The Saint Agnes Foundation, which supports Ascension Saint Agnes in Baltimore, was the winner of this year’s Sister Mary Walter Boyle Philanthropy Award from the Ascension Council on Philanthropy. The award, which recognizes a significant philanthropic accomplishment by a hospital, foundation or healthcare institution affiliated with Ascension, was presented at the conclusion of the council’s 2019 annual conference.

The foundation was honored for Musical Pacifiers, a fund-raising program to help Ascension Saint Agnes’ tiniest patients cope while in drug withdrawal. The program’s goal was to raise money to buy musical pacifiers known as pacifier-activated lullabies (PAL), which provide music therapy as a method of soothing and teaching infants proper developmental habits.

The Saint Agnes Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit sees about 300 babies annually, and in 2018, 70 infants were treated for neonatal abstinence syndrome, a group of conditions that occur when babies withdraw from certain drugs they are exposed to in the womb. When a baby is sucking on it, a PAL plays a prerecorded lullaby, which can be a song recorded earlier by the baby’s parents.

This effectively addresses withdrawal symptoms, decreasing length of stay and chances for readmission while promoting positive parental interactions. Prior to discharge, the infants are transitioned to a conventional musical pacifier (which plays music, not a recording by the parents) that is sent home with them. The benefits of the PAL device include improved sleep cycles, ability to eat, weight gain, decreased need for narcotics as a treatment, and decreased length of the hospital stay.

The idea was submitted by Kathy Goad, MSN, RNC, CCRN, NICU Nurse Manager, to the Saint Agnes Foundation’s Innovation Tank Contest, which challenges Ascension Saint Agnes associates to present creative ideas on how patient care can be enhanced and community-based programs can get started and flourish. “The Musical Pacifiers program, designed to help pint-sized patients get through drug withdrawal, resonated with people like no other program,” said Season Voelker, Manager, Annual Giving, Saint Agnes Foundation.

The foundation used a creative marketing plan and social media strategy to highlight Musical Pacifiers as its 2018 campaign for Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration that’s celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Giving Tuesday campaigns have a finite window of time to promote them. The foundation relied on volunteers, its Board of Directors and staff to help share information with their personal networks and social media connections. The foundation also used a postcard mailing to generate interest. After just three weeks, the program was 94 percent funded by donations from the Giving Tuesday campaign.

“Of particular interest to the committee was how the Saint Agnes Foundation used social media through Giving Tuesday and more traditional forms of fundraising, to meet its fundraising goal,” said Susan Sellers, President, St. Vincent’s Foundation.

The award provided a $2,000 grant – $1,000 for the award-winning program and $1,000 for the award-winning foundation, to be used for staff development and continuing education.

For more than 30 years, Sister Mary Walter Boyle has been associated with the Ascension Council on Philanthropy. She was a philanthropy pioneer, providing steady promotion and advancement efforts for healthcare causes. An accomplished development professional, she has inspired generations of colleagues with her commitment to excellence, innovation, grace and persistence, and her ever-present smile.



Photo: From left, Donna Budak, Vice President, Foundation Service Line and Strategy & NW Region, AMITA Health Foundation; JoAnne Wooten, Director of Development, Saint Agnes Foundation; Season Voelker; Manager, Annual Giving, Saint Agnes Foundation; and Susan Sellers, President, St. Vincent’s Foundation.