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Volunteer Family Dedicated to Ensuring Patients Have the Equipment They Need

March 30, 2021

For Rich and Victoria Parsons, volunteering and paying it forward is part of their DNA. They both grew up in families that put a priority on helping others.

The couple founded the Craig Foundation’s Project EQL fund in the early 2000s to ensure that every patient returns home with the equipment they need to thrive. They’re members of the Frank Craig Society, Craig’s planned giving circle. Rich is leading a new fundraising committee. And now Rich and Victoria have pledged $100,000 to create an endowment to support patient equipment needs.

The couple hail from Ohio. Rich was a college football player, and later became an executive at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Victoria owned an equestrian center and is enjoying a successful second career as a sculptor and artist.

According to Rich, his faith led them to Craig. After a job transfer brought him to Colorado, he had heard a news story about an injured football player who was being treated at Craig.

“I felt that God was guiding me that this was a place I should check out,” he says. “I made some calls and began volunteering for the Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy departments.”

While attending an outing with Craig, a patient broke down and confided in Rich that he didn’t know how he could pay for the equipment he would need when he went home.

“I had an epiphany and I realized that I could use my sales and marketing background to do more for patients like him,” says Rich.

In consultation with then-CEO Denny O’Malley and then-Craig Foundation executive director Barb Page, Rich began to study the feasibility of raising money specifically to provide durable medical equipment to patients in need. He launched an extensive outreach campaign and with considerable assistance and direction from Denny and Barb, they raised more than $500,000 for the Project EQL: Equipment for Quality Life fund in 2003. Since then, because of the generosity of others, the fund has distributed $300,000-$400,000 annually.

From the time of a patient’s admission, Craig teams are thinking ahead about the adaptive equipment and support the individual and his or her family will need at discharge.

Equipment needs are unique to each patient. Examples include power or manual wheelchairs, a lift that allows family members to transfer their loved one into a bed, and a shower chair that enables daily self-care. A person with an acute spinal cord injury requires basic adaptive equipment that ranges in cost from $85,000-over $100,000 depending on the injury.

When Craig’s Clinical Care Managers discover that insurance, family resources, and other funding options are inadequate to cover the cost of needed equipment for a patient, Project EQL bridges the gap. Project EQL funds are paid directly to equipment suppliers.

“The majority of insurance companies do not cover these expenses at an appropriate level,” says Rich. “These costs are on top of the already immense financial burdens associated with catastrophic injury.”

After meeting with current Craig CEO Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis, and Senior Director of Principal and Planned Gifts Mary Feller, Rich and Victoria learned that due to insurance coverage changes, the demand for equipment was outpacing the donations coming to the fund.

Dusting off his fundraising hat once again, Rich met with former Craig Board member Mike Durham from the Craig Foundation’s Development Committee. The duo formed the Equipment for Independence Committee, an all-volunteer effort to raise $400,000 a year for equipment and assistive technology needs. Committee members plan to raise the funds through personal connections, one-on-one meetings, and direct mail appeals.

Taking their commitment a step farther, Rich and Victoria recently founded the EQL Evergreen Endowment Fund with a $100,000 seed gift. The funds will be invested in perpetuity and the investment income will fund patient equipment. The couple hopes that others will make donations to the fund to grow the principal amount.

“Rich has always been a long-term thinker,” says Victoria. “When you look at the mathematics of the whole equation, if you can get a large amount of money upfront, it starts spinning off income and that’s where you can really begin to make a difference.”

While Rich and Victoria plan to leave a portion of their estate to the hospital upon their deaths, they are excited to make an impactful gift during their lifetimes. They hope to set an example to other donors.

“There are such great needs in the world, we could hardly wait 20-30 years to help,” says Victoria. “If you have the ability to help now, why not?”

The couple has found that in philanthropy, the person who is doing the giving gets the majority of the benefits.

“We feel great knowing that we can help people in need.”

To make a gift to the Parsons’ EQL Evergreen Endowment Fund, contact the Craig Foundation at foundation@craighospital.org or call 303-789-8650.

Equipment for Independence

Patients come to Craig after a serious neurological injury has suddenly transformed their lives – physically, psychologically, and often financially. These injuries frequently lead to unforeseeable income loss, and the astronomical costs of long-term medical care, durable medical equipment, and home modifications can push vulnerable families underwater.

Craig believes that each patient should go home with the right equipment to live independently. Graduates often require expensive durable medical equipment (DME), including wheelchairs, hospital beds, lifts, and bathroom accessibility equipment as well as assistive technology like voice-to-text software, Livescribe kits, and other technology to control their environments such as smart speakers and smart home features. Through Project EQL, donors provide essential DME and assistive technology for patients whose financial situation would otherwise prevent them from obtaining it.

Each Craig inpatient works with a clinical care manager (CCM) who helps coordinate his or her care. CCMs evaluate what DME and assistive technology each patient needs upon discharge, assess insurance coverage and financial capacity, and help to procure the equipment. When CCMs discover a need, they first look in Craig’s donated equipment fleet, which includes used equipment in good condition contributed by families of Craig alumni, demo equipment solicited from suppliers, and equipment being “retired” from use in the hospital. Craig’s Rehabilitation Engineering team then customizes donated or purchased equipment to meet individual patients’ needs. When new equipment must be purchased, Project EQL funds are used.

The number of patients served by Project EQL varies from year to year depending on the mix of patients, their injuries, and the insurance and other financial resources available to them. In recent years, generous donors to Project EQL have annually helped 115 to 160 recently injured patients.

Volunteers for the Equipment for Independence Committee have united to raise viable and sustainable support for this fund by tapping into committee members’ contacts, resources, and recommendations for fundraising opportunities with businesses and individuals. To give to the Equipment for Independence initiative, visit craighospital.org/foundation/equipment-for-independence. If your primary residence is in Colorado, you may be eligible for an additional 25% Enterprise Zone tax credit.

Equipment for Independence Committee Members
Jenae Aus
Bill Bent
Howard Carver
Mike Durham
John Johns
Dusty Norris
Rich Parsons, Chair
Becky Plunkett