Strong Foundations: UPMC Altoona Foundation Supports World-Class Care

By: Tim Balconi and Patt Keith

This is the second piece in a series about the many hospital foundations that support UPMC’s mission to serve the community.

Established in 2002, the UPMC Altoona Foundation raises funds in support of exceptional patient care at UPMC Altoona.

The foundation works to lead a culture of philanthropy to engage physicians, board members, staff, volunteers and the community. This builds partnerships between the hospital and community stake holders. Engaging individuals encourages action through charitable giving and volunteerism, fueling a passion for world-class care delivered close to home.

The Founders Club, an annual major giving club, has more than 100 members, nearly half of whom are physicians. The club has enabled the foundation to provide more than $300,000 in grants to UPMC Altoona and the community in the past year.

The foundation board and its many volunteers also create “Winter Splendor,” its largest annual fundraising celebration — attended by nearly 900 guests this year. The event includes a reception, dinner, silent auction, TV raffle and a live auction.

New this year, an additional fundraising effort netted $22,000 to benefit the UPMC Altoona Breast Health Center. To date, $650,000 has been raised for the breast center. The foundation also purchased a Core Vision machine — technology to verify breast biopsy samples and substantially reduce biopsy procedure time, which leads to greater patient comfort.

Each June, a local favorite, the UPMC Altoona Golf Classic, hosts more than 220 golfers in foursomes at Scotch Valley Country Club where two flights of golfers enjoy the scenic setting and some friendly competition. Sponsorships and registration fees benefit patient care at UPMC Altoona. The festivities include a grab-and-go breakfast, sit-down luncheon for both flights, free team photo and the fellowship of other golfers.

Last year, the foundation assumed the role of supporting community health education programs and seminars, many of which featured clinicians from UPMC Altoona. The foundation also gives scholarship grants to nurses who are pursuing college-level education. Since 2014, 21 nurses have received $35,000 in funding to help pay for tuition.

Recently, funding was granted to the local emergency services provider for 12-lead cardiac monitors for its ambulances. The technology ensures better patient care by transmitting cardiac information to the emergency department while providers are at the scene or en route to the hospital so physicians may create a treatment plan prior to the patient’s arrival. When experiencing a cardiac event like a heart attack, time is muscle and patient outcomes improve the sooner care can be rendered.

The foundation also sponsors the Guardian Angel Program, which enables grateful patients to recognize a UPMC employee or department that positively impacted their care. Patients recognized nearly 500 staff in the past three years, and they proudly wear their Guardian Angel pins.

Additionally, the UPMC Altoona Foundation seeks grant support from other foundations, such as the Mario Lemieux Foundation. This partnership laid the groundwork for the installation of an Austin’s Playroom, which welcomes children 2 to 13 years old who are visiting loved ones in the hospital. The Austin’s Playroom Project seeks to benefit families and improve the quality of a child’s hospital experience, whether as a visitor or patient, by establishing cheerful playrooms that are safe, calming and comfortable.

“Our nurses, physicians and staff remain committed to providing excellent care,” said Jerry Murray, president of UPMC Altoona/UPMC Bedford Memorial. “Community support through the foundation assists in continued growth, infrastructure investment and technological advancements so the hospital can best meet patients’ needs closer to home.”

To make a donation to the UPMC Altoona Foundation, call 814-889-6406.

Tim Balconi is the president of the UPMC Altoona Foundation.