A Hand with Health

Johnson Memorial Hospital Foundation
has a wide reach in the community

By Greg Seiter

With an obvious focus on the enhancement of health-related services and initiatives, the Johnson Memorial Hospital Foundation has strived to raise charitable funds in support of the hospital’s community-based efforts since its inception in 1985. But in recent times, foundation board members realized they needed to narrow their focus, thanks in part to recommendations from physicians themselves.

“Sometimes, with a lot of foundations, the focus is too broad,” says Doug Stewart, second-year president of the Johnson Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Board of Directors and senior vice president of investments with Raymond James and Associates in Greenwood. “We had a strategic meeting some 18 months ago, and some physicians on the board helped us realize there isn’t necessarily a good means by which to get patients to the right areas for behavioral health services when they come to us.”

Board secretary and treasurer Larry Heydon, who is also the president and CEO of Johnson Memorial Hospital, agrees. “When it comes to addressing depression and other issues, the pipeline just isn’t strong in relation to the number of providers out there,” he says. “But we’re not alone. This is a national issue.

“Mental issues are the root cause of a lot of medical issues. By addressing these issues early on, we can potentially help prevent some medical ones.”

According to Heydon, the foundation recognized the fact that Johnson Memorial couldn’t create an infrastructure to address specific needs in the behavioral health services arena on its own, so board members committed to raising targeted funds and collaborating with existing providers to help expand opportunities within existing groups.

In recognition of this newly identified focus area, the foundation coordinated an inaugural gala fundraising event that was held Feb. 25 at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. The event included an evening reception, silent auction, dinner, program and entertainment. Sponsorships were also sold, with the focus on increasing the awareness of and putting dollars toward behavioral awareness.

“One of every five children in America experiences some type of mental illness,” Stewart says. “It’s not just suicide. It’s depression, drug problems and other addictions, too.”

A new direction

Another recent change brought about by the Johnson Memorial Hospital Foundation board was to narrow the focus of the foundation’s executive director. As such, Jennifer Tennell was hired approximately one year ago to serve full time in that capacity.

“The person who previously worked in this position oversaw the foundation, handled marketing and worked with the Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County,” Tennell says. “My only focus is the foundation. The marketing role is filled by a different person, and the Healthier Johnson County partnership is handled by a different group.”

The move has already proved to be a beneficial one.

“The person who previously worked in that position wore many different hats,” Stewart says. “Being able to have one person with the sole focus on the foundation and its mission statement has been wonderful. Jennifer has years of experience in the county, and she knows a lot of people. Her contacts and her passion have been great for us.”

Of course, the foundation continues to raise charitable funds for other health care-related services at Johnson Memorial and throughout the county as well, while supporting hospital departments with essential resources for programs and equipment, too. For example, the “To Touch a Life” capital campaign raised more than $1.5 million for the establishment of the JMH Cancer Care Center, which provides Johnson County residents with a close-to-home treatment option.

A broad reach

“Sometimes people don’t realize how many things we’re involved in and how a lot of what we do passes right through to the community,” Stewart says. “They just don’t understand how broad our efforts are.”

The foundation is also known for generating scholarships geared toward assisting county residents in the pursuit of health care-based careers. In fact, the Katie Robards Memorial Fund, Montgomery Registered Nursing Scholarships, JMH Employee Guild Scholarships and JMH Foundation Scholarship have collectively awarded nearly $334,000 to hundreds of students during the last 15 years, according to the Johnson Memorial Hospital Foundation website, johnsonmemorialfoundation.org.

Dr. Sean Beeson, a recent multiyear recipient of the Katie Robards Memorial Fund, is now a physician at Johnson Memorial. “The Robards scholarship was very important to me,” he says. “Going through school, it certainly helped reduce my debt, but more importantly, it helped me realize and appreciate the support being shown to me by the foundation.”

Now Beeson has an even more complete understanding of and appreciation for the foundation and the work it does. “The foundation is important because it gives back to the needs of Johnson County, especially as the area continues to grow. It helps professionals and the community at large,” he adds. “There’s really nothing more rewarding than the feeling associated with being able to give back to those who helped you.”

The Johnson Memorial Hospital Foundation Professional Development Award is intended to provide financial assistance to Johnson Memorial Hospital employees as they pursue educational and professional development opportunities within their areas of health care work. The Johnson Memorial Hospital Foundation BSN Completion Scholarship assists registered nurses employed at the hospital as they study for a bachelor of science degree in nursing from an accredited and approved program.

Ultimately, the foundation relies on fundraising efforts to support its goals and programming. In fact, as scholarships go, the foundation has awarded more than $64,000 during the last year, and a primary contributor in that area, specifically for the Robards scholarship, has been the traditional Loving Lights holiday initiative. Through Loving Lights, those wishing to honor a loved one are encouraged to add a light to a ceremonial tree at the hospital.

Funds are also generated through the annual Robards family golf outing and the foundation golf tournament. “We also have investments that help with different scholarships,” Stewart says. According to Heydon, the fundraising process can be challenging but very rewarding. “Raising funds is really a two-phase process. It’s a long-term journey,” he says. “It takes patience and understanding that you have to build a system for monies to be collected.

“We’ll continue to maximize our fundraising events, but as we evolve, we want to understand opportunities with long-term estate planning as well,” Heydon says. “Basically, we want the community to know we’re here, so as people work on their respective wills, we ask that they not forget about the foundation and the work we do. We receive strong donations and gifts from the community, but we certainly have an opportunity to become more involved in estate planning.”

Heydon acknowledges the foundation has an almost endless list of goals and target areas to address but is proud of previous accomplishments and excited for future endeavors. “The list is long, but we keep plugging away,” he says. “We know we will never have a situation in which there’s nothing to address. But we have a very strong board, a ‘Who’s Who’ in Johnson County. We’re very lucky to have the board we have.”

Information: johnsonmemorialfoundation.org.