Digital mammography machine celebrated


Whidbey General Hospital Foundation

Thursday, Oct. 30, a community reception at the Whidbey General Hospital North community clinic on Goldie Road will celebrate the successful completion of a year-long campaign by Soroptimists International of Oak Harbor.

A presentation plaque highlighted by a pink glass ribbon created by local artist Gary Berner will be unveiled to recognize the multitude of organizations, businesses and individuals who supported this cause to purchase a digital mammography machine for the facility.

The first patient will be screened Nov. 5.

The fundraising campaign of the Soroptimists to purchase a digital mammography screening unit for the Whidbey General Hospital North community clinic has received astounding community support, achieving the campaign goal ahead of schedule.

The Soroptimists’ Digital Mammography Community Campaign kicked off Oct. 27, 2007, with the ladies giving pink carnations to customers at Albertson’s, Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Saar’s Market Place. The campaign’s objective was to raise $240,000 by January 2009.

Digital mammography is the state-of-the-art in modern early detection programs because it provides enhanced images immediately to physicians. By early 2007 Whidbey General Hospital was able to fund only the replacement of analog mammography equipment with modern digital technology at the main hospital and at the Whidbey General South community clinic due to budget constraints. With these purchases, the analog machine at North Whidbey Clinic was no longer compatible and services there were suspended. Hospital projections indicated the demand for services in North and Central Whidbey could be served at the main hospital in Coupeville. These projections soon proved to have underestimated the need.

The women of the Oak Harbor Soroptimist club took on the challenge. Soroptimist members approved the campaign after a presentation on digital mammography from Randy White, manager, WGH Diagnostic Imaging Department. Three women volunteered to co-chair the campaign, Peggy Whitford, Kathy Wagoner and Sally Maylor.

“The powerful impact digital mammography can have on the early detection of breast cancer spoke directly to the the Soroptimist mission of ‘Improving the lives of women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world’,” said co-chair Kathy Wagoner.

To generate awareness and funding, campaign chairs made presentations to any group who invited them. A highlight of each presentation was the video, “One in Eight” produced by Jim Riney of Riney Production Services, a powerful video on the importance of mammograms featuring local breast cancer survivors. Posters were developed which featured local women survivors. Local businesses placed jars at their registers for donations. Local service organizations and community groups initiated small fundraising events or pledged the proceeds of regular fundraising to the digital mammography campaign. Hundreds of women purchased the black scarf adorned with pink ribbons, which became a signature of the campaign.

The first major donation was $5,000 from Soroptimist life member, Bev Elvebak. Large pledges followed over the first months of the campaign from the WGH Foundation, $35,000 from the Tour de Whidbey; Island Thrift, $20,000; Soroptimist International of Oak Harbor, $20,000; Rotary Club of Oak Harbor, $20,000; WGH Auxiliary, $10,000; and an anonymous donation of $15,000.

The local Soroptimist pledge was made from the club’s service fund and a $10,000 diamond raffle. Club member Gloria Carothers’ Jewelry Gallery donated the $3,000 .48 carat Hearts on Fire Diamond. Terri Gardner won the diamond at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon on October 16th.

The Digital Mammography Campaign was recognized locally as a Linda Lee Martens Health Hero and took first place in Soroptimist International of the Americas Celebrating Success 2008 in the category of Status of Women and Girls. President Tamra Sipes received the award at the SIA Convention in Taipei, Taiwan this past July.  

The campaign was capped this month with the generous donation of $20,000 from Robert and June Sebo. The Sebos actually initiated the transformation of mammography at Whidbey General Hospital from analog to digital in late 2006 with a large gift, followed in early 2007 with a second gift. These gifts had been given to honor the memory of Joan Irene Sebo, who lost her life to the disease.

With these gifts, WGH had been able to purchase the full diagnostic unit for the review and interpretation of mammography images as well as the screening equipment now in use at the main hospital in Coupeville. Upon hearing of the Soroptimists’ fundraising campaign the Sebos wished to continue their support for the women of Whidbey Island with another gift in memory of Mr. Sebo’s first wife.

“The heart and soul of our community was behind the success of our campaign,” said co-chair Sally Maylor. “Local businesses, service organizations, church groups and over 200 individual donors responded to the need with enthusiastic generosity. The overwhelming support of the community, including Soroptimist silent partner, the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation, made it possible to raise the funds and celebrate the purchase several months ahead of schedule.”

Co-chair Peggy Whitford expressed the Soroptomists’ feelings upon reaching their goal. “We are excited to have completed the campaign in October, Breast Cancer Awareness month. One in eight women will have breast cancer in their lifetime and this is the perfect opportunity to be reminded of how fortunate our community is to have the latest technology to help in the early detection of this terrible disease.”

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