Three Generations of Giving Come Full Circle

One family’s generosity makes an impact through Marshfield Clinic’s Child Life program

When Debbie Forrest and her grandchildren entered the Maple Dessert Baking Contest at Maple Fall Fest back in September 2016, she had no idea how many lives would be impacted by one act of generosity.

“We decided as a family that we wanted to compete in the bake off together, and we decided that if we were fortunate enough to win together, we would share the money,” Forrest said. “We decided to donate the money to those who need it.”

Forrest and her grandson, Alex, ended up winning second place and a total of $150, which they then decided to use to purchase toys and gifts to distribute to pediatric patients through the Marshfield Clinic Child Life program over the holidays.

The Child Life program in Marshfield uses trained Child Life Specialists to help children and adolescents cope with illness and treatment, thereby reducing the stress of medical procedures. This program is partially funded by philanthropic support through Marshfield Clinic Health System Foundation. Debbie, who works in physician recruitment at Marshfield Clinic Health System, knows the importance of this program for children and their families.

Forrest, Alex, and two other grandchildren, Gemma and Mackenna, made the donation together. “My grandkids and I went shopping, picking up wrapping paper and all the gifts. They were so excited when we dropped off the presents,” Forrest said.

That giving spirit ended up coming full circle when Forrest’s son, Chris Altmann, and his wife, Becky, had to hospitalize their infant son over the holidays for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). While their family was receiving care, some staff brought them a bag of gifts that was donated through the same Child Life program that Debbie and her grandchildren had supported.

“When Debbie said she wanted to use the money from the baking contest to buy gifts, we thought it was a great idea. Never did we imagine we would be on the receiving end,” Altmann said.

Once his son was home safe and they had time to appreciate the gifts, his family was overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone who donated to the program.

“I’m very guilty of getting wrapped up in my own life, worrying about my kids, my job, and whatever else is going on,” Altmann said. “I forget to think about what others are going through. This experience has taught me many things: patience, trust and that people are so kind. Being on the receiving end of people’s generosity is amazing and I vow to pass that along.

“We came out of this experience lucky not only to have our baby back home but to witness the generosity and kindness of strangers. Words cannot express how thankful we are.”

Inspiring stories such as these are a huge part of the work MCHS Foundation does to enrich lives at MCHS through philanthropy.

“Philanthropy is an essential part of our mission at MCHS,” said Teri Wilczek, chief philanthropy officer at MCHS Foundation. “Giving back is an important part of the healing process, enriches patient experience, and ensures our research and education programs remain strong. We often hear how programs like Child Life make a huge difference in the lives of our smallest patients and their families.”

With three generations of this family benefitting by a simple act of kindness, Forrest, her children, and her grandchildren are excited to continue giving year after year.

“I always tell my kids and my grandkids that we don’t have a lot, but we have a lot more than others,” Forrest said. “For Christmas, we gave the kids ‘giving jars’ for them to save their change all year so we can donate that money at the end of each year. We are making giving a tradition. We don’t have to give a lot, but you need to give back to the community and give what you can. It’s better to give than to receive.”

Alex, age eight, added, “We’re giving for kids who don’t have that many toys. I’m willing to give a lot of my money to people who don’t have that much stuff, because we care about other people.”

To learn more about MCHS Foundation, visit them online at www.marshfieldclinic.org/giving or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marshfieldclinichealthsystemfoundation.

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