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Honorary Trustees Combine Lifelong Friendships and Commitments to Valley


When The Valley Hospital in Paramus opens its doors in 2023, it will be a testament, in part, to the role philanthropy has played in its vision and realization. While there are donors who are giving for the first time, there are many for whom support of the new hospital is part of a lifetime of philanthropy and commitment to Valley. This is true for three couples – Alice and Tom Palmer, Pat and Denis Sullivan, and Gerry and Rod Verblaauw – longtime friends of Valley and volunteers, board members, and leadership donors to the new hospital project.

Now in the distinguished roles of honorary trustees – Tom Palmer and Denis Sullivan for the foundation board, Rod Verblaauw for the hospital board – the families have been friendly for many years, sharing rounds of golf, lunches, and holidays, in addition to the time spent together in service to Valley. "The 'why' and 'how' that brought them to Valley may be different, but the commonality is that they were all inspired to be involved with Valley through their volunteerism and philanthropy" explains David Bohan, Vice President and Chief Development Officer of The Valley Hospital Foundation. "The recent gifts made by the Palmers, Sullivans, and Verblaauws to support the new hospital will have a positive impact for years to come."

Tom and Alice Palmer

For Tom and Alice Palmer, a commitment to Valley runs in the family. Alice's parents, Becky and Frank Kraus, were longtime Valley supporters who "believed deeply that The Valley Hospital was very important to the community." Becky, an artist, served on the Auxiliary for many years and volunteered at Kurth Cottage Café. Frank, a former Mayor of Mahwah, served on the hospital board for 12 years. Joking that he married into a "Valley" family, Tom, a South Carolina native, expressed that his in-laws were a great influence and that they were proud to have a long association with the hospital. The couple has continued to honor Becky and Frank's legacy with Valley commitments of their own: Alice was a member of the Auxiliary and is currently a member of Women For Health, while Tom served three terms as a trustee on the Valley Hospital Foundation Board. With many years of multi-generational volunteerism at both the hospital and the Foundation to reflect on, Tom expressed affection for the whole team behind the scenes, commending Valley Health System President and CEO Audrey Meyers and the Foundation staff for their enthusiasm, dedication and perseverance on projects big and small.

The couple, owners of DAF products in Wyckoff, has chosen to name a conference room in the new administrative suite in honor of Frank and Becky. Explains Tom, "We're thrilled that Valley is building a new building. Because Alice's parents were involved and proud to be associated with the original hospital, we thought it was important to make a contribution in honor of them at the new one."

Denis and Pat Sullivan

When Denis Sullivan's printing company moved from New York City across the river to Secaucus, NJ, in the late 1960s, Denis and his wife Pat saw it as the perfect time to move their family to New Jersey as well. In 1971 they made their first home in Ridgewood before moving to Wyckoff in 1995. While the couple was active in the community, Denis jokes that when he retired in 1997, he went looking for "something to do." It was a friend's wife who chaired the Auxiliary and suggested that Denis might be interested in the work of the Foundation. After meeting with former Foundation President, Ann Swenson, and former Valley Hospital President, Mike Azzara, Denis quickly became involved: first as a member of different Steering Committees, before joining the Foundation Board as a Trustee in 1997. Pat has been an engaged member of Women For Health since 2014.

"Getting involved with Valley is one of the best decisions I ever made," Denis exclaimed. For him and Pat, supporting the hospital was an easy decision, and helped inform their recent gift, choosing to name two medical surgical patient rooms. "There is a clear need for this new facility," explains Pat. "We want to continue our commitment and to be tied in with them."

Rod and Gerry Verblaauw

Rod Verblaauw estimates that he and wife Gerry have committed 45 years to The Valley Hospital. Gerry, an Auxiliary member for 35 years, was first a member of the Wyckoff branch, serving as chair 1990 to 1992 before moving onto the Auxiliary board where she served as Vice President of Volunteer Services. Rod's Valley involvement began when he President of Citizens First National Bank of New Jersey, working closely with past hospital president John Peterson. He then chaired the Auxiliary's Golf Tournament for over 10 years, and shortly thereafter was asked to join the hospital's board. Rod jokes that he never "asked" to be on the board and that he would have been happy to continue to volunteer as he was doing. Instead, he served three terms and sat on "every committee." Even when the couple was spending the majority of time in Florida, Rod would fly back to NJ for the day to attend a board meeting.

Although the couple splits their time between Sanibel Island, Florida and Wyckoff, they call Bergen County "home" and say Valley is their hospital of choice. "Valley has taken a bold step to build a new hospital for the 21st Century," explains the couple, who will be naming a family lounge. "For us, it was worthwhile to help that cause and we wanted to make that commitment."

For all three families, the ability to generously give on a personal level is just one part of their responsibility as lifelong Valley volunteers. "Perhaps even more important," explained Rod Verblaauw, "is to serve as ambassadors for the hospital whenever there is an opportunity to do so." For Denis Sullivan, a lifelong salesman, fundraising has been at the heart of his work as a board member, and he has loved his time meeting with both donors and potential donors to build relationships and solicit gifts to benefit the hospital.

As longtime Bergen County residents, each family can speak personally to the excellent and world-class care at Valley. They also recognize, proudly, that this will be "their" hospital for years to come. "Valley Hospital is important to the area, to the community," explained Tom Palmer. "And in turn, it's important that the community support Valley."