Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Around Town: Memorial Hospital's baseball gala a home-run hit, a Wounded Warrior surprise

Staff reports Published: May 19, 2013

Hey, batter, batter, batter .

This time, the patter didn't rattle the players. It worked in reverse, inspiring an enthusiastic 425 patrons and guests, some in the jerseys of their favorite players, to raise more than $200,000 for Memorial Hospital Foundation.

The 11th annual foundation gala, "We Hit it Out of the Park," brought in money designated for education for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, clothing for emergency room patients, portable blood pressure monitoring systems, assisting cancer patients with living expenses through the Circle of Hope Fund, and purchase of a freezer for Southern Colorado breast-milk donations.

An especially lively auction manned by celeb auctioneer Kevin Patterson ended on a touching note with Laurie and Don Hicks winning a charter jet trip to a taping of "Ellen" and the farewell "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Then Don, owner of Porsche of Colorado Springs, took the mic and donated the prize, with spending money to boot, to two Wounded Warriors and their spouses.

An ever-increasing need for funds to support needs of seriously ill patients brought an offer from hospital officials to allow Memorial employees an opportunity to donate a vacation day to the Circle of Hope Fund. All around the Antlers Hilton ballroom on April 26 employees stood and donated days and, en force, top management did the same. One donation in particular elicited a gasp. Rob Rush, Director, Business, Community and Governmental Affairs at Memorial Hospital, University of Colorado Health, gave up five days of vacation to help others. He was the man, they said, who had worked tirelessly for days, hours, months, to pull together the specifics of the change to University of Colorado Health.

Gifts such as these were important to speaker Rod Bernsen, who with his wife, Leslie, had survived the tragic and unexpected illness of their son, Matt, who was in his 30s. Matt was starting a new job and insurance had not yet kicked in when he fell ill and had no choice but to go to Memorial's ER. It wasn't something simple, it was lung and bone cancer, stage 4, terminal. Matt asked if he was going to die and his father said yes. "Well," Matt wrote in a note, "that sucks." During Matt's final days the Circle of Hope made it possible for some of Matt's regular bills to be paid so his parents could concentrate on taking care of their son. Wearing a Matty B jersey, Rod said he, Leslie and Matt "were together when he was born. We were together when he died. I miss my son." The Bernsens made a donation to the Circle of Hope Fund.

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