Service to others is a way of life for many Christiana Care employees, physicians and volunteers, often both on and off the job. But one night each year is devoted especially to celebrating individuals whose extraordinary dedication to service makes a difference in the lives our neighbors and the communities we serve.
On April 30, the Champions of Service: Celebrating Volunteers Awards took place at the John H. Ammon Medical Education Center, where a combined celebration of the Spirit of Women Awards and Jefferson Awards spotlighted award winners and nominees.
Spirit of Women Awards
Spirit of Women is a national network of hospitals that subscribes to high standards of excellence in women’s health and engages the community to improve the health of women and their families. Each year, the Spirit of Women Awards honor individuals who do extraordinary and selfless things to benefit their community.
As a Spirit of Women network participant, Christiana Care announced the nominees and winners in three categories of Spirit of Women awards:
Marilyn Bartley, APN
Health Care Hero Award
As a Trauma RN-AP, Marilyn Bartley was one of the first to offer to help when a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti in 2010.
Many patients she cared for in a clinic in Jacmel had never seen a medical professional before. She and other Christiana Care volunteers treated hundreds of men, women and children for everything from muscle aches to abdominal pain, fractures, skin infections, sexually transmitted diseases and malaria.
Since then, she has returned several times at her own expense and has developed strong bonds with the people she cares for in Jacmel. Marilyn created a manual on health care in a Third World country that is used by medical staff who travel to Haiti to run a women’s and children’s camp.
She has identified the medications needed for basic care and has organized several fundraisers to pay for those medicines. In addition, she has raised money to buy food and water for the camp each summer and trains other volunteers.
Marilyn has recruited two daughters and other relatives to volunteer in Haiti. As her children grow and become independent, she is filling her empty nest with service to others.
To that end, she has worked for several community health fairs sponsored by Christiana Care. She also volunteers at From Our Kitchen, an initiative by Premiere Charities to feed people who don’t have a secure food supply in Wilmington.
Each year, Marilyn volunteers for Coastal Cleanup Day, a statewide effort to clear trash from the coastline and lakes. She also has adopted a stretch of beach in Lewes and has committed to maintaining the beach two days a year.
Chetana Kripalu, M.D.
Community Hero Award
For Chetana Kripalu, M.D., philanthropy is a global mission.
She has founded an orphanage in India and a school in Kenya with her husband, Vinod, who is her partner in the primary-care practice Premiere Physicians. The Kripalus and their partner, Reynold Agard, M.D., also have launched Premiere Charities Inc., a nonprofit group that supports outreach in Delaware and abroad.
Locally, Dr. Kripalu has organized From Our Kitchen, a volunteer group that has served lunch to more than 100 hungry people every Sunday, rain or shine, in a parking lot near the Wilmington train station since 2009. At times, the line stretches to nearly 200 people. In addition to nutritious food, From Our Kitchen also distributes socks, toiletries and other items.
She volunteers her services at the Saint Clare Medical Outreach Van in Wilmington and the Claymont Community Clinic, treating patients who are poor, homeless or do not have health insurance.
For the last several years, Dr. Kripalu has organized and led a walk “Brick by Brick,” which has raised more than $12,000 to build a school in Kenya.
She is deeply involved in supporting HOPE (Help Orphans Pursue Education), a non-profit that operates an orphanage in India. Many of the children were abandoned at a garbage dump as infants. Others were rescued from bonded labor.
The Kripalus are dedicated to raising a new generation of philanthropists. Their children are active fundraisers and accompany their parents on trips to the orphanage in India.
Young Person Role Model Award
In his young life, Nick DiIenno has volunteered for a number of good causes, including Stockings for Soldiers, Little Sisters of the Poor and the Michael G. Schwartz Memorial Foundation, a not-for-profit group that helps families pay for housing, education and medical care. He is a member of the Class of 2014 at Salesianum High School, where he raised money for the musical program.
Losing his beloved Aunt Linda to lung cancer inspired Nick to start his own group, Linda’s Purple Dragonflies, which raises money for the American Lung Association. In February, team members participated in the Fight for Air Climb in Boston to fund lung-cancer research.
He notes that lung cancer kills more people than breast cancer and colon cancer combined, yet money for research lags far behind those diseases. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is less than 15 percent. His aunt, a non-smoker, lived only a few months after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in 2007. She was 53.
The climb involved scaling 789 stairs. His teachers note that Nick is always ready to take on a challenge. To accomplish the feat, he trained hard, jogging and working out on the elliptical machine at home. In the process, he lost 50 pounds.
Currently, the team has 26 members from New Hampshire to Virginia who share his dream of finding a cure for lung cancer.
“My goal is to travel to a new city every year with my team and conquer a climb in each state in memory of my aunt to raise money and awareness for lung cancer,” Nick says.
The Jefferson Awards
Founded in 1972, the Jefferson Awards national recognition system honors public service in America. Awards presented at the John H. Ammon Medical Education Center celebrated the talent and dedication of Christiana Care employees who contribute countless volunteer hours in their communities. The five winners exemplify service, leadership and caring:
Amy Benton is the co-founder and vice-President of the Eric and Ava Benton Joy-Hope Foundation, which provides new memory-making getaways for families following the death of their child due to illness. The foundation also supports mitochondrial disease research.
Joy-Hope was formed in 2010 following the separate deaths of the Bentons’ son Eric William in 2004 and daughter Ava Elisabeth in 2009. Both children suffered from a rare mitochondrial disease. Generous friends offered the Bentons a chance to get away for a vacation after the tragedy of Eric’s death, and when Ava died, they again took a trip with their surviving daughters that helped them regroup as a family and work through their grief in a positive way. The experience inspired them to create an organization that could help other families benefit from a similar opportunity to heal.
Joy-Hope empowers friends, relatives and co-workers to offer support in a situation that most shy away from. Through fundraising efforts that include an annual 5/10K, they have planned and paid for 11 getaways for grieving families and continue to receive new referrals for support.
Benton’s other volunteering efforts include fundraising and support for a variety of causes, including the Benefit 5K for Sandy Hook in December 2012, Delicate Fortress Creations’ “Save one with every Run” initiative to combat human trafficking and assisting with the Children’s Ministry at her church.
Benton has been a social worker at Christiana Care for 11 years. She will represent Christiana Care as a nominee for national recognition at the annual Jefferson Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., June 19.
Georgia Truitt shares her love of horses by helping children and adults with special needs strengthen their bodies and self-esteem through riding. As a registered PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) instructor she teaches up to 10 lessons per week at Southern Delaware Therapeutic & Recreational Horseback Riding. She also is the president of the SDTRHR board of directors, managing daily operations including horse care, administrative functions, fundraising and volunteer coordination.
Therapeutic riding benefits people with autism, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, ADHD, cognitive challenges and social or emotional challenges. The benefits of equine-assisted therapy are both physical and emotional. She has witnessed some participants saying their first words while riding a horse.
“I can honestly say that my relationship with our riders, their families/support system, our volunteers and horses have changed my life,” Truitt said. “It’s a true honor to spend time with our riders and help them reach their potential.”
Truitt is senior recruiter, Human Resources, for Christiana Care Visiting Nurse Association.
Kim L. Petrella, RN
Kim L. Petrella, RN, educates the community about umbilical cord blood banking and non-embryonic stem cell research, lecturing to expectant mothers, at local high schools, colleges and doctor’s offices. She also volunteers to help bereaved parents who have lost a baby and offers assistance to military families when an expectant parent is deployed.
Petrella joined Christiana Care after graduating from nursing school in 1988.
“I have three passions in medicine, all leading back to cord blood, that I feel I can put a lot of time and energy into to help the community,” Petrella said. These include umbilical-cord blood collection and storage issues — promoting awareness of the benefits of cord blood for treating many conditions — infant bereavement and disaster assistance. She also volunteers with Amish families in her community, Lincoln University, Pa., where she acts as a conduit for the community to find medical help and education – including researching ways for Amish mothers to donate cord blood – given that the Amish genetic profile can be difficult to match in the pool available from the outside community.
Petrella actively supports a partnership program involving Cord:Use, a company capable of storing cord blood for the future needs of families, the immediate needs of others, or research through Duke University.
She is a member of the state of Delaware Medical Reserve Corps and Christiana Care Medical Reserve Corps and serves in times of crisis or disaster. She was part of a team stationed at the Middletown High School storm center during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Petrella received the 2007 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer award and a 2010 Christiana Care Spirit of Women award.
Reynold S. Agard, M.D.
Reynold S. Agard, M.D., devotes his time to providing primary care to people in need at home and abroad. He is a founder of several nonprofit groups, including the Delaware Medical Relief Team and Hands International, where he is medical director. He is a co-founder of From Our Kitchen, a group that serves a nutritious meal every Sunday to people in need in Wilmington.
With the Delaware Medical Relief Team, Dr. Agard traveled to Haiti the week after the 2010 earthquake, providing medical treatment, supplies and medications. He supported six additional medical teams that traveled to Haiti to continue relief efforts. Delaware Medical Relief Team continues to be active and prepared to respond to catastrophic events at home or abroad.
Dr. Agard also supports HOPE: Helping Orphans Pursue an Education. He has worked with Balagurukulam Orphanage in Southern India to provide funds to help improve and run the home of more than 50 children. He has helped to raise money to cover the food, water bills, electric bills and education of every child living at Balagurukulam. In the past several years Premiere Charities has raised enough funds to construct a bore well, water tank, and separate bathrooms for the boys and girls.
As medical director of Hands International , Dr. Agard helps to bring healing and wellness to underserved areas throughout the world. He has led or participated in medical mission trips in the United States, Grenada, Guyana and Nigeria to help people who have little or no medical care.
Vinod Kripalu, M.D.
Vinod Kripalu, M.D., was a founder of the Delaware Medical Relief Team, which organized to quickly respond to the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. But it has never taken an earthquake to get Dr. Kripalu working on ways and means to answer challenging social problems, whether caused by disaster, poverty or both.
He founded Premiere Charities Inc. and From Our Kitchens, which provides fresh, home-made food to homeless people and others who are at risk for undernourishment in Wilmington. The twice-monthly gathering usually draws about 150 people. Volunteers, organized in two groups, donate time, money and food, and Premiere Charities Inc., covers additional expenses.
Dr. Kripalu also collaborates with Balagurukulam Orphange and HOPE in Southern India. He has sponsored several 5K runs and silent auctions in North Wilmington to raise money for Balagurukulam. Among other improvements, the money raised helped establish infrastructure to provide a continuous water supply to the orphanage, which previously had water access only an hour each day.
He has made his mission of service to others a family endeavor with the help of his wife, Dr. Chetana Kripalu, and their children, who often serve From Our Kitchen meals, help organize fundraising events and go with him to support the orphanage and villagers of Balagurukulam.