Published on April 27, 2012

Second $1 Million Gift Will Benefit Hospice and Cancer Care

Providing primary care for a loved one who is dying can be one of life’s most difficult journeys.

JoAnn Waddell was experiencing the overwhelming physical and emotional exhaustion of providing care at home for her husband of 40 years. Gene Waddell was dying of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

JoAnn, assisted by the couple’s daughter, Debbie, who had taken a leave of absence from her work to help care for Gene, was reaching a point where even with help she was breaking down physically herself. She wanted Gene to be at home, where family and friends could visit and lift his spirits. That, however, was becoming increasingly difficult because of the physical toll and progression of the disease.

“Someone mentioned hospice, and I didn’t really know what it was,’’ JoAnn said. “I called Genesis and the next day we had a nurse Gene liked, a hospital bed, equipment and support for taking care of Gene. It was a blessing.

“One really bad night when my husband was in so much pain. I didn’t know what I was going to do. It was 3 a.m. when I called the nurse, and she was here within 15 minutes.’’

Through her tears, JoAnn added, “Genesis was a godsend at a really hard time.’’

Only two years later, JoAnn sought the support of Genesis Hospice again when she was taking care of her mother, who was dying of cancer.

The care received from Genesis Health System over a long life together -- heart care, home health, visiting nurses -- was part of the couple’s story together.

Together, Gene and JoAnn Waddell had walked hand-in-hand as life and business partners in Gene Waddell Metal Recycling in Blue Grass. From virtually nothing, they built a life and the highly successful business.

The Waddells had the resources to be generous with their family members and charities that were important to them. They enjoyed sharing their blessings.

Now, JoAnn is sharing extraordinary gifts with Genesis while she can still see and enjoy the benefits to Genesis patients and caregivers.

She recently has made a second $1 million gift to the Genesis Health Services Foundation. The first gift, made anonymously at the time, was to support cancer patients and their caregivers. The second gift will benefit Genesis cancer care and hospice services, which meant so much to JoAnn when she was taking care of Gene.

The most recent gift will establish the Gene and JoAnn Waddell Regional Fund for Hospice and Cancer Care. The chapel of the Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House in Bettendorf will be named for them.

“There are other people who could make extraordinary gifts during their lifetime. If you can do it, it is very rewarding,’’ JoAnn said. “For me, seeing the impact of giving is such a joy.’’

The gift JoAnn made to the Genesis Cancer Care Institute has been used to initiate new programs, provide wigs for cancer patients, and launch the inaugural Breast Cancer Couples Retreat last winter. JoAnn was touched to receive thank you cards from the participating couples.

“If I had waited until I had passed to make these gifts, I wouldn’t have experienced the joy of having these couples benefit from our gift.’’

JoAnn’s gift to Genesis Hospice will benefit terminal patients and their caregivers. “Hopefully this will inspire others to give and support hospice families and to be aware of the support that is available for them,” she said. “There are so many great services, and our gifts will benefit hospice patients for years to come.’’

A tree will be planted at the Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House in Bettendorf to honor Gene. It’s a small gesture but a poignant one that is part of the Waddell family story.

Gene Waddell once planted a scraggly looking tree at the business in Blue Grass. The tree survived and is still thriving today.

“He liked underdogs, even trees,’’ JoAnn said. “Our gifts can be like that tree. They can provide shelter and comfort for years to come to people who are in need.”

Gifts of support assist Genesis in planning for the future health care needs of the region. Find out how gifts have an impact by calling (563) 421-6865 or going to www.genesishealth.com/give.

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