Life-saving transformational gift to local hospitals provides much-needed ventilators

By Megan Mulholland, Marketing Director, Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region

A donor with the Community Foundation has made a truly life-saving donation to area hospitals as they prepare to care for community members diagnosed with coronavirus. The anonymous donor gave more than $170,000 to Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital and ThedaCare to help purchase much-needed ventilators.

Respiratory team at Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital: Lisa DeGreef, Megan Goetzman, Simon Ly “I started to cry,” said Chad Hershner, director of philanthropy for Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, when he received word from Ann Engelhard, vice president of donor services and gift planning at the Community Foundation. “I took a moment to regroup and I called Ann back. And then I cried again with Ann.” 

“Learning that a donor was willing to step up in such a big way — and understood this was a critical need – well, it pulled at our hearts,” said Courtney Weiland, vice president, philanthropy at ThedaCare. “Our respiratory manager smiled when we shared the news with her.

Philanthropic gifts are often talked about as ‘life-saving’ in many ways but this gift will directly save lives. To have this donor join in ThedaCare’s preparedness with an act of such generosity touches all of us. It brings a sense of both action and impact.”

Both healthcare systems are still in need of donations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including masks, hand sanitizer and other items (see side bar). In addition, both Ascension and ThedaCare Foundations are accepting financial contributions to support the needs of their associates and other key priority areas for their hospitals and clinics. To make a financial gift please visit Ascension and ThedaCare.

Last week Tuesday, Engelhard received a call from the donor who has a non-endowed donor advised fund. “Through our conversations and her granting history, I knew that air quality and funding asthma research were very important to her,” Engelhard said. The donor is a patient at Ascension St. Elizabeth and has received care also with ThedaCare.

Courtesy of ThedaCare

Wednesday morning the hospitals’ foundation leadership shared the needs of their healthcare systems. That afternoon, the donor authorized an $83,000 grant to ThedaCare and an $85,000 grant to Ascension to purchase ventilators. (The difference in price varies with the different types of ventilators needed by the two healthcare systems.)

And on Thursday, the ThedaCare ventilators were loaded on a FedEx truck in Reno and heading to the Fox Valley. Ascension’s ventilators are also on their way to the Fox Valley.

Courtesy of ThedaCare

“It is so inspiring for a donor to step up and make such a difference that will truly save lives in their community,” Hershner said. “This is a transformational gift to help take care of the community.” I called the donor and cried again. I told her, ‘You have no idea what this does for our team and for the community.’”

“This community has a remarkable history of coming together to get things done and help those in need,” Weiland said. “We now find ourselves preparing for a new and unprecedented need, with healthcare at the heart of our ability to respond. Having donors like this step in so quickly makes all the difference. When we look back at this time, we will undoubtedly see the positive impact of the donations in facing COVID-19.”

“At this time, we all need rays of hope,” Engelhard added. “This donor’s generosity will save lives, support our community’s healthcare workers and have a lasting impact on others. Philanthropy is an amazing gift – to the community and to the donors.”

How to donate to the local health systems

Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation was founded in 1976 and serves as the philanthropic arm of Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital, Ascension Calumet Medical Center and Ascension Medical Group clinics located throughout Outagamie, Calumet and northern Winnebago counties. If you wish to donate to support their mission and help them support their team and to provide care for the poor and vulnerable, click here.

At ThedaCare the health and safety of the community is their highest priority. You too can help by supporting the Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund. Gifts to this fund will directly support their patients and families, caregivers, and hospital equipment needs as they emerge.  Gifts can be made online here.  Questions? Email or call 920-738-6503.

Ascension Wisconsin and ThedaCare are accepting donations for personal protective equipment. Individuals or companies interested in making a donation should contact Ascension Wisconsin’s Foundation partners.  For ThedaCare, drop off items at any Goodwill location.

Supplies being requested for donation: 
Isolation Gowns
Earloop or Tie Masks
N95 Respirators
Hand Sanitizers 
Surface disinfectants 
Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR)
Controlled Air Purifying Respirators (CAPR)
Other approved PPE supplies advised by the CDC