Cupid Strikes for Shepherd Center Volunteers
Couples connect over a good cause.
The first time Adam Diamond saw Diana Prickett, she was sitting at the end of the long table in Shepherd Center’s board room. He walked over, sat down next to her and started talking.
“The Junior Committee was having an envelope stuffing party,” Adam says. “They were sending out mailers to past donors, and I was telling her about Legendary Late Night, the party after The Legendary Party. She blew me off, but I knew she was a member and I’d see her again, so I didn’t push too hard.”
That was in November 2012. They saw each other a month later at the Junior Committee holiday party, and this time Adam got her phone number. Thus began a courtship that led back to that same board room in December 2015.
Adam was the co-chair of the Junior Committee, a group of young professional volunteers – ages 22 to 35 – that has contributed more than $4.7 million to-date recreation therapy projects and programs benefiting Shepherd’s patients. On their way to dinner one evening, Adam asked Diana to go with him while he retrieved some materials from the board room. The room was locked, but he found a Shepherd Center security guard, Lt. Jonathan Neal, to let them in.
Adam led Diana to the end of the table where they met, pulled a ring from his pocket and asked her to marry him. She accepted, and Lt. Neal was the first to congratulate them.
Adam and Diana were married in September 2016, adding their names to a growing list of people who met their future spouses while volunteering at Shepherd Center.
Celebrating its 36th year, the Junior Committee started as a small group that has grown and flourished over time. Having fun and meeting new people, all while raising money and supporting Shepherd Center has been the success of the committee.
Derby Day, held every May on the day of the Kentucky Derby, is the Junior Committee’s major fundraising event. It was at the event in 2001 where Elizabeth and Boynton Smith met. They married two years later.
“Alana (Shepherd Center co-founder Alana Shepherd) says we should write a book about all the couples who met on the Junior Committee,” says Elizabeth, an interior decorator. “But if you think about it, these are good people who volunteer to raise funds. They have a big heart, and they want to give back. In that pool of people, chances are you might find someone special.”
Boynton’s involvement began as a Junior Committee member in the mid-1990s, and he’s been volunteering ever since. He has assisted with the annual golf tournament, was a member of the advisory board and served as chairman of the Shepherd Center Foundation Board of Trustees. He is now a member of the Shepherd Center Board of Directors.
Elizabeth has donated time and expertise to redecorating a conference room at Shepherd Center. Their daughters, Adair, 12 and Amelia, 11, are members of the hospital’s Peach Corps and visit the hospital twice a year to serve ice cream to patients.
Will Thies, 27, a civil engineer who lives in Atlanta, joined the Junior Committee four years ago at the suggestion of friends. Last year, he served as co-chair of Derby Day 2017 with his then-fiancee, Brit Eames, who is the public affairs manager for Andee's Army.
Will and Brit not only met at the party, it is also where they first kissed.
“She lived in New York, but came down every year to visit her best friend, Sarah, who was dating a friend of mine,” Will says. “I had a huge crush on her, but we were always dating other people, and I thought she was totally out of my league. But I told Sarah that if we were ever single at the same time, I was going to marry her.”
When Brit visited in 2014, they were both single, and romance was in the air.
“I really wanted to kiss him, but his parents were there,” Brit says. “He said: ‘They’re fine. They know about you.’”
They were sitting at a table in the middle of the ring at Chastain Horse Park. A band was playing, men wearing ties and seersucker suits mingled with women in fancy hats and spring finery, and finally, they kissed.
Photos were taken, and the courtship began. They got married last July.
As for volunteering at Shepherd Center, Brit says that was easy. Her father sustained a spinal cord injury in the late 1990s.
“Once you get involved with something like this, you don’t want to stop helping,” she says. “And it’s so nice to meet people without social media or an app.”
She chuckles. “I’m the pragmatic one. Will is sweeter.”
“They are just one of the thousands of stories about how Shepherd Center has connected people and helped people," says Adam. "It’s a very, very special place. We’ve made so many friends at Shepherd, and it's a natural progression to stay involved. We want to help others – and to help the next couple who meets at Shepherd Center.”
By John Christensen
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 neurological 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 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.