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HCMH Foundation Installs New 'Tree of Life'
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 • Posted April 28, 2010

Hill Country Memorial Hospital Foundation has installed a new "Tree of Life" in the hospital’s main lobby.

Like its predecessors, the brass tree offers hundreds of "leaves" that will be engraved with the names of philanthropic supporters. Each leaf indicates an annual cumulative gift between $1,000 and $9,999. Cumulative annual gifts of $10,000 or more are recognized with an engraved "rock" beneath the tree.

Back in 1984, in order to honor its generous donors, the hospital installed its first Tree of Life When that tree was filled to capacity in 2000 the HCMH Foundation installed a larger tree in the main lobby.

"Gratefully, when that tree, too, was maturing to capacity, we ordered the newest tree," Sandy Goff, CFRE, executive director of the foundation, said. "Thanks to our dedicated donors, the Tree of Life has experienced tremendous growth over the years. This generosity symbolizes trust the community has in Hill Country Memorial."

Michael R. Williams, MD, Hill Country Memorial chief executive officer, said philanthropic support has always been a critical part of Hill Country Memorial. "Before the hospital was even a reality, the community decided they wanted to support it privately, and they have done just that," he said.

Ms. Goff said philanthropy has made the differences through the years. "As a non-profit hospital with no tax support, financial gifts from those we serve enable us to better serve our patients. We are truly grateful."

Ten Leaves to Louise

There are many hospital supporters whose contributions are recognized by brass leaves or rocks on the Trees of Life, and for Stephen Bodnar, PhD, the trees have a special meaning as well.

He grew up in Carteret, New Jersey, and at the age of 19, fought under General George S. Patton and helped liberate Metz, France in World War II. It was in that battle that he lost his right leg and has since worn a prosthetic limb. He returned home and fell in love with Louise, and they married. He went on to earn his PhD in chemistry and work for Exxon as a chemical engineer. He helped develop gasoline products, ethanol for aftershave lotion, raw materials for plastics and heating oil. The Bodnars had three daughters, and they retired in Fredericksburg 20 years ago.

After 52 years of marriage, Louise passed away to lung disease in 1999. They both had received care from Hill Country Memorial, and he said she thought fondly of the hospital.

"We talked about how much we liked it, about the quality of care and about how great the people are," Dr. Bodnar said.

After she passed away, he began donating to the HCMH Foundation in her memory each month, and every year, he had donated enough for a leaf to be placed on the Tree of Life. Louise’s memory and her feelings for the hospital are now commemorated in the form of 10 brass leaves in the hospital lobby.

"I will occasionally bring my daughters to the hospital and show them the leaves," he said. "It’s a nice way to remember Louise."

Dr. Bodnar has had many procedures performed at the hospital over the past 10 years. "I’m still receiving great care," he said. "I could go to a veteran’s hospital, but I prefer to go to Hill Country Memorial. I know my donations are here, and I can see the difference they make."

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