September 17, 2004

Medical Center, University join forces for Community Giving

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Hugh Larkin, a 16-year volunteer for the Tennessee Disability Coalition, has benefited from monies raised through the Community Giving Campaign. At the kickoff, Larkin told how he suffered traumatic brain injury when he was hit by a drunk driver. Photo by Mary Donaldson

Medical Center, University join forces for Community Giving

Nearly 300 Vanderbilt University and Medical Center employees came together in Light Hall last week for the first-ever joint Community Giving Campaign kickoff. Department coordinators were challenged to lead their colleagues in reaching this year’s goal: to give back $810,000 to the three designated campaign federations and their member organizations.

Kevin Myatt, associate vice chancellor and chief human resources officer, is chair of the 2004 Community Giving Campaign. He encouraged department coordinators to do their part in making this year’s campaign a success.

“This is a busy place, with an excess of 16,000 employees. It’s important that we make sure everybody has an opportunity to give,” Myatt said. “$810,000 is a lot of money, but a large number of those dollars come back to the Medical Center and provider for our colleagues whose lives are impacted,” he added.

Harry R. Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs, said this campaign is special, marking the first time in 30 years the Community Giving Campaign has been a joint endeavor.

“There is no event this University holds that I think is more important to the community than this campaign,” Jacobson said. “It will affect the lives of a million people who live in this community,” he added.

Chancellor Gordon Gee agreed.

“You cannot have a great University unless we live in a great city. We cannot be a great city unless we have heart,” said Gee. “We have one of the most successful giving campaigns in the country.”

Over the coming weeks, department coordinators will be reaching out to employees across the Medical Center and University to deliver pledge cards and ask each person working at Vanderbilt to make their own ‘commitment to caring,’ the theme once again for this year’s campaign. The money raised will benefit hundreds of agencies in Nashville that belong to one of the three federations designated by Vanderbilt’s campaign: The United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, Community Shares and Community Health Charities of Tennessee.

“This is the safety net for our community. They’re our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers. These agencies, for me, I think help make Nashville a great city,” said Bill Rochford, director of client and community relations at VUMC, and chair of the campaign steering committee. “Two out of three people don’t do anything in this campaign. Most of us can do something.”

Joel Lee, associate vice chancellor for Medical Center Communications, took to the stage again for this year’s kickoff ceremony, to introduce department coordinators to some Vanderbilt employees whose lives have been touched by one of the agencies represented by one of the three designated federations.

He took a moment to recognize Dana Johnson, photographer for Medical Center News and Public Affairs, who had planned to speak on the panel of guests at the kickoff. Johnson has cystic fibrosis, and a flare-up kept her at home sick. Lee told the crowd about Johnson’s tireless efforts on behalf of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a Community Health Charities organization.

Hugh Larkin joined Lee to share his story in an effort to inspire Vanderbilt to dig deeper this year. Larkin suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was hit by a drunk driver in a car accident in 1986. He was told he would never walk again, but he approached the stage at the campaign kickoff unassisted, and on his own two feet.

“It was very hard. I wondered ‘why did this happen to me?’” Larkin has been in rehabilitation since his accident and has been volunteering at VUMC’s Rehabilitation Services five days a week for 16 years. He volunteers through the Tennessee Disability Coalition, a member organization of Community Shares.

“Volunteering is therapy, because there is no telling what would’ve happened if I couldn’t volunteer at Vanderbilt,” Larkin said. Paula Denslow, project coordinator for the Tennessee Disability Coalition, said their organization uses money raised in campaigns like Vanderbilt’s to offer Larkin and other disabled persons help with independent living options, educational resources, and assistance in their home lives, among other things they might need.

Jessica Jobe, who works in the Outpatient Center at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, also joined Lee on stage to tell campaign coordinators how her life has been touched by Vanderbilt’s campaign efforts. Jobe’s daughter, Jerricka, was born with Down Syndrome, suffered from heart problems, and battled leukemia. She quickly became involved with the Down syndrome Foundation of Middle Tennessee, a member organization of The United Way of Metropolitan Nashville.

“They taught me that my child was gonna be fine,” said Jobe. “They don’t even call it Down syndrome, they call it Up Syndrome.”

Jerricka, now a healthy third grader, lit up the room with an infectious spark of energy and personality during a guest appearance on stage, where Lee presented her with gifts of appreciation for sharing her story to encourage employees to give in this year’s community fundraising campaign.

Employees may contribute to the Community Giving Campaign through payroll deduction, which will not be withdrawn until January. The fund0raising campaign will continue through Nov. 3, with several prizes for participation and early pledge card submissions offered along the way.

For more information about the 2004 Community Giving Campaign, call 343-8759, e-mail or visit