As part of Valleywise Health Foundation’s focus on burn survivorship care and a new Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health as key fundraising initiatives, the heroic story of 10-year-old Isabella McCune was selected as the centerpiece story for its annual April Night of Heroes event. In late February, the Foundation’s film crew spent time with Dr. Kevin Foster, Director of the Arizona Burn Center and the nurses, therapists and other burn care professionals involved in Isabella’s care. In 2018, at just eight years-old, Isabella was involved in a horrible accident that resulted in burns over 65 percent of her body. Her indelible spirit coupled with nine months of expert treatment at the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise, led to Isabella becoming one of the Burn Center’s most inspirational and well-known survivors.
The McCunes welcomed the Foundation team and film crew in their home – sharing their lives before, during and after the day their world changed forever. Night of Heroes invitations, for the Phoenix Art Museum event, were sent… and then came COVID-19.
With the focus on the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of all large group events, in March, the Foundation looked to local and national nonprofit experts for support in quickly pivoting to a virtual fundraising event.
The life-saving work of the world-renowned Arizona Burn Center must continue – and now more than ever, community awareness and support were critical for Valleywise, Arizona’s public teaching health system, and its medical heroes on the frontline. In fact, the Arizona Burn Center team provided infection-control technology and expertise as part of the Valleywise COVID-19 response. With new costs and needs related the pandemic, financial support from the Foundation was important.
The Foundation staff and board leadership agreed… the show must go on. In partnership with local event experts, an interactive, participatory fundraising website, a first-of-its kind, virtual Night of Heroes was planned, allowing a much larger audience to “attend” from the comfort and safety of their homes.
Virtual invitations were launched, and two days prior to the event, guests received a link to the short film documentary, “Isabella”. Guests ordered to-go meals from local restaurant partners, Tarbell’s and Steak 44, and perused the program beforehand. On April 23, the original planned date, Night of Heroes 2020 began its broadcast on YouTube Live. Guests learned about Isabella’s miraculous recovery, Valleywise heroes taking on COVID-19, and engaged in a friendly team fundraising duel. Thanks to generous donors and virtual events, Night of Heroes reached thousands. The documentary “Isabella” has exceeded 1,700 YouTube views with the event live broadcast streamed more than 1,300 times. In its first live-broadcast event, the Foundation raised $225,000. Net proceeds increased 75 percent over 2019, and cost-per-dollar-raised decreased to $.24, well below the national average of $.50 per dollar for events.
Our donors’ passion to support burn care does not stop at the patients. With help from incredible donors, the Foundation has supported Valleywise Health nurses like Ryan to continue their life-saving work at the Arizona Burn Center. Ryan Taylor was born to be a healthcare provider. The young husband and father fulfilled that ambition as an important member at Valleywise Health for nearly 15 years — seven as a respiratory therapist and the past eight as an RN.
The Arizona Burn Center’s 55-year history includes life-changing stories of saved lives and preserved futures of burn survivors, with a 98% survival rate — among the highest in the nation. Sadly, Ryan's 28-year-old brother, Brett, was not one of those survivors, succumbing to his burns after a tragic accident in February 2012, just one month before Ryan's March 8 nursing school graduation — also Brett's birthday. "I wasn't sure if I could manage those memories and go back to work after losing him," Ryan confesses.
But he did go back, to honor his brother, and thank Valleywise. Ryan's wife, Beth, is a 15-year respiratory therapist at Valleywise also. Ryan stayed the course, and in 2016 assumed a nursing management role. Part of the requirement was advancing his degree from RN to BSN, by completing a bachelor's degree. The Taylors budgeted for him to go back to school. Then came a call. Over the past four years, 35 Valleywise Health nurses pursuing degrees have received scholarships through Valleywise Health Foundation and longtime donor Deb Carstens. Ryan was one of them. With the scholarship funds, Ryan and Beth's financial burdens were eased, and he completed his degree in summer 2019, earlier than planned.