the foundation. Funds help offset the medical bills of indigent patients and also support Inova’s trauma center and heart care programs, clinical research, capital projects and training for nurses and doctors.

“The Inova Summit is the largest event on the Inova Health Foundation’s calendar,” says Anthony Burchard, president of Inova Health Foundation. “Leadership is critical to the success of the event, and we found great leaders in Gary and Tina. They are enthusiastic supporters of Inova and have a strong interest in personalized medicine and genomics.” The couple’s gifts to the foundation include a $1 million donation to the Inova Dwight and Martha Schar Cancer Institute.

Supporting the Mathers is the foundation’s special events team, the 20-member Summit executive team, and the more than 100 volunteers who will help during the weekend.

The event requires a massive amount of planning. “We were asked to serve as the chair of this year’s Summit during last year’s event,” says Mather, “so we participated in events and sessions with a keener eye that gave us a very different perspective.

“We have been so impressed with Inova’s commitment to the community and are particularly excited about the focus on genomics, wellness and personalized medicine, and what that will mean to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region and beyond. Being able to lend our time and talents to this event is an honor.”

Sentara Foundation-Hampton Roads, Norfolk

With a thundering engine and whipping blades, the large red and gray helicopter known as “Nightingale” regularly arrives on the rooftop of Sentara Norfolk General. The air ambulance makes between 600 and 700 trips each year for trauma victims and patients requiring inter-hospital transfers. It is even equipped with a special incubator to support the frailest of infants.

Prominent philanthropist Joan Brock—member of the Sentara Healthcare-Hampton Roads board of directors, chair of its Foundation Committee and one of Sentara’s most generous supporters—helped to raise the $3.5 million needed in community support to purchase Nightingale in 2011 (Sentara supplemented the amount with an additional $3.7 million).

“Community leaders know her, they know she’s committed to doing good things, and they want to interact with her,” says Meril Amdursky, the foundation’s executive director.

“Joan spent a lot of time in the car with me, going to make requests at places like county governments and corporations. She helped raise awareness that the Nightingale was a regional asset,” says Dale Gauding, Sentara Healthcare communications advisor, who noted that the lifesaving helicopter travels a 125-mile radius from the hospital, which serves as the regional level 1 trauma center.

Brock has met several patients who have flown on Nightingale, including a young girl who was in a terrible car accident in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. “Her father is an emergency medical technician who responded to the scene of the accident—only to discover his own daughter was being extracted from the vehicle,” she says. “She sustained a traumatic brain injury and physical impairments, but was able to graduate with her high school class after a year and a half of rehabilitation.”

Since joining the 12-member foundation committee in 2007, Brock has helped lead other fundraising efforts for Sentara, including the construction of the Hospice House (which has a Healing Garden dedicated to her mother). She and her husband, Macon—a co-founder of Dollar Tree—have volunteered on numerous other boards and donated more than $40 million of their own fortune to local and worldwide charities. On Nov. 12, the pair will receive the 2015 American Fundraising Professionals National Award for Outstanding Philanthropist in New York City.

“As a family, we believe it is a privilege to be able to help others and give back to the community that was so good to us,” she says.

Centra Foundation, Lynchburg

Randolph College professor Consuella Woods is a founding member, and the current chair, of the M.A.A.M. (Mammograms Annually A Must) committee, a volunteer group within the Lynchburg-based Centra Foundation that was formed in 2002. Its mission is to provide free mammograms to the needy and raise awareness of the importance of screening. According to the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation, each year an estimated 6,100 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed among Virginia women and nearly 1,100 will die of the disease.

“I’ve had a lot of close friends with breast cancer—they have it now or they are survivors. I’ve also had a few friends who have died,” says Woods.

One of the group’s main fundraising events is the M.A.A.M. Luncheon, which raises $20,000-$25,000 each year and is held in October at Lynchburg College. The event, now in its 12th year, features dynamic, uplifting speakers. This year it will be Gale Pollock, retired major general of the U.S. Army Nursing Corps, who was also the first non-physician or woman to serve as acting Surgeon General of the U.S. Army.

The M.A.A.M. Committee sponsored 273 free mammograms in 2014 through local centers and its own “M.A.A.M. van,” which travels throughout the community. (The Centra Foundation recently approved $400,000 for a new van.) The group also provides follow-up diagnostic mammograms when needed.

Woods, who has traveled on the van and also assisted in free mammogram events, found the experiences “very enlightening.” She met some women who have never been screened, including a fearful 70-year-old. “I told her, ‘It’s really not that bad. It’s only once a year, and if they find something, it’s better to detect it early rather than wait.’ She thanked me for being there and talking with her.”

Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Norfolk

In terms of volunteers, many drops make a mighty ocean at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk. The hospital’s founding organization, the King’s Daughters, is made up of more than 1,000 volunteers that work more than 45,000 hours and raise $600,000-$750,000 each year. Another group supports the Howard Hanna Chow Chow fundraiser, which brings in about $1 million annually through Vegas nights, bowl-a-thons, potluck dinners and other events. These “chow chows,” as they are known, are sponsored by the 15 sales offices of the Howard Hanna/William E. Wood real estate company.

“Our department [at CHKD] doesn’t put on a lot of events .… for the most part, it’s third party fundraising—folks out in the community that see the need and want to support us. They develop their own partnerships to help us,” says Larissa Trender, director of corporate relations and events for the hospital.

One special community partner is Jamie Brookover, who raises tens of thousands of dollars each June through an annual golf tournament that he started in 2008 while an employee of Norfolk Wire and Electronics. That year, he raised $7,000 for CHKD; funds have steadily increased ever since. To date, the tournaments have brought in more than $160,000 for the hospital’s hematology/oncology and blood disorders clinic.

“It started out as a fun day for my customers and now it’s turned into a cause,” he says. Although he has moved on to a new company, he still runs the golf outing through Footprints in the Sand, a Richmond-based, child-focused nonprofit started by a business colleague. He feels inspired by the “fighting spirit” of the kids he meets at the hospital—some of them thanking him, he says, with “IVs in their arms.”

Brookover’s tournaments begin with a round of golf at the Virginia Beach National Golf Course. A dinner and awards ceremony follows; most of the winners donate their TVs and other prizes to the patients. Beginning in 2009, Brookover also started bringing in young patients to share their stories with the guests, and to talk about the work that goes on at CHKD.

One “champion kid” was nervous about speaking, so Brookover decided to wear a pair of crazy golf slacks. “I told him, ‘If you get nervous, just look at my ugly pants.’” A tradition was born, and each year, he says, “I go buy the ugliest pants you will ever see” to wear to the tournament.

Brookover, as Trender puts it, “is a good salt of the earth guy that just gets it.”

To learn how to become a volunteer, or to support these organizations go to:

Children’s Hospital Foundation, CHFRichmond.org

Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, CHKD.org

Inova Health Foundation, Foundation.Inova.org

WPP, WorldPediatricProject.org

Sentara Foundation, Sentara.com/Hampton-Roads-Virginia

Centra Foundation, Foundation.CentraHealth.com

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