Shepherd Center Auxiliary Raises Funds and Creates Memorable Moments for Patients and Families
The moments and gestures are large and small, elaborately orchestrated on special occasions and heartwarmingly simple on a daily basis, but all come from a place of profound care for Shepherd Center patients.
There was the time the Shepherd Center Auxiliary arranged for an airplane to fly over the hospital towing a banner that read, “Annie, will you marry me?” – helping a patient propose to his longtime love. It was an evening that included not only hiring a plane, but also coordinating a catered dinner, live piano music, champagne and the precisely timed delivery of a diamond ring by the couple’s dog.
On yet another occasion, the Auxiliary organized a prom with all the of details for a young patient who was in the hospital with a spinal cord injury instead of at his long-awaited school dance. On this night, the Auxiliary’s efforts included live-streaming the hospital prom to the boy’s actual high school so he could see what was going on and feel connected to his classmates.
And on a daily and weekly basis, there are countless thoughtful touches – handmade birthday cards, gift-wrapped blankets at Christmas, an iPad for a patient with communication difficulties or gas money for a family member struggling to get back and forth for hospital visits.
“We just want patients’ lives to be as unchanged and as celebratory as they can be,” says Lois Puckett, a longtime Auxiliary member. “I don’t think we ever developed a written mission statement. The idea is just to make life as simple and as real as before the patient was injured. And to give them hope.”
Incorporated in 1981, the Auxiliary has had a huge impact on the hospital. Alex Seblatnigg, Shepherd Center director of volunteer services, maintains a spreadsheet of the gifts the Auxiliary has given through the years. The total contributed to date is a staggering $7 million.
“They’ve given everything from scholarships to equipment to dedicating patient rooms,” Alex says. “They’ve really touched every corner of Shepherd Center.”
The Auxiliary's most well-known fundraiser, Pecans on Peachtree®, started in the most unassuming of ways – out of the trunk of a car. But it has grown into a powerhouse, raising more than $2 million over the years through the holiday sale of pecans, which can now be purchased raw, salted, candied or even covered in chocolate.
Not only has the Auxiliary raised large sums of money, but its members have also contributed countless hours, says Midge Tracy, who was director of volunteer services at Shepherd Center for 16 years.
“If a family needed dinner, someone would fix them dinner,” she says. “Or if a family member needed a ride, or needed to go someplace, an Auxiliary member would take them. It was just like having extended family members there to help.”
“I don’t think any hospital can ever survive without the generous support of people in the community,” Midge adds. “There are just too many things patients need. And the Auxiliary members are an unbelievable group of people.”
Written by Mia Taylor
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.