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The 4th Annual Oswego Health Foundation Gala held in November at Colloca Estate Winery raised over $149,000 to support local healthcare and the newly created Oswego Health Foundation Endowment Fund.

Special Events Help Hospital Raise Money

Golf tournaments, gala dinners, auctions — all help hospitals raise additional money for equipment, projects

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Healthcare is an expensive service. Along with grants, area hospitals rely upon fundraisers to meet their costs. These have been affected by pandemic shutdowns and financial cutbacks.

Vincent Kuss, vice president of St. Joseph’s Health Foundation, said that the organization’s two major annual fundraising events, the Annual Gala Dinner Dance and Golf Classic, attract between 800 and 900 attendees.

The golf tournament shifted to an outdoors-only event for the past two years with plenty of hand sanitizer available after a COVID-19 hiatus. This year’s Golf Classic was in September at Turning Stone Resort, using each of its three golf courses.

The gala, a dinner-dance, began in 1992. Since then, the gala has raised more than $5.9 million to benefit St. Joseph’s.

“We hold more hybrid events where it’s in person and we stream it live on Facebook,” Kuss said. “We also have Lighting the Way event at St. Joseph’s Health. One hundred attended in person. They can also view it virtually.”

The organization also hosts hybrid auctions and text-to-give campaigns.

“We do have individuals who attend these events virtually, but we’re getting back to pre-COVID-19 numbers for in-person events. We’re hoping people become more comfortable with in-person and we think that’s the case. We’re trying to get back on par with where we were before. As far as dollars raised, we’ve increased the dollars coming in and we’re trying to get back to that as well.”

Oswego Health’s fourth annual gala proved successful in raising more than $149,000. Nearly 300 guests attended the event hosted by Colloca Estate Winery in November to support the Oswego Health Foundation Endowment Fund. Established in 2021, the fund keeps donors’ investments in Oswego Health intact while using the investment income to support future healthcare investments.

In addition to providing healthcare to patients through its 17 locations, Oswego Health’s system employs 1,318 as the county’s largest private employer. Oswego Health operates the 32-bed community Oswego Hospital; a 32-bed psychiatric acute-care facility with multiple outpatient behavioral health service locations; The Manor at Seneca Hill, a 120-bed skilled nursing facility; and Springside at Seneca Hill, an independent retirement community. Oswego Health Home Care also supports patients. Oswego Health also operates Fulton Medical Center, Central Square Medical Center, Physician Care, PC.

In addition to fundraisers, donations from organizations also play a large role in covering expenses and in providing better healthcare services.

As a recent example, the Hadley J. Falk Breast Health Center at Crouse Hospital benefited from gifts from Saint Agatha Foundation and JMA Wireless totaling $800,000. The funding enabled the organization to purchase 3D mammography equipment in October to help detect early breast cancers and improve patient outcomes. The Saint Agatha Foundation donated $406,000 to purchase a new digital tomosynthesis unit and a matching grant from JMA Wireless enabled the purchase of a second machine.

“These machines are a testament to the legacy of my sister, Laurie, who was a tireless advocate for breast cancer awareness and founded Saint Agatha during her own battle with the disease,” John Mezzalingua, JMA Wireless CEO, said in a statement. “Laurie’s message to our family was clear: Early detection saves lives. We have taken her words to heart and are continuing her fight on behalf of breast cancer patients. We are proud to be able to carry on Laurie’s important work by investing in the most high-tech 3D mammography machines available to make early detection possible for more Central New Yorkers.”

While undergoing treatment for breast cancer, Laurie Mezzalingua founded the Saint Agatha Foundation in 2004 to provide financial assistance to individuals fighting the disease in Central New York. Laurie’s mother, Kathleen Mezzalingua, has led the organization as board chair since Laurie’s death in 2009. Saint Agatha Foundation has provided more than $17 million to 10,032 people.

“Saint Agatha Foundation is proud to assist Crouse Hospital with the purchase of new tomosynthesis technology, providing the most advanced screening available and aiding in the earliest detection possible for those who may have breast cancer,” Kathleen Mezzalingua said.

Oftentimes, a personal connection like this provides a catalyst for givers to donate — and, as Mezzalingua has, take up the mantle to lead fundraising causes.