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Legendary Party Chair Views Volunteering at Shepherd Center as a Privilege

Cecilia Wright knows how to throw a party that’s legendary. In early November, the chair of Shepherd Center’s Legendary Party welcomed hundreds of Shepherd Center supporters to an unforgettable evening at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead with the theme “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”

Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man not only participated in the event, but they served as metaphors for Shepherd Center’s patients’ journey, Wright says.

“Dorothy’s ultimate goal is to go home, and that’s the goal for Shepherd Center patients, as well,” says Cecilia, who chose the theme as an allegory for what patients experience. “Dorothy represents the patients, who face challenges and blessings along the way home. The Scarecrow, the brain, symbolizes the talented Shepherd Center staff and the technology patients need to heal. The Cowardly Lion offers courage to succeed, while the Tin Man, the heart, represents the dedicated donors and volunteers who support patients.”

The 2014 Legendary Party benefited more than 20 patient programs, with a special focus on the Family Housing Program. At Shepherd Center, patients and their families find a home away from home.

“What’s really wonderful about family housing is that there are 120 wheelchair-accessible apartments, where a patient’s family can stay for 30 days at no charge,” Cecilia says. ”

Cecilia and her entire family also feel at home on Shepherd Center’s campus. Her husband, Allen, served on the party’s fundraising committee and supported her work as chairman. Cecilia’s daughter and son-in-law, Kristen and John Novay, are active in Shepherd Center Society; a group of civic-minded young adults who support the Center. Cecilia and Allen have also made a generous donation to the Family Housing Program.

“Shepherd Center is one-of-a-kind, with so much focus on the family, healing and long-term support,” Cecilia says. “My family and I are receiving so much more than we could have dreamed to provide.”

Since a friend first introduced Cecilia to Shepherd Center seven years ago, there’s been no looking back. In the days before The Legendary Party, the dining room table in her home served as a party-planning command center.

“You don’t have to go far into Shepherd Center to see hope and inspiration through the patients,” Cecilia says. “I’m so impressed with the staff, and how they mentor patients from the time they arrive until the day they leave.”

“The Host Committee members were very generous with their time, talents, efforts and ideas,” Cecilia says. “It’s not about me. It’s not my agenda. I’m just a cog in the wheel, so to speak, to just help.“

Cecilia serves as a key cog in the wheels of several of Atlanta’s non-profit organizations. Currently, she’s president of the Atlanta History Center’s Members’ Guild. For this determined and dedicated woman, serving the community she loves comes naturally.

“I grew up in a small town, in Winter Haven, Fla., where there was one high school and an emphasis on family, church and community,” she says.

Cecilia says it can be hard to find a sense of community in a city as diverse as Atlanta, and Shepherd Center is unique because it offers several ways for people of different ages and interests to get involved.

“That’s what makes it so wonderful for our entire family,” Cecilia adds. “We’ve each found our own niche to suit our skills, and yet, we have a common goal.”

For Cecilia and her family, volunteering is a privilege -- one that comes with many blessings.

“Shepherd Center is a family,” Cecilia says. “I’m blessed that they have welcomed me into their fold.”

Written by Julie Shepard-Lovell
Photos by Jim Fitz

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.