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Record giving year by St. Luke’s donors capped off by surprise million-dollar-gift

Julia Argyros, center with Santa hat, and her husband George, not pictured, recently donated $1 million to St. Luke's Wood River. "Julia surprised all of us with a generous red package. Much to my surprise, I unwrapped a $1 million gift that will go a long way to improve health in the Wood River Valley," said Chris Roth, St. Luke's senior vice president and chief operating officer, pictured at right. Also pictured left to right: Mike Fenello, St. Luke's vice president of population health, Carmen Jacobsen, COO/CNO of St. Luke's Wood River and Megan Tanous, executive director of St. Luke's Wood River Foundation.
By Chris Langrill, News and Community
December 30, 2019

The spirit of giving takes center stage during the holiday season.

But that spirit of giving happened year-round throughout 2019 at the St. Luke’s Health Foundation.

And because so many people stepped up to give throughout the year, St. Luke’s received a record amount from donors – more than $13.3 million in Fiscal Year 2019.

“It’s great to set a record, but what’s fun for us is the opportunity to use the money for patient care,” said Jeff Cilek, St. Luke’s vice president of external relations and executive director of the St. Luke’s Health Foundation. “People understand that we are a non-profit organization – the largest non-profit in Idaho – and that we can’t fulfill our mission without the generosity of the members of the communities we serve.”

The calendar year ended with a bang when Julia and George Argyros announced an unexpected $1 million gift to the St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center during a recent year-end luncheon.

“George and I care deeply about this community. It brings us joy to give back, especially during this season of giving,” said Julia Argyros, who wore a Santa hat to personally deliver the gift.

The staff at Swire Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Boise pooled its efforts for $500 worth of donations to St. Luke's this holiday season. Left to right, Clay Mullins, Michelle Robinson, Laura Humphreys and McKayla Wahl played the role of Christmas elves on a recent morning as they delivered bags and bags of donations to the St. Luke's Health Foundation in Boise.

Indeed, it’s a virtuous cycle. Patients become donors and donors often become patients or the relatives of patients, and so on.

St. Luke’s mission is to improve the health of the people in the communities we serve, and that means money from donors might go toward gas money for needy patients or very expensive medical equipment.

Whether the donations are big or small, Cilek is thankful they continue to happen.

“It’s a communal effort. Some people come in with a $10 check, and that’s wonderful. Other people want to get their friends together and bring us a larger check all together. Once they do that, they want to do it again,” Cilek said. “We raised 50 percent more this year than we did five years ago. So, we’re trending the right way.”

Cilek said several major projects came to fruition in the past year.

“It seemed like we deployed more funds than ever before for big projects like the Children’s Pavilion or the Respite House opening Fruitland or the start of the pediatric trauma program in Boise or the opening of the Buhl clinic in Magic Valley,” he said.  

Here is a quick look at those projects:

  • Thanks to the generous support from the Idaho State Elks Association, more than 11,000 donors and many others, the $42 million, 100,000-square foot Idaho Elks Children’s Pavilion opened its doors to young patients on Sept. 3.
  • The Fruitland Respite House, which opened in September, is a $1.6 million facility that offers a place for cancer patients to rest, recover and ease the burden of travel to and from treatments.
  • Philanthropy funding totaling nearly $3 million helped the pediatric trauma program become a reality. The need for a trauma program was clear – the nearest program had been more than 350 miles away.  Now, a team of pediatric specialists, nurses, radiologists, therapists and other generalists and specialists in Boise can provide a hands-on approach to children or young adults who have suffered serious or life-threatening injuries.
  • Donations helped fund the new St. Luke’s Buhl Clinic, which opened in early 2019. The new clinic is able to provide mental health counseling, x-rays, women’s health and cardiology for the surrounding population, providing an alternative to driving to Twin Falls.

Certainly, there are other projects that came to fruition or are in the works - including the expansion of St. Luke’s McCall - and they represent the efforts of all five of St. Luke’s Foundation offices in the Treasure Valley, McCall, Elmore County, Magic Valley and Wood River. 

"It's great to raise money and the buildings and the permits are nice, but it's more important that those patients who come in through the front doors of those buildings leave out the back door in better condition that when they came in," Cilek said. "That's what's really rewarding to all of us."

About The Author

Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.