The Conway Regional Health Foundation started a tradition 13 years ago of allowing people to purchase endowment lights for the Conway Regional Tribute Tree.
During the annual ceremony Thursday night, four donations were acknowledged by Foundation Board Chair John Nabholz.
Endowment lights were given by Jack and Cheryl Engelkes in memory of Betty Courtway and were accepted by Betty’s sons Tom, Bobby, John and Jeff; lights were given by the foundation and health system board of directors and leadership in memory of Fletcher Hartz, accepted by Fletcher’s grandfather, Jack Engelkes and Fletcher’s family; lights were given by Dr. Tyrone lee and Family in memory of his family S.N. Lee accepted by the Lees; and, as a surprise, endowment lights were given by the Lees in memory of Brian Mulkerins, accepted by Brian’s wife, Stephanie, and family.
The event is conducted annually by the Conway Regional Health Foundation as a way for the community to honor and remember friends and loved ones, a Conway Regional spokesman said.
Conway Regional Health System President and CEO Matt Troup said in addition to being able to recognize those honored through the donations year after year, the funds also go to support scholarships in health related fields.
"We turn around and give the money away in forms of scholarships," he said. "It allows us to be a part of somebody’s story, to be able to go out and educate themselves [in this] field of service and to help others."
To date, the foundation has awarded more than $254,000 to area students since 1996.
This was Troup’s third tree lighting to attend.
"I look forward to seeing people here," he said. "I like it when we acknowledge prior scholarship recipients as a visual reminder of the impact that we have."
Troup said the real support of this vocation of health care is the money they raise to support a healing ministry.
"That’s really what’s so cool," he said. "I mean, it’s great that we’re here at Conway Regional, it’s great that we get our name in logo, but it’s really about the spirit [and] giving of health care, [the] ministry of health care that I think is so special."
One of those families who has been directly impacted was the Mulkerins.
In addition to receiving a gift from the Lees, Stephanie also served as the honorary tree lighter Thursday.
She said her husband Brian — who died in February 2017 — was diagnosed with Glioblastoma in 2013 and that’s when their journey with the hospital began.
"We spent a lot of time at Conway Regional and just became very close with a lot of the caretakers here," Stephanie said.
While Stephanie and her family purchased lights in honor of Brian, her father and her grandfather, she said the real surprise was when Nabholz announced that the Lees — Dr. Tyrone Lee was Brian’s doctor — had also done the same.
"They’ve really become part of our family, not just friends," she said. "That was just very touching."
When she was asked to do the tree lighting along Santa, Stephanie said she didn’t hesitate to say yes.
"I said yes immediately even though I did not know until tonight what all was involved," she said laughing. "I’m just happy to be a part of anything that’s involved with Conway Regional because it’s the people that make this hospital and I love them."
Stephanie’s son, two daughters, mother and grandmother came with her to the event.
"We feel very blessed," Stephanie said, with tears in her eyes. "Family was always very important to us anyway but it’s even more so now. We just cherish every minute together, and all these people that cared for us have kind of become family. We just really feel blessed."
Tributes and donations will be accepted throughout December and names of donors and their loved ones will be displayed in the east lobby of the medical center and online at www.conwayregional.org.
For more information call 501-513-5778 or visit www.conwayregional.org/TributeTree.