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January 4, 2018

Donations Help Fund Patient Programs

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ThedaCare Cancer Care Music Therapy Program is One of Many to Benefit From Gifts to ThedaCare Family of Foundations Area of Greatest Need

When music therapists assist cancer patients and their families at the inpatient oncology unit of ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton, extraordinary things can happen.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, the music program helps difficult conversations seem a little easier, patients breathe a little better, and caregivers get a chance to relax. And sometimes there are powerful moments, such as when a comatose patient began singing along with family, said Sara Devine, owner of Expressive Therapies in Appleton, which provides the service.

“We heard later that the patient was lucid for the afternoon and able to have some great conversations with their loved ones,” Devine said. “And that’s not unusual after a music therapy session. It’s so powerful, what music can do.”

The music therapy program is just one of many key patient programs that are funded by gifts to the area of greatest need fund within the ThedaCare Family of Foundations. In the midst of the holidays and donors think of ways they can give back, a gift toward the area of greatest need can help patients experience special moments like this.

Gifts from the community have made many other projects possible, too, like comforting massage therapy for hospice patients, home visits to homebound and at-risk individuals through the Community Paramedic Program, and crucial training for operating nurses through the simulated operating room at the Learning Center for Perioperative Services.

“These unrestricted gifts provide the ThedaCare Family of Foundations the ability to grant funds where and when they’re needed most,” said Courtney Weiland, vice president of philanthropy.

“Gifts to area of greatest need allow us to respond quickly to give patients and the programs that help them meaningful support.”

In 2016, donations to the area of greatest need also helped enhance the SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program. With that support, ThedaCare added a regional SANE coordinator at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton and ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah, creating a more reliable resource for patients and stronger partnerships with local police departments and community organizations. SANE’s expansion also allows for more comprehensive coverage for victims of sexual assault, training 15 SANE nurses throughout the ThedaCare system and the addition of a crisis suite at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton. The percentage of hours that a SANE nurse was available during the month increased from 41 percent in August 2016 to 90 percent in November 2017.

For the music therapy program, donor generosity has meant more than 700 patients and their families have benefitted from the service at the regional cancer center. During the last two years, the service has been offered four days per week on the seventh floor of ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton.

“We are getting more referrals than we have capacity for, and that’s a beautiful thing in the sense that more people understand the power of music therapy,” Devine said. “It’s also difficult, because how do you choose which patients will receive the therapy?”

In 2018, the unit hopes to expand the program to five days per week, said Leigh McNamara, the manager of inpatient oncology at the Appleton hospital. Gifts to the area of greatest need can help make that happen.

“It can bring tears to people’s eyes to reflect on their experience with the music therapist, and it can be just what they needed at that time,” McNamara said. “It’s a very holistic approach and it’s been an amazing addition for oncology patients and their families.”

To learn more about the ThedaCare Family of Foundations and the impact of donor support, or make a donation, please visit or email 

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose, as well as 32 clinics in nine counties and the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.  For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter