Department Spotlight: Renown Health Foundation

By: Alana Ridge

January 18, 2024

The team at Renown Health Foundation pose for a group photo in front of a Renown Health Foundation sign.

Kick off 2024 with us as we celebrate the team behind our very own Renown Health Foundation! 

When you visit Renown Health, you take a look around and can’t help but notice the robust programs in place. You look left and see our thriving Children’s Miracle Network Hospital at Renown, making a lasting impact on pediatric healthcare in our region. You look right and see the advanced William N. Pennington Cancer Institute, providing leading-edge treatments right here in our community. You look around you and notice an influx of smiling nurses from the Orvis School of Nursing at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) who receive tuition assistance, thanks to generous donations to the Gerald “Jerry” Smith Academic Practice Partnership. Then, you think to yourself: “These programs must need a lot of money and support. So, how on earth is this all possible?” 

What you may not know is that these programs are funded by the generosity of our community, all made possible by the work of Renown Health Foundation. As the largest not-for-profit health system in northern Nevada, our mission to make a genuine difference in the health and well-being of everyone we serve flourishes because of the donations, sponsorships, endowments and more that our Foundation brings in from philanthropists all over the region. 

Making It Happen 

The reach of Renown Health Foundation has proven to be virtually limitless, with a clear focus on supporting and raising funds for programs and initiatives that enhance the lives of our patients and their families, all for the betterment of our community for years to come. 

Under their growing umbrella, the dedicated team at the Foundation makes miracles happen through administering a wide range of philanthropic programs, including:

But it doesn’t stop there – the Foundation is helping our health system build more ways to care for our community by securing major gifts to fund advanced healthcare facilities and innovative healthcare solutions: 

  • William N. Pennington Cancer Institute, the premier oncology institute in the region providing a large array of personalized cancer care services, including Medical Oncology, Infusion Services, Clinical Research and more.
  • Renown Institute for Robotic Surgery, offering the latest advancements in surgical technology with robotic-assisted surgeries, which ensure precision, faster recovery and improved outcomes.
  • Sophie’s Place, a state-of-the-art music therapy room currently in construction at Renown Children’s Hospital. This new space will be specially designed for children and their loved ones to enjoy the healing power of music and engage in the arts.
  • Conrad Breast Center, the latest addition to the planned Specialty Care Center at Renown South Meadows Medical Center which will include breast imaging, infusion and surgery services along with a wellness center. Jeanne and Raymond Conrad donated a $5 million lead gift to support this important project and the Foundation team is currently working to raise an additional $6 million in 2024.

It may go without saying that a day-in-the-life of these spirited team members is never a dull one. Every day brings on a new challenge to face and a goal to meet. 

“A day at the Foundation is a day full of emails, calls and visits with friends of Renown,” said Abbey Stephenson, Planned Giving Officer. “Our main goal is to raise funds to support the mission of Renown, and most of our outreach efforts are to encourage philanthropy and donations. We have a very collaborative team, so we can often be found in each other’s offices strategizing about fundraising initiatives, communications and next steps with specific supporters.” 

“For me, a typical day involves making sure I have a donor scheduled for coffee or lunch, working on proposals that may need research and preparing presentations,” added Jerry Cail, Major Gifts Officer. “Staying connected, I send thank you notes for any donations-usually once a week and make at least three ‘Grateful Patient’ calls to set appointments. I always make sure I am ready to contribute to any meetings I have for the Foundation." 

While the scope of the Foundation’s charitable efforts goes beyond hospital walls, they also thrive right here in our own health system. Through our Grants Program, Renown’s departments and programs can leverage the connections and skills Renown Health Foundation has in order to secure funding from a multitude of grant sources. 

"Grant funds from foundations, and local, state and federal governments benefit the patients and communities we serve to further our mission, vision and values,” said Pam Citrynell, Development Officer. “Past grants have supported the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment, facility development, pandemic recovery, research and clinical trials, physician and researcher recruitment, community health programs and educational training for our healthcare professionals.” 

Every Foundation team member lives their passion every day while at work, frequently expressing gratitude for the immense impact they have the opportunity to make. 

“I love coming to work because I get a very real opportunity to make a genuine difference and meet some fantastic people who believe in and support our mission,” said Leah Nelson, Director of Community Giving. “I have had the honor of meeting donors and the families they support. I couldn't be prouder of what our team has accomplished over the years and am excited for what is to come.” 

The impact of the Foundation team’s tireless efforts extends far into the future, securing Renown’s lasting legacy in contributing to the continued health and well-being of our community. 

“Philanthropy is not only a financial science but a very specific methodology where connecting resources are paramount; it requires careful intelligent management coupled with lots of hard work, patience, and vision,” said Yvonne Murphy, Development Officer. “The work that the foundation does every day makes resources available to enhance the healthcare experience for all those who seek care at Renown. Our work impacts not only this present moment but in fact is a legacy that will bless this community beyond our lifetime.” 

Why Give?

A Renown doctor cares for Emmalee Sutton, 2021 CMN Champion Child Ambassador.

Why Give?

Your support holds the key to making a real difference. No matter the amount, your donation fuels progress in healthcare. When you give to Renown Health Foundation, you invest in a stronger, healthier tomorrow.

A Lifetime of Impact 

At Renown Health Foundation, it’s all about both the programs and the people who ensure the legacy of our health system lives on forever. The enthusiasm and kindness of these team members has helped secure donations from donors with especially inspiring stories. From dancing their hearts out to raise crucial funds for our youngest patients to planting a beautiful garden of healing to encourage comfort and quiet contemplation, the spirit of charity stands powerfully with our individual donors. 

One donor that especially sticks out in these team members’ minds is the Meinzer family, who were inspired to give after witnessing the incredible care that Susie, their loving wife and mother, received while at Renown before she passed. 

“There are so many donations that are memorable; one that stuck out to me was Ken Meinzer and his daughters who donated to Renown after they lost their wife and mother, Susie Meinzer,” said Tina Ruff, Major Gifts Officer. “Ken and his daughters were so thankful for the care they received before Susie passed and how caring and professional the Renown staff were to them. They felt as a family that the right thing to do was to give to Renown Foundation in honor of their loving wife and mother. There are so many wonderful reasons why people give, and it truly is transformational when people decide to donate in honor of someone or just to give because they were so moved by the care our clinicians and staff provide to our patients.” 

Gathering inspiration from art takes on new meanings when it comes to Dan Callis, who was inspired by the art that dawned the walls of Renown Regional Medical Center. His donation in honor of his son stood out to the Foundation as yet another unique and loving example of giving the gift of healing. 

“Dan Callis, an artist and loving father, recently honored Renown with a heartfelt donation – four paintings in memory of his son, Jeremy, who left us in 2022,” said Emily Najera, Development Specialist. “His story is a beautiful narrative of compassion and care, demonstrating the profound impact that art can have on healing. In my role at the Foundation, I have the privilege of crafting and sharing such inspiring stories that highlight the transformative power of generosity and the meaningful connections forged through our shared experiences.” 

Accessing breast cancer care closer to home was made possible by the generous $5 million gift from local philanthropists Jeanne and Raymond Conrad, who themselves were impacted by breast cancer and felt honored to leave this legacy for our patients. This significant donation was garnered through the expertise of our very own Foundation team. 

“The greatest accomplishment for me in 2023 is the Jeanne and Raymond Conrad five-million-dollar gift,” said Yvonne Murphy. “I did a presentation to the Conrads in July 2022 with Dr. Max Coppes and his Cancer Care team. The nexus of my conversation was to inform Renown and its potential donors that no family should have to leave this region for care; in 2016, that was my case. Eight months later, I was informed that the Conrads would give Renown 5 million dollars to create the Conrad Breast Center at Renown South Meadows Medical Center. I am proud of the work I do every day by connecting donors with the needs of our community." 

In the realm of transformative contributions to our health system, the Foundation all express great pride in being a part of a team moving mountains for our patients. 

“From a lead donation toward a state-of-the-art breast cancer center to the first class of nursing students to take part in the Gerald ‘Jerry’ Smith Academic Practice Partnership among many other achievements this past year, I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this incredible team,” said Diego Navarro, Development Specialist. “I am also proud of the strides that we made through Employee and Leader Giving. The generosity and support across the organization goes to show how caring and dedicated Renown employees are toward each other and our mission for the community.” 

Each Renown Health Foundation milestone stands as a testament to the extraordinary impact of their committed team, who never waver in their shared mission for the health of our community. 

A Thankful “Why”

So, why do they do it all? What is the catalyst behind their philanthropic spirit? 

There are many answers to these questions, but one common theme rises above them all: children. 

“I always had a passion for kids, especially after having my own,” said Kiemmy Thai, Foundation Manager for Renown Children’s Hospital. “When I first started in development and fundraising after college, I thought to myself that my goal was to land a job that helps kids whether it be in education or healthcare. Lo and behold at the time, Renown Health, back then known as Washoe Medical, was looking for a development specialist to help coordinate a golf event for Children’s Miracle Network. The rest is history.” 

“Becoming a parent changed my life and made me want to do something to help families in our community; I wanted to give back in a meaningful way,” added Leah Nelson. “During my time at a PR agency, I had the opportunity to work with Hometown Health, which taught me a lot about healthcare and Renown. So, when the chance arose, I applied for a position in Renown’s Marketing and Communications department. It has been 15 years since then, and for the last seven years, I have been working for the Foundation.” 

The eagerness for philanthropy seeps deeply through the Renown Health Foundation Board of Directors, a group of committed and enthusiastic volunteers who all bring a unique set of expertise to help drive positive change at Renown. The Foundation team knows firsthand how influential their efforts have been in fundraising for the organization, giving a special spotlight to Stephanie Kruse, a public relations powerhouse, philanthropist and former nurse who not only served as Renown Health Foundation Board Chair in 2023, but she is also a champion for future nurses through her planned gift to the Renown Health Nursing Excellence Endowment. As proudly stated by Stephanie, “I have a soft spot in my heart for organizations who strive against all odds to help those with the greatest needs.” 

“Our board helps to connect, engage and inspire people in the community to assist with our not-for-profit healing mission,” said Greg Walaitis, Chief Development Officer. 

The work of the Foundation is also supported by many teams across Renown on both the clinical side and non-clinical side, who are vital in ensuring the Foundation’s impact remains strong. 

“I would like to recognize our Child Life and Volunteer Services teams with whom I collaborated during the 2023 holiday season of great giving at Renown Children’s Hospital,” said Christine Foote, Development Specialist. “They were such a pleasure to work with and greeted every single donor with warm smiles. I also want to thank our Marketing and Communications team for showing up for all the photo opportunities and helping support Renown Children’s Miracle Network on social media. I am relatively new to Renown Health Foundation, so getting to know these colleagues meant so much.” 

“I thank the executive assistants to our President’s Council members; they made themselves available for all questions I’ve had while learning my job with the utmost kindness and patience,” added Mary Proffitt, Administrative Assistant. “Success in my position is measured by how I can help our Chief Development Officer Greg Walaitis and the entire team be as effective as possible, and they were instrumental in helping me learn how to do that. I would also like to recognize the purchasing and accounts payable team who have also helped me navigate the requisition system. They have also been very understanding and patient while I educate myself on the system they use." 

“Working with the Marketing and Communications department is crucial to a successful event at the Foundation,” added Hannah Stigall, Development Specialist. “They help us in educating the community about Renown being a not-for-profit hospital. No matter what the event may be, from our annual golf tournament to major donor announcements, that team is willing to help us get the message out.” 

Uniting a career with your own passion is a special encounter the Foundation team gets to experience each day – and they are forever thankful for the opportunity. 

“I am fortunate to work in an organization where I can incorporate my passion into my career,” said Kiemmy Thai. “To be able to work with wonderful colleagues, caregivers and supporters of the community; share miracle stories, and genuinely making a difference for kids is why I love doing what I do every day. And the best part is getting to know the families and watching patients thrive, grow up and be part of their lives.” 

Renown Health Foundation is seeking devoted community members who would like to contribute to a healthier tomorrow with a generous gift for one of our top priorities that will help us meet – and exceed – our important mission:

  • Renown Children’s Hospital Endowment – Because every child deserves the best care now and into the future.
  • William N. Pennington Cancer Institute – Because no one should have to travel far for exceptional care.
  • Renown Institute for Robotic Surgery – Because the future of surgical excellence is driven by innovation and technology.
  • The Gerald “Jerry” Smith Academic Practice Partnership in Support of Nurses – Because nurturing the nursing talent of Nevada is vital.

Please consider Joining the Good Fight today at

“As the northern Nevada community continues to grow, the work of Renown Health Foundation continues to help ensure that Renown has the capabilities to provide the best care today and for future generations,” closes Diego Navarro. 

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