By ALEXIS WILLIAMS
Recently, a gentleman receiving hospice services from Singing River Health System, was living his final days by candlelight. This circumstance was not by choice, but because he could not afford to reconnect his electricity and pay his electric bill. Fortunately, the Singing River Health System Foundation stepped in, helped him reconnect his power and ultimately helped him keep his lights on for the reminder of his life.
“We help the neediest of the needy,” says Foundation Director Laura Sessum, who has served at the Foundation’s helm for almost a year. Since taking the reigns of the organization, Sessum has strived to raise awareness of the Foundation throughout the Health System, which is made up of Ocean Springs Hospital and Singing River Hospital and outlying clinics and services. She is also working diligently to increase awareness of the Foundation’s good works in Jackson County and along greater Gulf Coast community.
Founded in 1995, the Singing River Health System Foundation is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) entity whose mission is to provide compassionate service and support to assist with health-related and other needs of patients, employees and citizens of the community. Its primary focus is Jackson County residents, because SRHS is owned by the county, however, the Foundation also accepts applications from outside the Jackson County.
Sessum’s interpretation of the Foundation’s mission is “being the good,” in difficult situations and her background as both an emergency department and intensive care unit nurse serve her well in determining patients’ true and immediate needs. Sessum says almost daily the SRHS Foundation helps patients who need at-home oxygen and other medical equipment they cannot afford, including wheelchairs, walkers and canes. Cancer and Hospice of Light patients can often have extreme needs due to overwhelming health care bills. The Foundation has been able to help patients with medication and wound care needs and other emergency situations.
Recently, the Foundation helped a man who needed open-heart surgery. The individual could not have his life-saving procedure without first having dental extractions to remove abscess and infection, but he was unable to afford the necessary dental care on his own. The patient was hospital bound, so the Foundation worked with a local dentist to come into the hospital and perform the teeth extractions on-site. The Foundation was able to financially assist the patient, and several days later he was able to proceed with his cardiac surgery, which ultimately saved the man’s life.
When asked what the most memorable and rewarding experience she’s had since taking over as director of the Foundation, Sessum remembers a special-needs child who they helped with tube feeding.
“The child was covered by Medicaid but due to some bureaucratic hurdles, they shorted the family the amount of tube feeding that the child would need for that month,” said Sessum. “We were able to step in and take care of them. As a mom, I couldn’t imagine fighting with paperwork over your child’s food. I’m so happy we could help.”
Sessum also says it’s quite rewarding to see people help others anonymously. “We are blessed with angels in this community,” she added.
In addition to direct patient needs, the Foundation also partners to help fund Let’s Go! Gulf Coast. Let’s Go! Gulf Coast is an organization that promotes healthy eating, active lifestyles and exercise among children and families.
Recently, the SRHS Foundation held it’s first Derby Spring Mixer on May 4 at the IP Casino and Resort in Biloxi as a way to raise both money and awareness of the organization. The fundraising event celebrated the Kentucky Derby traditions of fancy hats and bourbon, encouraging patrons to have a great time while also raising money through sponsorships and a silent auction, all benefiting the Foundation. The Derby Mixer was so successful that the organization is already planning for next year’s big event, on Kentucky Derby Saturday, May 5, 2018.
In addition, the Foundation also hosts Run Run Rudolph, a 5K race. This event is held during Pascagoula’s annual Downtown for the Holidays celebration. This year the event will take place on December 1. The evening run benefits the Foundation’s Heart Fund, which specifically helps cardiac patients.
Donations can be made at any time to the SRHS Foundation online at www.singingriverfoundation.org or by mailing donations to the SRHS Foundation, 3109 Bienville Blvd, Ocean Springs, MS 39564. SRHS employees are able to payroll deduct any donation. All donations are tax deductible and 100% of the donations go to the mission of the organization.