by Carol Dunn
WALSENBURG — The Spanish Peaks Healthcare Foundation sponsored a wine tasting and auction fundraiser which drew over a hundred participants Saturday night, February 24, at the Spanish Peaks Veterans Community Living Center in Walsenburg. Opening the event, retired veterinarian and board president Dr. John Davis explained that the foundation was organized in the year 2000. “We really are millennial babies,” he joked. The foundation advocates for healthcare education in the local community and supporting the charitable mission of the Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center.
From high school lectures to health fair to scholarships,
SPHF does it all
Davis said the foundation sponsors a lecture program for the advanced science classes at the local high schools, focusing on medical professions. The guest speakers include doctors, technicians and others who represent healthcare related professions. The foundation also is a co-sponsor with the hospital of the local annual health fair. “But scholarships use most of the money,” Davis said. Recipients of the scholarships include young people from the Huerfano County community and sometimes Aguilar, as well as hospital staff members who want to further their education in a healthcare field. For any career related to healthcare, Davis said, “We pour ‘fertilizer’ on them and grow that interest.”
One successful recipient of a four-year bachelor’s degree scholarship was on hand to relate her experience. Cara Campbell is now a third-year medical school student who just finished a rotation with the Drs. Moll in Walsenburg. “It’s time for me to decide what kind of doctor I want to be,” she told the audience. “The foundation has helped me so much . . . with money, with support and with enthusiasm.” She added, “By being here, you are helping students like me.” Dr. Mike Moll, chief medical officer at Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center, said, “Cara is going to make a fine doctor. And maybe she’ll come back here.”
Growing local medical talent
According to Davis, this is one of the goals of the scholarship program – to grow local medical talent in hopes that those healthcare professionals will eventually return to this community. The overall goal for 2018 fundraising is about $20,000, and Davis told WJ that about $10,000 was raised in Saturday’s event. In 2017, the foundation awarded 18 scholarships – nine high school and nine for continuing college students – for a total of $19,000. Since 2005, nearly $120,000 in scholarships has been awarded by the foundation. The foundation targets between half and two-thirds of the funds raised each year to scholarships. It also generates interest income by maintaining an endowment fund.
New lab equipment for quick diagnosis
Davis explained that the foundation recently helped the hospital purchase a piece of laboratory equipment, and asked Moll to elaborate. “Because of the foundation, we were able to purchase a molecular diagnostic testing unit that produces good lab values quicker,” Moll said. The $9,000 machine performs pathogen DNA testing, allowing the lab to get information to medical providers in a couple of hours, rather than days. One example Moll cited was rapid detection of cases of norovirus, pneumonia and influenza, allowing providers to react more quickly when those pathogens are diagnosed and put protocols into place that will prevent widespread illness.
Kudos to Lynette Omer and Alys Romer
Davis recognized Lynette Omer, administrative assistant, for her hard work in organizing the fundraiser, referring to her as the “real chief executive officer.” Also recognized for playing a key part in the event was Alys Romer, who catered the event. Her delectable hors d’oeuvres were paired with each wine being tasted, for instance, duck l’orange lolly, fish tacos with pico de gallo and slaw, Swedish meatballs with spinach pappardelle, and pork shoulder ragu over creamy polenta. The tasting experience included wines from Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and United States (Oregon). As one of the auction items, Romer offers a dinner for ten at her Alys’ Restaurant in La Veta, and this year the winning bid was a $1,100 donation to the foundation. Demonstrating her selfless commitment to the foundation’s efforts, she donated a second dinner for ten for $1,000.
In addition to the wine tasting and auction, which has taken place for about ten years, the foundation sponsors a golf tournament later in the year at the 18-hole Hollydot course in Colorado City.
Besides Davis, the other directors on the foundation board are: Stirling Lathrop, Monica Birrer, Sherry Freese, Rita Kasper, Fran Sanden, Ed Donovan, Paul Coe, Alys Romer, Mary Anne Nelson, Michael Moll, Manuel Molles and Kay Whitley. “We’re all volunteers,” Davis explained. He especially thanked the veterans, some of whom were in attendance, for opening their home in order to host the event.
The foundation also provides funding to co-sponsor the fireworks each year at the hospital location and supports the local 4-H students with their science projects.