"The Ask" at Marianwood's Spring Luncheon

May 11, 2006

May 11, 2006

I was once again asked to speak at this years Providence Marianwood Spring Luncheon. (Marianwood is the non-profit nursing home where my father now lives.) I'd given a family story at the luncheon two years ago, and this year I was asked to do what's called "The Ask".

I actually have a couple of things for you today…

If you attended this luncheon two years ago, I might look familiar. I spoke then about how my father came to Marianwood a year earlier. He'd broken his hip just a few months before my mother passed away.

My message then was simply how comforting it was to have him so very well cared for during what was an incredibly difficult time.

So it's two years later, and I'm happy to report that my dad's doing quite well, thank you. His Alzheimer's has, for lack of a better term, plateaued. His memories of past and present are intermixed and blurry, at best, but the memories he pulls out seem to be some of the more pleasant ones.

A couple of weeks ago I happened to visit on the day that the Eastside Harley group was visiting. He was inside, where he could watching the going's on in front of the building. He hates being even a little bit cold, so actually going outside wasn't in the cards.

My dad actually taught motorcycle marksmanship in the Dutch army at the beginning of World War II. He looked out at the various bikes in front of Marianwood and said that he'd pretty much had enough of that, and didn't need to do it again … his equivalent of "been there, done that".

He turned 90 earlier this year, and I still describe his situation as "content" - well, as long as he gets his coffee. He is, for the most part, accepting of his situation, or what he understands of it, and the A-unit staff take great care of him.

What more can you ask for, really?

Which brings me to my second topic.

First, I'd like to you understand a little something about me. I'm a computer geek. In all honesty, I'd be way more comfortable hiding behind a computer to send you all an email, than I am standing up here.

A while back I read that fear of public speaking is actually the most common phobia - even ahead of spiders and snakes. But public speaking and talking about and asking for money? That's gotta be off the scale.

What's drawn me out from behind my computer, though, is just how important I feel what Marianwood, and the foundation, are doing.

I had that re-enforced a few weeks ago.

As it turns out, this year we are facing many of the same issues with my mother-in-law, who's also 90, that we faced with my father three years ago. As with any family story, it's long, emotional and with more than its share of drama. Too much drama, to be totally honest, and I'll spare you the details.

We were discussing the situation with the administrator of a long term care facility in Bellingham, near where my mother in law lives, and she asked an interesting question: "what are your mother's assets?" meaning, of course, how much money does she have?

Now, I'm not offended by the question … that was a for-profit facility, and understanding their residents ability to pay is an important part of running their business.

But the implication bothered me … so I asked: what happens when the money runs out?

Well, first, you hope for Medicaid or related programs.

And if there's no Medicaid bed available?

Residents are asked to leave.

At the worst possible time, needing long term care, but without the money to pay for it, residents are asked to leave.

I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to be placed in that situation.

Marianwood doesn't do that. Marianwood doesn't ask residents to leave because they've run out of funds.

So how can they pull that off?

One big part of the answer is very simple: just look around the room.

This room is full of people who have come together to show their support for Providence Marianwood. Support for the programs and services, and support for policies that say Marianwood can be your home for as long as you need.

You know why we're here, and this is it. The lunch has been wonderful, and Marilyn Grey's words inspiring … but here's where the rubber hits the road.

Now, don't pass those pledge cards out just yet...

If you're like me, you probably had a number in mind before you walked in the door. If nothing else, you've seen the phrase "a gift or pledge of $125 would be appreciated" in the invitations. And indeed, it would be very much appreciated.


Before you write that check, I want you to dream a little.

I want you to think of the number you already had in mind. Now, think of how wonderful that number would be if it had, say … an extra zero. That's all, just one little, extra zero tacked on the end.

Medicare falls short of covering actual cost, on average, by $30 per day … so instead of, a few days of coverage, you could make up the difference for over a month. A $150 dollar donation, with that little extra zero, turns into $1500 - and a new, safer, "high low" bed for a resident. (I'll tell you, these beds are great and safe solution for residents who might roll out of bed. My dad has one, and it's pretty cool.)

You've already written your check? That's ok! Down in that little memo field, write the following three words: "first of ten". Easy, right?

OK, ok, so I know 10 isn't for everyone. I get that. Think of your number again. Now, imagine how great it would be if everyone here simply multiplied there number by two! Could you consider doubling your donation? A $250 donation, doubled, could cover an entire month of the laughter therapy program.

Imagine if everyone here today did exactly that.

So, table coordinators, go ahead and pass out those envelopes and pledge cards now.

You know what? We can even make this easier … if you've already written your check for your original amount, grab the pledge card, and write down that same number again. You can even divide it up to just make an additional donation every month.

Or, of course, you could save yourself the trouble and just write a check for twice your number right now. Or 10 times your number.

Whatever number you finally write down, no mater how large or how small, please know how very much it's appreciated, and how much of an impact you are contributing to.

And while I know that whole '10 thing' might seem like a stretch, I do want to be clear that I wasn't really joking that much. I am putting my money where my mouth is. This is my personal check to Marianwood for $2,500. I hope that at least a few of you will join me by donating that extra zero. A little zero can go a long way.

But again, whatever amount you choose to give, I, and Marianwood, thank you very, very much.