News & Events

Backus donors are the region’s real safety net

March 23, 2011

Backus Hospital’s first Philanthropy Day had a distinctive family flair.

There was the Martinelli family, whose donation helped Backus purchase a device that helps stroke victims and others learn to swallow again. There was the Lord family, who provided funding for MyHealthDirect, a computerized way to connect people without medical homes to primary care providers, thus decreasing costly and ineffective emergency room visits. There was the Tramantozzi family, who for decades have given their time and charitable gifts to help, you guessed it, the Backus Family.

All of these donors were among the 70 people who gathered Tuesday for a celebration of philanthropy at the Backus Business and Technology Center, which culminated with a tearful moment when Dr. Anthony and Patricia Tramontozzi were honored with the Backus Heritage Award for their many contributions to Backus Hospital over the years, and for their gifts to the future of Backus through the Backus Legacy Society.

“There is a great deal of talk these days about ‘the healthcare safety net,’” said Mark Tramontozzi, MD, a surgeon on the Backus Medical Staff,  as he spoke on behalf of his parents (his father was also a Backus surgeon and his mother remains a devoted volunteer).   “It seems we always hear about the safety net whenever some more holes are being cut into it is due to budget constraints.  But it’s important to remember that weare the real safety net for our community, and our community’s hospital.  By ‘we’ I mean all of us in this room, all who wear a Backus badge, or serve on its Board, or are proud to be a Corporator and a supporter. We are the safety net because our support for Backus doesn’t come through state budgets or federal reimbursements.  It comes from the only place that matters to real families — real families like mine, or the Lord’s, or the Martinelli’s. It comes from the heart.”

The theme of the event was “To change your world, start in your backyard,” which is exactly what the Tramontozzis, longtime residents of Norwich, did.

The same can be said for the Lord Foundation, which last month donated $100,000 towards MyHealthDirect. The Edward and Mary Lord Emergency Care and Trauma Center was named following a prior $500,000 donation.

Speaking at the event on behalf of the Edward and Mary Lord Foundation, Kathryn Lord said that the recent MyHealthDirect donation fit perfectly with the Emergency Department donation and a separate Lord family donation to United Community & Family Services. These acts of generosity were directed towards helping people access appropriate and needed healthcare at a time when economic conditions are prohibiting many from receiving what they need.

“This is an example of how one family has directed resources to help an entire community,” said Peter Disch, Backus Board Chairman. “The Lords’ most recent gift will improve health and prevent people from seeking routine medical care from the emergency department. We are very grateful.”

Dave Whitehead, Backus President and Chief Executive Officer, reiterated the theme of the day that while many people equate “philanthropy” with celebrities’ million-dollar donations,  true philanthropy is evident in people like Fred and Erin Martinelli, who give what they can – and from the heart. Such gifts make a real difference for a community hospital like Backus. Their donation was made after Erin had a stroke nine years ago and needed extensive speech and swallowing therapy.

“The generosity of this couple has helped Backus patients who have had a stroke, or suffer from a degenerative  neurological disorder or head and neck cancer through a remarkable tool called Vital Stim,” Mr. Whitehead said. “Thank you for the seed you have planted. Your gift demonstrates that philanthropy at Backus isn’t about fundraising – it’s about creating a deeper connection with our community, and creating the change we need to make this a better, healthier place.”

Genevieve Schies, Director of the Backus Office and Philanthropy and Development, recognized the hospital’s Partners in Care, which include the Backus Auxiliary, the Edward and Mary Lord Foundation, Pfizer, Norwich Public Utilities, the Mohegan Tribe, and John Grillo of Utley and Jones Pharmacy.

Partners in Care is a new initiative to build support and recognize annual donors at the highest level.

She also praised donors at all levels, including the Tramontozzis.

“They have made a difference – starting in their own backyard,” Ms. Schies said. “These individuals have planted the seeds of philanthropy and community involvement within their own family and passed their legacy of caring on to generations.

To view videos related to the event, click here