BY JAMES FARRELL
If you talk to the people who sit on the board of St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children, choosing to support the hospital and its efforts was a no-brainer.
Board member Jeff Levine, who founded the Douglaston Development Corp., quoted Renée Zellweger from the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, saying that the hospital “had me at hello.”
“To anybody who visits St. Mary’s, simply to observe the care that is being given to these children who are so in need…it’s enough to make anybody committed to the hospital and its future,” Levine said.
Levine praised how the Queens business community has come together—whether on the board or through donations—to help support the hospital, understanding the important role that the hospital plays in the community.
“The fact that St. Mary’s is there for all of these children all of the time is a godsend,” he said.
Both he and board member Stephen Wells, who is the founder of the Solaris Group, believe that donating time, money or support to the hospital is a particularly worthwhile cause.
“A small, intimate facility like St. Mary’s, [donors] can see the direct results of their contributions,” Wells said. “And whether they give to a specific program, specific piece of equipment or support the hospital more generally, they can actually see their dollars being put to work.”
Having been a board member since the 1980s, Wells recalls seeing some of the programs that best highlight the hospital’s good work—whether it’s developing the first permanent palliative care center in the United States, the first and largest AIDS home care program in New York State or the innovative Telehealth program, which allows staff to remotely monitor children in home care.
In the 1970s, Wells had a daughter who was born with a handicap, but ultimately went on to finish law school before her death—she passed the bar posthumously.
“What she taught me, which I’ve tried to pass on, was this concept of unlimited possibility,” he said. “We as adults have all kinds of preconceptions of what we can do and can’t do, and frankly, we apply them to these kids. Their view is they can do all kinds of things.”
And through St. Mary’s innovative techniques, all children, no matter the situation they are experiencing, can find success.
“In the right environment, they can achieve the most amazing victories,” Wells said. “It’s so rewarding to see the smiles on their faces.”