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Hospital foundation holds a 'special place' in Teresa Martone's heart

Martone says the foundation works tirelessly to raise money to cover the needs of the hospital
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Teresa Martone. Supplied photo

Teresa Martone knows that the best way to help others is to listen.

As the Executive Director of Sault Area Hospital Foundation, Martone is tasked with raising $5 million dollars per year; and listening is at the cornerstone of her work.

“I’m in the relationship business, because that's where it starts - first and foremost,” she says. “It's about making sure we listen more than we speak; making sure we understand what donors like, what moves them, how philanthropic they are (or are not), and meeting them where they're at. When I sit and talk with people, I really want to understand their story and what motivates them.”

Martone, along with the staff and volunteers at Sault Area Hospital Foundation, work tirelessly to raise the money that covers all of the capital needs of the hospital. A major misconception is that the Ministry of Health funds the hospital’s equipment needs; it simply isn't the case.

“They fund the operation of the hospital,” explains Martone. “But everything you see in the hospital that's over $5000; that's the result of the community [donors].” A mix of individuals, organizations and corporations chip in to make up the $5 million that’s needed each year."

“We're not unlike any other hospital in the province, we all face the same fate: you’ve got to raise money for your equipment.”

Having state-of-the-art equipment in the Sault can mean the difference between life and death. The foundation has purchased things like coronary angioplasty equipment; ensuring that patients can receive stents locally. “One of our missions at the hospital is to keep people closer to home,” says Martone. “Outcomes are better- it’s been proven. That program has been operational for over a year; there’s over 500 patients that have stayed here for care.”

The equipment also adds economic value. “We should expect that the best tools are in the best hands in our community,” says Martone. “The equipment that we have influences our ability to attract healthcare specialists and providers to our community.” Most of the equipment has an 8-10 year lifespan, so needs “are perpetual,” she says. “Medical technology is essential for outstanding health care, and every aspect of treatment requires some innovation. Healthcare is a technology business, through and through.”

Martone grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, and is a self-described “nerd” when it comes to medical technology. An application developer by trade, Martone worked more than 20 years in advertising, in a career that spanned from Vancouver to Toronto. Her aging parents brought her back to the Sault, and she felt a pull toward a different path.

“I wasn’t able to sit behind a computer and code all day;” she says. “I need to be out and talking to people, connecting with them. My career has always been in service, and I gravitated toward the non-profit space. You feel a sense of fulfillment there; you want to be able to help. The health sector has always been important to me; so I decided that instead of providing services to these organizations, I would jump in with both feet.”

The foundation holds a special place in Martone’s heart. “[Our hospital] is the only one we have; it touches every single person in this community one way or another,” she says.

“We’ve all had instances where loved ones have received care, and it’s left us heavy-hearted. Or they achieved less-than-optimal outcomes. I had a story like that as well. If we stop giving to the hospital because of something like that, you’re actually hurting those we’re trying to help. I wanted to make sure that there are proper tools, training and specialists here so that what happened to my family won’t happen again. Nothing will bring back my father, but I know that if I work hard at this, it will make change.”

Donations to SAHF can be designated to go toward specific areas of the hospital, or can be unrestricted to go where they’re needed most. To raise $5 million in 2020, Martone is using a multi-pronged approach.

“Donors are at different life stages; you could be a 20-year-old in college, or have a new family with a child, or have aging parents you’re caring for, or in your
retirement years. So we’re putting together a number of events that will appeal to those different life stages.”

They launched the first of a series of ongoing 50/50 draws this past year, and are entering the 31st year of the annual 5 Car Draw by offering online ticket sales.

“I want the community to understand that they buy the equipment. There’s no other way that it gets here. The needs of the hospital are perpetual, they’re always going to be there. And unrestricted dollars are needed to go where they’re most needed. If you want to make a contribution, give us a call; we will help you decide what’s best for you, and where you want it to go, and what kind of impact you’re looking for. [You can give] any amount. People often think that their dollars won't actually do much good, but I think great things happen with small gifts when they’re all collected together.”

Martone is constantly humbled by the generosity of Saultites. “I have some donors who say; I just want to make more money so I can give it away. The people that I have spoken to in this community say that financial success alone is empty,” she says. “If you can't share with your community, then there’s no point. That's a really powerful thing.”

The SAH Foundation’s next event is Ski the Trails, coming up on March 1, followed by Around the World Draws at the end of the month. To find out more or to make a donation, visit here.