AHHC Receives Unexpected $750,000 Gift to Help Expand Services for Terminally Ill Adults and Children with Cancer
"Woman's legacy leaves behind $750,000 to help terminally ill children"
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“A Blessing That Fell From The Sky…”
Home care and hospice association receives unexpected $750,000 gift
to help expand services for terminally ill adults and children with cancer
Tim Rogers, President and CEO, unveils the Oak Lodge Endowment Fund at AHHC’s 2019 Leadership Conference
Monday, October 28, 2019 in Wilmington, NC
“It is fitting that we unveiled this wonderful news at AHHC’s Leadership Conference last week in Wilmington, as we head into November which is National Hospice, Palliative Care, Home Health and Home Care Month. What better way to begin such an important month?” says Rogers.
It was a gift unlike any other.
An unexpected notice arrived out of the blue in 2016. Tucked inside a nondescript envelope, mixed in with a pile of regular mail, came this news from a Chatham County Clerk: you are a beneficiary of the estate of Mary Ellen Dryden.
The details were sparse, but Tim Rogers was intrigued.
He stared at the letter and wondered who Mary Ellen was. He didn’t know her. And he didn’t have a clue about the nature of the gift.
But as a tireless advocate for expanding home and hospice care in North Carolina, Rogers knew that a gift of any size would be helpful to the mission of the Association for Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina (AHHC). Rogers is president and CEO of the association, which represents providers of home health, hospice, palliative care, personal care, private duty nursing and companion/sitter services across North Carolina.
The more that Rogers learned about Mary Ellen Dryden, the more fascinated he became.
He discovered that Mary Ellen was a descendant of George Eastman, the famous entrepreneur who founded Eastman Kodak and helped popularize photography. Eastman, it turned out, had ties to North Carolina himself. He had a hunting lodge in Halifax County that, according to his biography, served as a hospice for sick and grieving friends or employees beginning in the 1890s.
And he learned that Mary Ellen herself worked in healthcare, often interacting with cancer patients.
But Rogers still didn’t know much about the nature of her gift. It would be three years later until he learned the true value of the bequest: $750,000 — the largest gift in the association’s history.
Rogers vividly recalls the moment. There were tears and hugs — and hopes and dreams about the patients and families who will ultimately benefit from Mary Ellen’s generous gift.
“It’s a blessing that fell from the sky. We were absolutely stunned and incredibly thankful,” Rogers says. “It is so rewarding when a private citizen recognizes the important work you are doing. And when they say ‘thank you, now go out and help more people,’ that is a true gift.”
Mary Ellen’s brother, Bill Musser, describes her as a kind and caring soul who loved supporting the causes close to her heart. He says that Mary Ellen would be proud to know that her gift will have a lasting and meaningful impact on home care and hospice in North Carolina.
“It would mean a lot to Mary Ellen to know that this gift will help so many people in need,” said William Musser, Mary Ellen’s brother.
With Mary Ellen’s gift, the association is establishing the Oak Lodge Endowment
, named after the Halifax County lodge that George Eastman first used as a hospice more than 125 years ago.
Mary Ellen was particularly interested in helping children with cancer and that will be a major focus of the endowment. The association will advocate for providing greater access to hospice services for children suffering from terminal cancer, recognizing that such services are limited in North Carolina.
“People don’t want to talk about children who may die. But North Carolina has a great unmet need and we must find ways to expand access to palliative care for children,” said Dr. Laura Patel, the medical director at Transitions LifeCare, the Triangle’s largest and most experienced non-profit hospice provider.
"We were so excited when we heard about this generous gift because AHHC now has the opportunity to provide education, structure, support and lobbying to expand the pediatric hospice and palliative care model across the state. Every child who needs our help should have access to palliative and hospice care.”
“Individuals of any age who are faced with a life-limiting illness need meaningful support as do their families,” said Trent Cockerham, President and CEO of Hospice of the Piedmont. “A child and their family are no different. Ms. Dryden’s generosity will help ensure continued access to this type of care through specialty pediatric programs like Kids Path. This gift underscores the value and contributions made by AHHC on behalf of North Carolina’s hospice care providers.”
“The decision to support a specialized program to serve children who have life threatening or life limiting illnesses requires the full engagement and commitment of an organization as the needs of this population are unique and complex,” said Peter Brunnick, President and CEO of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. “Due to their commitment to their community’s need, many providers in North Carolina have made an intentional decision, to serve their pediatric populations through hospice and palliative care services.”
“The generous bequest of the Mary Ellen Dryden estate, through the creation of an endowment intending to advocate for hospice patients, will provide much needed resources to advocate and carry the message promoting these great services to the families in our communities who have children in need. Through the Association of Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina’s administration of the endowment, our providers across the state will have a champion to assist us all in carrying our message forward that children have a right to be served and that this specialized care is available for those who need it.”
In addition, the endowment will help promote the use of home health, home care, hospice, and palliative care for children and elderly people with cancer — and advocate for expanding government programs that help cover the cost of these services.
About the Association for Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina
The Association for Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina (AHHC) is a nonprofit trade association that provides resources, education, advocacy and leadership to providers of home health, hospice, palliative care, personal care, private duty nursing and companion/sitter services. Established in 1972, the association currently represents more than 750 provider agencies and business partners, including 98% of all home health and hospice providers in North Carolina. AHHC advocates for its members and the many patients and families they serve. It is recognized by colleagues, regulators, and legislators as one of the most active and effective home care associations in the nation.
Courtney Hodges, VP of Marketing & Communications, AHHC of NC
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