I Became a Bridge Builder Because...
Two individuals – a doctor and a former patient – explain why they have included Shepherd Center in their estate plans.
Members of the J. Harold Shepherd Bridge Builder Society have committed to gifts beyond their lifetimes and are ensuring the future of Shepherd Center for many years to come. Legacy gifts are any major gift made as part of a financial or estate plan and are among the easiest ways to give back to Shepherd Center.
Gerald Bilsky, M.D.
As a staff physiatrist for Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program and Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program, Dr. Bilsky has worked at the hospital for more than 20 years, including serving as associate director of the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program. Now semi-retired, he returns to Shepherd Center as needed to cover for inpatient doctors who are taking time off. Below, he explains why he became a Bridge Builder.
BECAUSE I WAS TAUGHT TO GIVE BACK.
I did not grow up in a family of means, but my parents taught me that there are always people who need more than you. This is a way of honoring my parents and acknowledging their values. Shepherd Center is an incredible place that does incredible work. We go beyond basic patient care, taking the extra steps to make it as positive and successful an experience as possible. I want to do my part to keep that going.
BECAUSE I FEEL A CONNECTION TO SHEPHERD CENTER BEYOND MY JOB.
Shepherd Center is a unique hospital taking care of people with severe injuries. It is like a family. Former patients still send me notes or check in with me long after discharge. And I also believe the staff has a special connection: We have a bond that goes beyond being colleagues.
BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN THE FUTURE OF SHEPHERD CENTER.
The Shepherd family has been good to me and has treated me with respect. This is a way for me to show respect to them and the work they will do in the future. I envision the hospital staying true to itself and continuing to provide excellent care. I also hope that Shepherd Center becomes a leader in promoting social justice, equality and kindness – like it’s led the way in so many other areas.
After sustaining a spinal cord injury while playing rugby in England in 2004, Duane was airlifted back home to Atlanta and spent three months at Shepherd Center for rehabilitation. He learned how to adjust to life with quadriplegia and credits Shepherd Center for showing him life beyond injury. Now, more than 16 years later, Duane is still a regular fixture at Shepherd Center — whether it’s competing with the adaptive rugby, softball, waterskiing and road racing teams, visiting patients as a peer support mentor, or attending meetings as a member of the Foundation Board or Advisory Board, of which he is currently the chair. This is why he became a Bridge Builder.
BECAUSE I AM GRATEFUL.
What’s magical about Shepherd Center is that the environment, the people and the technology allow you to find hope and realize life isn’t over: In many ways, it is better. You can embrace the good that has come out of your injury by being around people who have already found the good. The atmosphere allows you to become part of a family. Through the years, I’ve seen how I could inspire people and how they inspire me.
BECAUSE SHEPHERD CENTER GAVE ME HOPE.
In 2005, I was encouraged to attend my first Adventure Skills Workshop through Shepherd Center’s Recreation Therapy Program. That weekend, I had the opportunity to try so many activities — scuba diving, jet-skiing, waterskiing, four-wheeling, rock climbing and more. Event after event, achievement after achievement, I learned I could still have fun and accomplish things. My father went with me, and we were both crying tears of joy over what I could do. Shepherd Center helped me embrace the good that came out of my injury.
BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN THE FUTURE OF SHEPHERD.
I hope Shepherd Center continues to be a place where others have the same opportunity to find new hope again as I did. I’d like to see the hospital quadrupled in terms of the size of its campus and that there are vast amounts of space for technology centers of innovation and recreation therapy. To me, those are the two most important parts of Shepherd Center. As a regular contributor, including Shepherd Center in my estate plans will be a continuation of what I’m already giving. Shepherd Center has had such an impact on my life, and I’m not sure I could write enough checks to pay it back.
For more information, please contact Jen Swindall at Shepherd Center Foundation: firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-350-7301.
By Sara Baxter
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.