Wellstar Foundation raised more than $1 million to support innovation and advancement across Wellstar’s pediatric services during its annual Starlight Grand Gala on April 22 at The St. Regis Atlanta. This year’s event resulted in the highest dollar amount raised in the event’s 24-year history.
Sponsored by ApolloMD and Bank of America, the sold-out black-tie event was emceed for the second year by Condace Pressley, director of community and public affairs at WSB-TV and a member of the Wellstar Foundation Board of Trustees. Special guests joined nearly 600 corporate and community partners from across Georgia, including Atlanta Braves alumni Brian Jordan and Evan Struck, one of America’s most sought-after speed painters who travelled from Michigan to perform at the event. Attendees also participated in a moment of remembrance and reflection after the recent passing of Wellstar Health System Emeritus Board Trustees Bob Prillaman and Walter Robinson to honor their legacy of service.
A last-minute donation from Atlanta Hawks Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, a long-time friend and ambassador for Wellstar, energized the crowd early in the evening with the opportunity to bid on a set of four tickets for NBA playoff Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks. While Dominique was unable to attend in person this year, his passion and belief that everyone deserves world-class care, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay — especially Georgia’s young people — was evident in the room.
This message was echoed by Julie Teer, Wellstar Foundation President. “A healthier future begins with the well-being of our young people, and ensuring that our kids have access to the physical and mental healthcare they need has never been more critical,” said Teer. “At Wellstar, we care for the whole family, and we’re there for every life milestone — starting at birth. That’s why we’re focused on the state’s most pressing health needs through advancing solutions to health equity, increasing access to behavioral healthcare services, accelerating innovation, and helping ensure we have a thriving healthcare workforce to foster the health and well-being of our communities for generations to come.”
Wellstar physician leaders Dr. Carrie Stinson, chief of pediatrics, and Dr. Timothy Ryan, lead physician for ear, nose and throat (ENT), shared how Wellstar serves the broad spectrum of pediatric needs in our communities.
Wellstar Pediatrics has grown to serve over 300,000 young people each year at our pediatric offices, pediatric emergency departments, inpatient units, NICUs, surgical centers and specialty care locations,” said Dr. Stinson. “Donations to our Foundation play a critical role in bringing forward improvements across Wellstar Pediatrics, including funding the pediatric emergency department at Wellstar Douglas Medical Center, which opened during the pandemic and meets a vital need in that community. And as we look to the future, philanthropy is helping us continue to expand access to world-class care for children and families that’s in their community and among the physicians and care teams they know and rely on.”
Dr. Avril Beckford, retired chief of Wellstar Pediatrics, was celebrated and honored with the Physician of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Beckford practiced with pride and passion for over 40 years, spending 30 years at Wellstar where she defined the vision for Wellstar Pediatrics that continues today. There are countless families across the state, like the Galli family, who have received the care they need when they need it most because of her efforts. And, she was instrumental in bringing to life initiatives such as Small Talk, developed as part of Literacy and Justice for All, a coalition of leading organizations including the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, United Way, Atlanta Speech School Rollins Center and Marietta City Schools — all committed to ensuring youth have the literacy skills needed to succeed in life.
Nadia Paul, a nurse at Wellstar Kennestone Regional Medical Center, was also recognized by Wellstar President and CEO Candice L. Saunders with the Caregiver of the Year Award for her exemplary service and dedication to delivering “More than Healthcare. PeopleCare.” Paul’s compassion and care go above and beyond her daily responsibilities, and the award recognized her actions to pull together a bedside wedding in the coronary care unit for patient Derrick Butler and his now wife, Kizzy, when he couldn’t attend their wedding on his own.
Wellstar is one of the most integrated health systems in the state and is nationally recognized as a leader in healthcare innovation. Serving nearly 1 in 6 Georgians, Wellstar is the largest provider of charity care in Georgia and a top 10 provider in the nation. Gala proceeds support Wellstar’s commitment to expand pediatric services across every community it serves. And, through corporate and community partnership, the Wellstar Foundation fuels innovation and action to address the vital needs of diverse communities in Georgia. To make a tax-deductible donation or for information on future Foundation events and corporate partnerships, visit wellstar.org/foundation.