Friday, July 29, 2011

Paying back those who have helped us


When I helped start the Wood River Women's Charitable Foundation—which soon (Aug. 9) will pass the half-million-dollar mark in total gifts to charity in Blaine County, our goal was to help those less fortunate than we are. The lesson for me has been that whatever we do, we are only paying back those who have made our lives and successes possible.

My example is personal. I was skiing on Baldy in 1998 and fell and hit a tree. I had multiple injuries, including significant lung damage. The first reports to my family were that I might not survive and that if I did, I might have permanent brain damage. (Fortunately, I have had no lasting effects.) The doctors here said I needed to get to a lower altitude and an intensive-care unit as soon as possible.

Air evacuation was impossible because a snowstorm had closed the airports. The weather was so bad that the highways were closed, too. Nevertheless, the consensus was that I might die if I stayed here. So the paramedics set out with me in a snowstorm. I have no memory of the trip, though I knew I had been on a respirator.

In 2007, our foundation's second year of grant-making, we got an application from Wood River Fire & Rescue for mechanical ventilators for its ambulances. At the time, paramedics operated hand-pumped respirators to keep patients with difficulty breathing alive on trips to Boise hospitals. The trips typically are hours longer than usual because of weather conditions, as critical patients are evacuated by air if the airports are open.

I realized for the first time that I had been one of those patients on hand-pumped respirators. When the grant was approved, I asked my fellow board members if I could present that one myself. I know there are other similar stories from other members—some public and some that will remain private. It was a reminder to me that when we are in a position to help others, we need to do so. And everyone's help matters.

How much does it matter? I used to write editorials for a newspaper. I went to a seminar where the question was posed as to whether a single editorial ever makes a real difference in the world. The answer was "rarely." But the speaker went on to say that every editorial is like a drop of water in a river that turns sharp boulders into smooth pebbles. You can never say which drop of water makes the difference. Every single one plays a role.

I think our women's group is like that. Now that we have 100-plus members, I like to think of us as a wave instead of a drop of water. It's wonderful to be a part of that wave.

For those who are not familiar with our foundation, each member donates $1,000 a year plus $50 for administrative expenses. Of the $1,000 donation, $500 goes into a pooled fund from which we provide grants to local charities. Each member has one vote in choosing the grant recipients. The rest of each donation can go to any tax-exempt group in the United States that the member chooses.

If you are interested in learning more about our wave, we'd love to have you attend our awards presentation on Tuesday, Aug. 9, and help us celebrate. For additional information, visit our website at or contact

Jo Murray was a founding member and first president of the Wood River Women's Charitable Foundation.

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