Atlanta, GA,
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Shepherd Center to Rename Garden in Honor of Gift from Anna and Hays Mershon

Anna and Hays Mershon were special guests last summer at a luncheon held in Shepherd Center's Secret Garden.

The Mershons, who have been regular donors to Shepherd Center over the years, had recently informed J. Tyler (Ty) Tippett, senior director of planned gifts for the Shepherd Center Foundation, that they were leaving a significant gift to the hospital through their estate.

The luncheon, hosted by the hospital's co-founder, Alana Shepherd, Medical Director Donald P. Leslie, M.D., and Jen Swindall, the Foundation’s major and planned gifts officer, was held to honor the Mershons and inform them that the Secret Garden would henceforth be known as the Anna and Hays Mershon Secret Garden.

"When Shepherd Center suggested naming the Secret Garden (for us) in recognition of our gift," Hays wrote later in a note to Ty, "we were delighted not only because of our shared love of gardens and gardening over our entire married lives, but also because this legacy gift would help support a serene and healing oasis on the Shepherd campus that would benefit patients and their families across all of Shepherd's programs."

"The importance of planned estate gifts to Shepherd Center's future cannot be overstated,” Tippett says. “The patients and families who will benefit from Anna and Hays' generosity will be grateful they felt a calling to give back."

Anna and Alana Shepherd have been friends for 30 years through their Iris Garden Club activities, and Anna has also been a volunteer and board member of the Southeastern Flower Show/Southeastern Horticultural Society. Hays is a lifetime member of the board of directors at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

The Mershons' connection with the hospital grew even stronger in 2000 when Hays began to feel the late effects of the polio he experienced as a child. He consulted Dr. Leslie, who not only helped him deal with his post-polio issues, but also facilitated his retirement from the King & Spalding law firm, where he was a partner.

"Anna knew Dr. Leslie when they were students at Vanderbilt University, and we have known him through various community organizations, as well," Hays says. "But after I began consulting with him, we became great friends. We have dinner with him often and hear about all the wonderful things Shepherd Center is involved in. 

"It seems like every week Shepherd Center is on the evening news saving somebody's life, and we've also had friends who have been treated at Shepherd. It's such a great organization that we wanted to support their work. And there's an element of comfort and gratitude in knowing that they're there. We really admire what they do, and that's why we didn't designate our gift for any specific use."

Dr. Leslie says: "Anna and Hays are very compassionate, generous and loving people. I've been fortunate to have them as friends for many years, and Atlanta is very fortunate to have them as citizens. We are so appreciative of the support they've given Shepherd Center."

For more information on giving to Shepherd Center, click here.

By John Christensen
Photos by Louie Favorite

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.