A lifelong memory turns into a legacy of giving
In 1958, 2-year-old Debbie contracted polio. The youngest of six, the toddler was sent from her home in Pinckneyville, Illinois, to St. Louis Children's Hospital, where she was quarantined from family and friends - the practice at that time. It's a traumatic experience that has stayed with Debbie, even to this day. Debbie still remembers a kind caregiver who would come to her room to give her a bottle and provide some extra tenderness.
"She was the one light in my life when I was in isolation from the world," said Debbie. "That little bit of comfort meant so much."
Fast-forward to 2017 and a conversation Debbie had with St. Louis Children's Hospital Foundation staff member Jan Rogers about why she and her husband, Ralph, decided to include St. Louis Children's Hospital in their estate plans.
"In listening to her story, I knew the person Debbie remembered so fondly," Jan said. Velma Hunt had just celebrated her 60th anniversary at St. Louis Children's Hospital. The longest-serving employee at the hospital, she worked part-time, providing compassion and comfort to frightened patients and their families in the hospital's emergency department. Velma retired in December 2020 at age 92 with 63 years of service to St. Louis Children's mission to do what's right for kids.
Jan arranged a reunion the following summer. It was an emotional visit for both women. "I never forgot you," Debbie told Velma. "I have always thought about you and wondered who you were."
Velma was gracious, expressing how much it meant to her that Debbie remembered her so many years later. Debbie left Velma with an antique handkerchief with the letter V embroidered onto it, as well as a necklace - a heart within a heart - symbolizing how Velma's big heart soothed Debbie's 2-year-old heart at a time she needed it most.