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Enhancing Lives

Bonner General Health Foundation enriches local health care By Patty Hutchens Photos Courtesy of Bonner General Health

Enhancing Lives

Many people move to Sandpoint for the quality of life, beautiful scenery and endless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors year-round. While many may assume that living in a rural area means sacrificing access to quality health care, that is not the case for those who call Sandpoint and the surrounding area home. Bonner General Health, with the support of the Bonner General Health Foundation, provides quality services that many may assume they would have to travel to Coeur d’Alene or Spokane to receive.

The Foundation was originally formed in 1979 with a purpose to educate the community and provide additional medical equipment to Bonner General, but after a while it went dormant.

“It was re-established in November of 2007,” said Bonner General Health’s CEO Sheryl Rickard, who explains that the board of directors for Bonner General Health felt that there needed to be an increased awareness of the resources available to Sandpoint and the surrounding community. Also, as a nonprofit hospital, they struggled to keep up with technology, as there was not enough money in the operating budget to purchase new equipment. But that all changed with the revived Foundation and the extraordinary effort by many in the community to help raise funds.

Erin Binnall has served as the community development manager for Bonner General Health since January of 2017. In her role, she oversees the Foundation and actively engages with local partners to collaborate and identify health needs and resources to benefit Bonner County. She also oversees marketing for Bonner General Health and works closely with the Foundation board and the advisory council to bring awareness and engage community members regarding the importance and positive impact a strong health-care system has not only for improving health but also for our local economy. The Foundation board consists of a diverse group of 11 individuals, which includes people from the tourism industry, medical community, financial industry, members of local businesses and retirees. They are a working board that meets monthly to discuss the needs of Bonner General Health and to discuss the best way to meet those needs. In addition to the board, there is also an advisory council made up of 65 members of the community that meets quarterly with Binnall and the rest of the Foundation board members.

“These meetings are to increase their knowledge of the comprehensive services and programs offered by BGH; to develop a better understanding of the equipment and technology needed to operate a community hospital like BGH; and to provide a platform to provide advice and recommendations to the BGH Foundation about fundraising programs and activities,” said Binnall. “(The Council) acts as ‘two-way communicators’ in the community, conveying information about BGH and the BGH Foundation, and providing feedback they receive from community members.”

One of the ways the Bonner General Health Foundation raises money is through its annual Heart Ball—now in its 12th year. Over the years, the Heart Ball, as well as various letter-writing campaigns, have raised more than $820,000 to better serve the needs of the Sandpoint community and beyond.

Some of the ways the Foundation has enriched local health care is through the purchase of a portable ultrasound machine, surgical warming cabinets and cardiac equipment. And to the delight of many, it has fulfilled some of the wish lists for the pediatric and rehabilitation departments. Money raised has also been used to remodel the obstetrics department, purchase an orthopedic surgical table, and has helped to significantly elevate the overall patient care environment. Last year, the Foundation presented Bonner General Health with a check for $132,000 to help fund new equipment for ENT surgical procedures.

Binnall explains that a great deal goes into the decision of deciding what the Heart Ball funds will be used for each year. “The hospital leadership team prioritizes needs and introduces those needs to the Foundation board,” said Binnall. “After discussion between the board and hospital administration, the Foundation will vote on which need will make the most impact in the community.” This year the funds raised at the February 15th event will be used to fund a new ophthalmology clinic. “Since the retirement of Dr. George, Bonner County residents are having to travel to Coeur d’Alene and Spokane to receive ophthalmology and eye surgery services,” said Binnall, who adds that the new provider, Dr. Torres, will be joining the Bonner General Health team February 3, 2020. “Dr. Torres recently retired from 30 years of active duty military service in the U.S. Army. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He completed ophthalmology residency training at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, and additional fellowship training in the sub-specialties of Corneal Surgery and Refractive Surgery at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, University of California Los Angeles.”

The annual Heart Ball consists of a beautiful sit-down three-course dinner preceded by a social hour and an opportunity to mingle with other attendees. There will be several live auction packages and an incredible dessert auction, which is always wildly popular. Some of the items up for auction include packages such as Stock your Cellar and Unforgettable Florence, just to name a couple. Following the auction, attendees stay to dance the night away in the beautifully transformed space.

Tickets to this year’s Heart Ball are $150 for an individual ticket or $2,000 to sponsor a table of eight. Sponsorship for a table of 10 is $2,200. The highly popular event will have appetizers and dinner catered by Tango Café, a full cash bar provided by Trinity at City Beach and music provided by Rox Music Company.

The needs of Bonner General Health are constantly evolving and increasing. If you would like to make a donation to the Foundation to support the health care in our community, there are many ways to do so. You can make a gift to honor the memory of someone who has made a difference in your life or to commemorate a special occasion. You may also leave a legacy through gifting through your estate—through a bequest, charitable remainder trust, charitable gift annuity and life estate gift annuity.

“You may also donate by volunteering your time to support quality patient care and support services to our many service lines,” said Binnall. “Every donor’s contribution helps build the hospital and additional service programs that make excellent health care possible for those who live in Sandpoint and the surrounding areas. A gift to the Bonner General Health Foundation multiplies your generosity many times over.”

Members of the Bonner General Health Foundation are Debbie Heiser, Georgia Simmons, Justin Dick, Margi Gunter, Grant Simmons, Chris Chambers, Carol Davis, Allen McClelland, Stephanie Aitken, Dr. Tom Lawrence and Patty Hutchens. Outgoing board members are Matt Mire and Justin Schuck. To learn more about the 2020 Heart Ball, to sponsor a table or purchase tickets, please contact Erin Binnall at 208.265.3390 or email her at You can also log onto to learn more about the Foundation’s efforts.

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