Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 30, 1996 Form

Open Your Heart To
The United Way

Mike Field
Staff Writer
The university kicked off its 1996 United Way campaign on the Homewood campus Sept. 26 with free coffee and doughnuts and an old-fashioned brass band. The idea was to remind people how even the smallest acts of goodwill can make a big difference to others.

It started first thing, at 7:30 a.m. Faculty and staff were greeted at three different parking lots on the campus by volunteers stationed at strategically located tents with urns of coffee, trays of doughnuts and loads of smiles. There would be a 10 a.m. kick-off program in Shriver Hall, commuters were told, please join us.

Those that did were serenaded by the Carrolton Brass as they arrived. In an effort to highlight this year's theme, "Open Your Heart," pre-schoolers from Lafayette Square Day Care Center offered greetings while volunteers handed out cups of cider and heart-shaped cookies.

Inside, Homewood student affairs dean Larry Benedict welcomed the approximately 350 faculty and staff who attended the half hour event. Benedict, who chairs this year's effort, reminded his audience that individual contributions are the essence of the campaign.

"The United Way campaign helps fund 300 deserving health and social services agencies," he said. "One out of three people in Central Maryland--that's almost 600,000 people--are touched by United Way services each year."

This year's campaign seeks to raise $630,000 from the Hopkins university community. As in years past, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Bayview Campus, the Medical Services Corporation and SAIS have also identified goals and are conducting their own individual campaigns. The Applied Physics Laboratory has embarked upon a pace-setting campaign of its own that has already raised more than $347,000 in pledges and contributions.

One of the agencies supported by the United Way is the American Red Cross. Theresa Balcer, an administrative secretary in the Whiting School's Department of Mechanical Engineering, offered her own personal testimony to the importance of the Red Cross.

On June 24, 1995, Balcer lost control of her car and crashed between two trees, splitting her abdomen from side to side and severing the artery in one leg.

She was in Shock Trauma for more than nine weeks. "While I was there I received 65 units of red blood, 95 units of platelets and 57 units of plasma," she told her audience. "In the first night alone I lost 4 gallons of blood, which is three times the body supply."

Balcer credits the Red Cross blood supply network with saving her life. "My story is about many people who don't even know me helping me," she said. "When we hear the words United Way, for me it means something real, it means being truly united. I owe my life to the community coming together in unity. The blood of the community flows through me, and to all of you I can only say thank you."

After the kickoff, Balcer, who has been back at work since December, confided she wanted to do more than simply say thank you in her remarks. She had also arranged to have her 9-year-old son Tyler in the audience.

"More than anything I wanted my son to be there," she said. "He saw me when my head was swollen the size of a basketball and this was my chance to say, 'Hey, your mom's OK,' but if it wasn't for all these people out there, she wouldn't be. The United Way made a difference in my life and I wanted to be sure he knows that."

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