It’s not unusual for people to look up to 6-foot-5 Christiana Care spokeswoman Elena Delle Donne for her accomplishments both on and off the basketball court. The native Delawarean is an Olympic gold medalist, 2015 WNBA MVP and three-time All Star.
Delle Donne attributes those accomplishments to teamwork, and as featured speaker at the November meeting of the Young Friends of Christiana Care, she encouraged the philanthropists-in-training to build on their strengths as a team to continue helping others in the community.
“What an impressive group — so intelligent and driven,” Delle Donne said of the Young Friends, who in just their first year raised more than $15,000 to support programs at Christiana Care. “It’s exciting to think about what else they can accomplish together.”
Now in their second year, the Young Friends of Christiana Care are high school-age children and grandchildren of members of Christiana Care’s Board, Trustees, Junior Board and Leadership Councils who are learning the value and importance of philanthropy and community involvement.
With fundraising efforts that have included jeans and tag days at their schools, letter-writing campaigns, and mousepad and t-shirt sales, they helped First State School students enjoy overnight field trips and an end-of-year prom, supported summer life skills programming for at-risk youth through Camp FRESH, and helped ensure that patients leave the emergency department with dignity in clean clothing through its Special Needs Fund.
“Touring First State School showed me how health care really can make a difference,” said Middletown High School freshman Emily Gale. “I’m excited to be part of the Young Friends and the new opportunities we’ll have to help.”
The Young Friends visited First State School in November to learn about the school within Wilmington Hospital that helps chronically ill students continue their education while receiving needed medical support. Helping others their own age resonated with the Young Friends, who selected First State School as their fundraising focus for 2016-17.
“The Young Friends’ energy and passion have already had a remarkable impact on our community,” said Trustee Chair Penny Saridakis, who created the group with fellow trustees Diane du Pont and Margaret O’Dwyer. They co-chair the Young Friends with Beth Moore, also a trustee. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the way this next generation is carrying on the legacy of leadership so important to all of us who serve as trustee ambassadors for Christiana Care.”
Young Friends events give the teens a firsthand look at the programs and services offered by Christiana Care, and provide a forum for career and life coaching from an all-star lineup of Christiana Care leaders and mentors. Teaming up with Delle Donne for the First State school tour was Christiana Care President and CEO Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH, who shared her own lessons in teamwork and encouraged the teens to turn challenges into leadership opportunities.
“These extraordinary Young Friends are already choosing a path of leadership and giving back that deeply emulates The Christiana Care Way,” said Dr. Nevin. “If, like Elena Delle Donne, they hold strong to their dreams, despite whatever detours life sends them, these young women and men will go far as our leaders of tomorrow.”
The message of perseverance resounded with Young Friend Sarah Greenberg.
“It was so great to hear what you do for the community and how you have overcome difficult obstacles in life to get where you are today,” she wrote in a thank-you letter to Dr. Nevin following the Young Friends meeting. “Hearing your journey to become the chief executive officer of Christiana Care Health System was inspiring and reminded me that you don’t need to plan everything ahead, and you should follow what you love most.”