2014 Women of Grace Luncheon

Bethesda Hospital Foundation
Bethesda Hospital Foundation
November 20, 2014


Stephanie C. Langlais
Director, Communications & Special Events
Bethesda Hospital Foundation
561-737-7733, ext. 84429

2014 Women of Grace Luncheon
Bethesda Hospital Foundation honors local volunteers 

PALM BEACH, FL – November 20, 2014 – 

The Bethesda Hospital Foundation celebrated their 15th annual Women of Grace luncheon with a sold-out crowd of over 650 friends and supporters last Wednesday, November 12th, at the Mar-a-Lago Club.

The Women of Grace luncheon is an annual event that honors five outstanding women who have contributed remarkable service to local organizations while raising support for the foundation to benefit Bethesda’s Center for Women and Children, which includes the area’s only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“Support from the Women of Grace luncheon not only allows us to recognize women making a difference in our community, but it has allowed our Center for Women & Children to flourish with updated technology and resources,” said Mary Morell Blum, chairwoman of the Bethesda Hospital Foundation.

This year, the luncheon kicked off a campaign to renovate the Center’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where over 300 critically ill babies spend the first weeks and sometimes months of their lives every year.  

“As soon as I stepped inside the NICU at Bethesda and saw the miracles happening in there, I knew I wanted the funds raised at our luncheon to support this cause,” said Nilsa McKinney, 2015 Women of Grace chairwoman. McKinney’s passion was echoed throughout the room when Baby Mila, a one-year old baby girl who started her life inside the NICU, came on stage.  There was immediate support for this little future woman of grace and an additional $240,000 was raised for the campaign.

The five honorees this year were nominated by the organizations they serve and were chosen from over 30 nominations. They include Barbara Backer, nominated by the Wayside House; Laurie Raber Gottlieb, nominated by the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League; Fonda Huizenga, nominated by 4 KIDS of South Florida; Una James, nominated by CROS Ministires; and Anne Vegso, nominated by Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, Inc. (AVDA). 

Backer, along with her husband, Ron, run Gracey Backer Inc., an independent insurance agency. She is a mother of three and served on the Gulfstream School Board of Trustees for nine years as a member of the Executive Committee and  Board Treasurer. Barbara has also been a long time friend of Bethesda and served as the Bethesda Ball Chairman. But her true passion is the Wayside House, an addiction recovery center for women by women. Backer has served on the board for 15 years and lead many initiatives including co-chairing the highly successful Spring Boutique Trunk Show for the past five years.

You can find Laurie Raber Gottlieb every Saturday at the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue. Gottlieb has given over 9,000 hours of her time helping train volunteers and increase the adoptability of the animals there. She is also the co-founder and sponsor of the “Off the Leash” program which is now in its third year and has raised over $89,000 for Peggy Adams. Additionally, Laurie and her husband, Steve, are also supporters of the American Friends of MDA, Ibis Wildlife Foundation, KidSanctuary, Kravis Center of Performing Arts and the Salvation Army. 

When Fonda Huizenga visited SafePlace 4KIDS, the emergency intake center for children entering the foster care system, she knew that this mission would forever be her passion and a part of her life. As a mother of four along with husband, Wayne Jr., Fonda serves as a voice for children all over Palm Beach County. Huizenga led the efforts at 4KIDS to teach young moms to cook, to build a shelter for homeless pregnant teens, offer shelter to teens at risk of becoming involved in human trafficking and launched Women of Vision 4KIDS, which raised over $160,000 to create an emergency intake center for children entering the foster care program.

As a member of CROS Ministries Board of Directors’ for 14 years and immediate past chair,  Una James has made a significant impact through her leadership by creating solutions to the unmet needs of our community. In 2008, after seeing a Judge make a public plea on television, James became a Guardian ad Litem and a Mediator certifited by the Florida Supreme Court. She assists with voter registration and advocates on issues as education through the League of Women Voters and was also a founding board member of the Palm Beach County Food Bank. About her nomination as a Women of Grace, James replied, “It’s a great honor to be nominated. I’ve met the other honorees and am really thrilled to be in their company.”

About Bethesda Hospital Foundation
The Bethesda Hospital Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to raising awareness and securing funds to assist Bethesda Health in providing world-class healthcare to our community. Support of the Bethesda Hospital Foundation helps Bethesda Health sustain our Centers of Excellence, provide the latest in technology and advanced medical treatments, improve patient care and support our clinical and nursing staff for the benefit of everyone in our community. Visit www.bethesdahospitalfoundation.com

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