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STORIES from the

HEART INSPIRING STORIES OF PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE The life-changing care Ascension Sacred Heart provides has touched the hearts of many who strive to ensure that this incredible mission of care continues for future generations. Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation is proud to be a partner in this endeavor. Please enjoy these “Stories from the Heart.”

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Ashton Welborn with Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz

ASHTON WELBORN From childhood cancer patient to pediatric nurse 2

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Ashton Welborn’s mother knew something was wrong with her second-grader. When the always-hungry little girl stopped eating and became pale and weak, she took her to the pediatrician. Blood work determined it was mono, but her doctor wanted a second look at the labs. “Your daughter has cancer,” she said — four words no parent ever wants to hear. The doctor told Ashton’s mother to take her straight to the emergency room at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, but she didn’t hear any of that. In a daze, she drove her little girl to their hometown E.R. in Tuscaloosa.


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Finally, on the road to the right hospital, 7-year-old Ashton, her mother and grandmother sang hymns and prayed. Once there, it was a blur of tests and blood work. Then a resident at Children’s of Alabama, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz confirmed the diagnosis: Ashton had leukemia. She received her Mediport the following day and underwent two years of chemotherapy. “My mom called him Doogie Howser,” Ashton recalls. “I didn’t know who that was, but I guess he looked like the guy from the TV show. He always wore crazy bowties. He was a very fun doctor.” That was 2003. Now a nurse herself with the Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Ashton is going on 17 years of remission. When she was first accepted into the nursing program, one of Ashton’s clinical rotations was in the Studer Family Children’s Hospital. She saw a picture of a familiar face in the elevator — Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, now the Medical Director of Pediatric Oncology. While her family was in town to help her recover from surgery following a basketball injury, they set up a surprise visit at Dr. Schwartz’s clinic. “He didn’t recognize me. I am much taller, and I have hair now,” Ashton says. “But he recognized my mom and grandmother.” From that moment on, the young nurse updated the doctor who helped save her life at the end of every school year at Pensacola Christian College. When she graduated and began looking for a job, she never expected she’d have the chance to work alongside him. In Dr. Schwartz’s office, there is a small table lined with tiles, each with a tiny handprint. One reads: “Ashton, 8 years old.” On that table now sits a copy of a book she wrote in middle school about her cancer story and the role he played in it. “I see him on the floor now. It’s so neat to work with him,” she says. “That’s my doctor.”

Growing up in and out of the hospital, Ashton was always intrigued by the medical field. Many of the friends she met in chemotherapy aren’t here anymore or continue to fight their battles. When Ashton wonders why her life was spared, she believes she was called to help others going through the same thing. “Working as a nurse, I’m able to share my story,” she says. “The parents can say, ‘She beat something so big … my child can do this.’ ” It also encourages the kids, even though they might not fully grasp what’s happening in the moment. Sometimes people say they understand, even when they haven’t been through it themselves. But Ashton has. She remembers her own nurses — and of course Dr. Schwartz — who made such an impact on her life. Here’s what she would say to a child battling cancer: “Take it one day at a time. Do everything you can to stay healthy. It’s hard to see the see the light at the end of the tunnel, but eventually it does come. Just keep faith. Pray. That’s all we did. Know that God will comfort you. Family and friends help a lot.” Maybe a family in the hospital can’t see the light at the end of their journey with childhood cancer, but they can see a bright young nurse at the end of hers. Newly engaged, Ashton’s ultimate goal is to work in pediatric hematology oncology. “Just to help those patients and families going through the same thing I went through will hopefully give them hope for that day in the future,” she shares. “Even if it just brings a light for the second, it’s worth everything I’ve been through.”

Sacred Heart’s new Bear Family Foundation Pediatric Oncology Center for Hope will provide a dedicated space to serve patients of childhood cancer and their families. To learn more, please visit GiveSacredHeart.org.

A MESSAGE FROM CAROL CARLAN At the foundation, we see first-hand the power and blessing of those called to serve from the heart. And while there are many, many ways of doing this, one of the most impactful is servant leadership – such as that you’ll read about in Tom VanOsdol’s story. President and CEO of Ascension Florida, he is charged with leading our health ministry into the future. He shares why he considers his role to be both a gift and a privilege. And he speaks to the strength and benefits we might not realize that Ascension Florida brings to the communities where it serves. John Russell serves from the heart in a unique way that lets us be involved in giving. As president of the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, his passion is helping non-profits fulfill their mission of bettering the lives of children in Northwest Florida. Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital Emerald Coast is one of the many organizations that benefit from the organization’s efforts. Other stories in this issue demonstrate how impactful and personally rewarding that serving from the heart can be: Ashton Welborn uses her personal journey to bring hope to children fighting cancer; Mya Clark gives back by standing (and dancing) for those who cannot; and James Hosman serves the Studer Family Children’s Hospital, which cared for his brother’s twin boys. Each individual featured in our stories serves from the heart in their own way. We are grateful for the blessings they bring to those we serve! With a grateful heart,

Carol Carlan President, Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation

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JAMES HOSMAN

Proactively serving

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James Hosman, market president of Centennial Bank, has served on the Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation Board for several years now. It’s a volunteer position he doesn’t take lightly, knowing the full measure of responsibility that goes along with it. He is quick to tell you he never agrees to become a board member unless it involves guidance of a worthwhile cause he believes in. Once he makes that decision to serve, James is fully committed. He actively participates in board meetings, supporting what is most beneficial to the foundation. “I tell a lot of people that I serve on the board. We are fortunate to have this great hospital here, and people need to know that. I see what this state-of the-art facility can do for kids, and I do what I can in this community to help provide that experience. It means a lot to me.” James’ personal experience with Sacred Heart dates back to when his brother’s twin boys spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The babies were transported to that NICU after serious problems were detected post birth at another hospital. For a 24-hour period, the siblings’ lives hung in the balance, and one spent three weeks in the NICU. But today, James is happy to say, “I have two healthy nephews that we credit a lot to Sacred Heart.” He contrasts that long-ago experience with what the new Children’s Hospital

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James Hosman and nephews Jordan and Jansen

provides. At the time his nephews were transported, they were in a small NICU ambulance with no space for their parents. Today’s new NICU ambulance, which cost $700,000, can convey mom and dad alongside the infant. The old NICU featured all bassinets lined up in a single large room, with a recliner in front of each one for the parent. There was absolutely no privacy. The new hospital’s NICU offers huge private rooms where parents can stay with their baby. James points out that while being in a hospital with a baby is stressful for parents, a private room offers a degree of separation from the overall environment. This helps to alleviate some of the parental stress he believes an infant can sense. “The facility we have now,” he says, “can eliminate that one additional factor that may delay the recovery of the child.” If people ask him what they can do in the way of ongoing support for the Children’s Hospital, he shares that any

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and all contributions — large or small — are appreciated. One hundred percent of what they give will go to the hospital, helping to meet the needs of the kids.


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UWF DANCE MARATHON Standing (and dancing) for those who cannot

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Mya Clark has been participating in the Children’s Miracle Network Dance Marathon at the University of West Florida (UWF) for three years, working as team captain and membership director before becoming executive director of the event in 2020. A senior majoring in journalism with dreams of becoming a sports reporter, Mya is a full-time student with a paying job who puts 10 hours per week into this cause so close to her heart. As a child growing up in Tallahassee, Florida, Mya was in and out of the hospital. The summer before her freshman year of high school, she became lightheaded and went to urgent care. She was referred to Shands in Gainesville, where her family learned she had a B12 def iciency. Later in life, her nephew was also a “miracle” child. “I participate in Dance Marathon to give back to an organization that’s given so much

Mya Clark with the 2019 University of West Florida Dance Marathon Executive Committee

to me and other kids,” Mya says. “When you’re sick and in the hospital, all you want to do is go and be with your friends.” Now, Mya is dancing with several hundred friends to raise money “for the kids.” at the Studer Family Children’s Hospital, your local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Dance Marathon has grown exponentially since it arrived on the UWF campus five years ago. Totaling only a few thousand dollars over the first several years, the event raised $57,000 in 2019. After touring the new Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart, Mya says she and her teammates had a newfound appreciation for the technologies they have helped provide, as well as the interactive rooms and family spaces that make life a little brighter for patients. Under her direction, the teams raise money from July to February each year. On event day, they all dance — and never sit down — from 3 p.m. to midnight.

As she puts it, “You’re standing for those who can’t.” The day kicks off with a speech from Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation or a Studer Family Children’s Hospital Miracle family. There’s food, games and fundraising, and former patients often attend. Teams try to hit goals such as $62 in an hour, representing the average of 62 children who enter a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital every hour. Mya loves seeing the way everyone on campus comes together, for one day, for a common goal. “If you have a way to get involved, get involved,” she says. “You never know if it could be you. Knowing you could make a difference just by donating $5 … it really matters, no matter how small.” The UWF Dance Marathin was held on Feb. 29, 2020. To learn more about the cause and how you can help, please visit events. dancemarathon.com.

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JOHN RUSSELL

Service in Support of the Children

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John Russell serves as president of the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF), one of the top wine auction foundations in the country and the largest nonprofit fundraising organization on Florida’s Emerald Coast. Born in rural western Pennsylvania, John grew up with five sisters. As a youngster, his favorite sport was football, and he continues to be an avid Steelers fan. After graduating from Penn State, he began his career in the hotel business, which proved to be a great fit for him. “I’ve been in the service industry, one way or another, for as long as I can remember,” he says. “I was taught the value of service at an early age. I tell people that if I was born 300 years ago, I would have been a butler.” John moved 20 times in 30 years working for major hotel chains. But once he arrived for work at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, he and his wife knew that the beautiful Emerald Coast was a home they would never leave. Today, he oversees DCWAF events, raising money for organizations seeking to better the lives of children in Northwest Florida. It is work he is passionate about. “The idea of having a greater reason to come to work is what I love about the foundation so much,” he says. “If any of us can lessen the burden of another human being, I don’t think you can do much more than that. I live for it.” The first DCWAF event took place in 2006. Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast and Children in Crisis, Inc. are the two oldest organizations supported by auction funds. The 15th annual Destin Charity Wine Auction will take place April 24–26, 2020, with the money raised going to 16 charitable organizations. “These nonprofits participate every step of the way, doing a lot of the work,” John explains. “We’re just the glue. They make the auctions successful, and it is their mission that people are investing in when they come to the events. What makes this a great place to live is the generous spirit that’s here.” Money raised by the wine auctions also gives charitable organizations the resource of time because they don’t have to expend

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effort seeking financial contributions. They can devote that time to their mission. “Children are our future,” John says. “As a society and as a community, we’re only as good as the people that live here. If our children aren’t given the opportunity to thrive, unless steps are taken to rescue the young who are suffering, they will have a very difficult time as adults.”


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Tom VanOsdol washing a gentleman’s feet during the 2019 Medical Mission at Home

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TOM VANOSDOL

Leading Ascension Florida To Its Future

Tom VanOsdol knew, as he grew up, that his life would involve some manner of helping people. He initially was drawn to a career in speech pathology, which led to the operations side of healthcare and then to the Catholic health ministry. Today, he is President and CEO of Ascension Florida, serving in a role that he cherishes and approaches as both a gift and a privilege. Together, we have the blessing and the opportunity every day to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. “Everything we do is about bringing the healing mission of Jesus to individuals and families at very difficult times or very special times in their lives,” Tom explains. “It’s a blessing I will never take for granted. I am, and always will be, a direct patient caregiver at heart.” He speaks of the strength and benefits that people might not realize Ascension Florida brings to the communities we serve. “Ascension has such a tremendous wealth of resources and knowledge, stateof-the-art clinical practices and broadbased infrastructural and operational support for our ministries, all of which create real value and differential

advantages for us. We are far stronger as a function of what we share across our national ministry than any organization would ever be on its own.” At the same time, he points out, there is a mutual benefit and bi-directional sharing and value creation involved. Best practices identified in the Florida ministries are disseminated throughout Ascension’s national network of ministries (providing care in 21 states), adding to its overall strength. In Ascension’s portfolio of nationwide assets, Florida has been identified as one of four major markets where all strategic projections forecast significant population growth. Accordingly, leadership and economic capital resources have been allocated to provide support and enable the investments necessary to lead our respective markets for the long term. “We’re already a strong and vibrant health ministry across the state,” says Tom, “and we’ve got the commitment and confidence from our national ministry to grow and make sure we’re out front serving our community and especially those most in need for decades to come.” Shortly after assuming his position with Ascension Florida, Tom and wife Kathy

contributed a substantial charitable gift to the Children’s Hospital. He regards the Children’s Hospital as a center of excellence second to none, a resource not available in most communities our size, and an absolutely life-changing blessing for those we’re so blessed to serve. Considering himself uniquely fortunate to participate in its mission and serve alongside so many gifted and dedicated professionals, he felt obligated to give back philanthropically and support the ministry, and to lead his team by his team example. Tom has been married to Kathy for 30 years; they have two children, Hope and Matthew. Kathy, a speech pathologist, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in divinity and will be ordained ultimately as a pastor. A lifelong learner, Tom is enrolled in the executive leadership program in the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, where he will complete this latest chapter in his studies in late 2020. He expresses a tremendous passion for reading, music, exercise and continued self-development while always seeking new ways to help others, just as he began in healthcare over 32 years ago.

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25TH ANNIVERSARY CORDOVA MALL BALL Our 25th Anniversary Cordova Mall Ball, presented by Sandy Sansing Dealerships, was an incredible night of fun for one special reason — our children! We are moved by the outpouring of support and compassion shown toward the children and families in the care of the Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart. All proceeds from the evening are helping construct the all-new Bear Family Foundation Pediatric Oncology Center for Hope, which offers nine all-private rooms, a playroom, lounge, laundry room and gym — enabling families to spend as much time together as possible while they focus on healing. We extend a special thanks to our sponsors, restaurants and volunteers who gave so generously in support of our children, and we thank the more than 2,500 community-minded patrons who joined us in celebration!

ABOUT THE ASCENSION SACRED HEART FOUNDATION Since 1915, Ascension Sacred Heart has been at the heart of healing for Northwest Florida and South Alabama. Like our founders, the Daughters of Charity, Ascension Sacred Heart is dedicated to providing quality, compassionate healthcare to the citizens of our regions, regardless of their ability to pay. This steadfast commitment to our community could not have been achieved without the support and generosity of the thousands of individuals, businesses and organizations that have donated to Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation. Through this charitable giving, Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation has been able to provide millions of dollars of free and low-cost healthcare to the poor, uninsured, under-insured and low-income families. With the help of generous donors, we are proud to partner in Ascension Sacred Heart’s mission of care along the Gulf Coast.

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