Regional health foundations assist patients with community support |

Regional health foundations assist patients with community support

Molly Moser


Cost: Free

When: 6-9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18

Where: Carson Tahoe Cancer Center, 1535 Medical Parkway

Grand prize raffle tickets prior to and at the event are available for $20 each or six for $100 at locations throughout Carson City.

Nevada is in a tough spot when it comes to health care, especially since it’s listed as one of the worst states for it, according to a recent study by WalletHub.

But hospitals in the northern region know how to temporarily alleviate that stress for families and single parents without health care or limited benefits, thanks to support health foundations offer.

Most foundations are non-profit and have been around for years but the service is going to be more crucial than ever these days. Nevada is ranked among the worst for having the fewest hospital beds and physicians per capita, along with the lowest percentage of insured adults and children.

Although Nevada is brewing up the idea of allowing those without health insurance to buy into the state’s Medicaid program, the help of foundations from Carson Tahoe Health, Renown, and Saint Mary’s, will give patients in need a comfortable place to recover, and guidance on paying bills and other amenities.

Foundations make this possible by hosting fundraising events and collaborating with volunteers, which is why they also need support from local communities to maintain success.

What does a health foundation do?

Each hospital foundation has a different way of presenting its advantages but follow the same mission: to help raise funds for patients and their families.

“It gets tighter and tighter in a hospital,” said Kitty McKay, director of Customer Experience and Foundation Development at Carson Tahoe Health. “These are desperate times for people and our community understands that. Getting the cancer treatment and diagnosis is the worst experience for them, but the support they receive means everything.”

CTH’s foundation is a non-profit organization with a commitment in fundraising since 1998. They are also a part of the nonprofit hospital.

McKay said it’s important for a nonprofit hospital to carry needs for patients, regardless of the ability to pay.

“We see so many patients regularly that have big needs that go beyond the hospital walls,” McKay said. “If they can’t work, they can’t pay bills or mortgage. We work rally hard to create enough support and help them through that difficult time.”

At Renown Health’s foundation, they also work to raise funds for patients and infrastructure within the hospital. All donations raised to the foundation go toward designated programs and services, such as the Child Life Program and Healing Arts Program, supported by the community.

According to the foundation, they provided over $85,000 in the past 12 months, to patients who needed assistance.

Wendy Damonte, Renown’s vice president of Advocacy and Community Partnerships, said the foundation is a part of the Renown health system, the largest not-for-profit in Reno and Northern Nevada.

Operated by the health system, Renown’s foundation has been around for 32 years, when the hospital became a not-for-profit.

“We no longer live in a society where the patient comes to us,” she said. “We want to come to you. It’s about how we can help raise funds to get closer to where people are and make a footprint in our town with health care.”

Foundations proceed with this mission by creating projects to encourage the community to get involved. But at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center, the reestablishment of its foundation will be the main focus in order to serve more of their patients.

Prior to 2011, Saint Mary’s foundation was operated through Dignity Health, a not-for-profit cooperation company based in California. Back then, the foundation also raised funds for various programs, such as oncology, hospice, and community programs.

However, the foundation will be different in terms of how it operates and its focus areas, said Jamii Uboldi, spokesperson for Saint Mary’s Health Network.

Making a difference with projects

Saint Mary’s is already developing a philanthropic foundation program from the ground up. It’s expected to support local services within the hospital’s health network.

Uboldi said they plan to make an official announcement sometime in September.

“Creating a foundation was the direct response of community requests and financial giving to our current programs,” she said. “This new opportunity will allow Saint Mary’s to accept planned gifts and other donations to further our mission of providing exceptional health care services to Northern Nevada residents.”

Uboldi said the first few years of the foundation’s inception, they will recruit a board of directors to bring the foundation’s vision to life.

“We do have some planned gifts that have been received,” she said. “When we publicly launch, we can share those data points and what our goal is in terms of annual funding.”

Meanwhile at CTH, the foundation is preparing to host its seventh annual Hopefest celebration Aug. 18, at the hospital’s Cancer Center in Carson City. The event has distributed more than $439,000 in local patient support since 2011, from insurance premiums and co-pays, to mortgage rentals, and transportation.

What drives people to the event is not only the live entertainment and food, but the raffles offering big prizes, from a new car, to vacations and cash prizes.

“It’s kind of a pure event,” McKay said. “You can have a drink and be a part of it, or spend hundreds on the raffle to support. However you attend, it’s magic when we all come together.”

Another main mission CTH focuses on is the Merrinir Cottage project, where the foundation provides 15 no-cost cottages for patients with extended treatment.

The foundation also works diligently to construct equipment and technology at the hospital, such as the Cancer Center.

McKay said $8 million was raised by the community to open the center.

“We reach out to the community and seek support to contribute to our healing haven,” she said. “We focus on upkeep, utilities, cleaning, cancer program, patient support, cardiology, diabetes outreach, and more. It’s all ongoing.”

The Mallory Foundation contributed $325,000 to Mallory Behavioral Crisis Center to CTH, for mental health crisis.

“It was a need identified by every public service agency in our community,” she said. “People were either incarcerated or sent to the emergency room, which doesn’t help heal. But we were also able to help them receive treatment from funds raised at Hopefest events.”

Renown’s projects also benefit patients and programs by involving the community and donor funds.

The three main projects of focus is the Healthy Nevada Project, the Estelle J. Kelsey Simulation Lab, and the David and Judy Hess Children’s Imaging Center.

Announced last year by the hospital and Desert Research Institute, Healthy Nevada Project collaborates with 23andMe, a personal genetics company, launched one of the first community-based population health studies in the U.S. combining health, population and genetic information with environmental data.

Nevada participants’ genetic results will go toward the study at no cost, along with gaining access to individual genetic information.

At Renown’s Children’s Imaging Center, the foundation purchased the region’s first and only low-dose 128-slice computed tomography (CT) scanner, a new technology that decreases radiation exposure. It was supported by a $1 million donation from local philanthropists, David and Judy Hess – is fully donor-funded and is the latest expansion for the children’s hospital.

The Simulation Lab also was made possible for the foundation by generous support from community donations, which includes three high-fidelity patient simulators debuted in April.

Damonte said these are the type of areas local donors feel strongly about, which is an opportunity that helps the system.

“It goes back into where the donor goes,” Damonte said. “The main goal is to raise money but with health care, everything is expensive and the hospital doesn’t cover even a fifth for our community. That’s why we turn to our donors; although we make money, there are still gaps in funding.”

According to Renown’s foundation, 19 local community citizens drive the hospital’s fundraising activities through a volunteer Board of Trustees.

In addition, they have nine other volunteer groups working on behalf of the community.

The areas in need for Renown’s foundation include the Children’s Hospital, Institute for Cancer, neurosciences, infusion services, Institute for Heart and Vascular, and Healing Arts.

Donors interested can donate through the foundation’s website, as well as sign up for volunteering.

Although CTH’s foundation has a volunteer board, McKay said they don’t have full-time volunteers, however, they are invited to help at events such as Hopefest.

The areas in need are patient support, essential services, and lifesaving equipment.