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Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer for Indiana University Health and president of the IU Health Foundation, is a national leader in healthcare philanthropy. Here, she shares her personal reflections.
When Jefferson Shreve spoke at a preview of the new IU Health Bloomington at the Indiana University Regional Academic Health Center in July, he noted that the gift he and his wife, Mary, had given to support the project was simply their way of sharing their blessings.
As he said that, many in the audience may have simply reflected on this as their financial blessings. However, knowing the Shreves and their long-tenured relationship with the greater Bloomington community, it was moving to consider this from a broader lens: the blessing of being able to support their community, to be a part of something that would help their fellow Hoosiers, and to do all of this alongside friends and neighbors.
In those ways, Jefferson and Mary demonstrated – as they have many times in Central Indiana – that philanthropy is about more than writing a check. It is about engaging with a community, doing something for people other than yourself and making those practices a part of your life.
That’s not to say there isn’t a personal element to giving. Almost every donor has some intimate connection to the causes they support. For Mary Shreve, that connection comes through her experience caring for her late husband, the beloved IU soccer coach Joe Kelley, who passed away in 2004, a victim of melanoma.
Because Joe had to travel miles from their Bloomington home to receive treatment, he and Mary spent hours on the road going back and forth to Indianapolis, and Mary was away from home for days so she could be at his bedside. She slept in a chair that folded out to a bed in his hospital room, made solo trips up and down Highway 37 to get changes of clothes and other necessities, and tried to spend as much time as possible with Joe.
In part, Mary’s goal in supporting the new hospital in Bloomington is to allow south-central Indiana families who need that kind of treatment to be able to stay close to home. She believes her neighbors and people living throughout the area should have top-notch, comprehensive care right in their own backyard. She doesn’t want others to have to travel for care the way Joe did, or to miss out on support from friends and family who can’t be at a far-away bedside. And she doesn’t want spouses, parents, siblings and others to have to drive long distances and stay away from home to be there for the people they love.
This combination of personal connection and community compassion has been expressed by the Shreves in a gift that, along with a match from IU Health Foundation, has provided $3 million to the new hospital. As a result, when people enter the new facility, they’ll walk through the Shreve Atrium into a place designed to provide healing, comfort and advanced care for a wide range of health needs, including cancer.
Of course, not everybody is capable of making gifts of this size, and the vast majority of people who support the new Bloomington hospital and other IU Health facilities will never have their names attached to atriums, hospital wings or centers of care. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t like the Shreves in other important ways: They care about their community. They give out of their own blessings, but not for their own benefit. They give to causes that have touched them personally. And they delight in seeing their friends and neighbors come onboard to support those causes.
And so, as we honor the Shreves’ gift with the dedication of a space in the new hospital, we also celebrate and appreciate the many others who have been inspired by donors like the Shreves or who, through their own generosity, have made giving a part of their lives. Because, let’s face it, whether you give a few dollars here and there, or you give millions at a time, it’s not the size of the gift or the headlines you get that make you a philanthropist. It’s whether, like the Shreves, you consider it one of your life’s blessings to give from your blessings for the good of others.
To all of you who live out that belief, and for the impact you have on your community, thank you.