When Brenda Nease was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, listening to music and playing the piano helped her through her treatment and recovery.
Now Nease uses music to help other patients and their families at Emory Winship Cancer Institute. Several years after her treatment, Nease became a volunteer and a member of the Emory Winship advisory board.
In honor of Nease's work, a longtime friend Howard Tellepsen and his family donated $25,000 to Emory Winship to establish the Brenda Nease Fund.
Through support from the fund, Nease suggested the purchase of a Yamaha C1 baby grand piano for Emory Winship's lobby. The gift also supports the piano's maintenance.
Every week Nease can be found playing everything from old standards to classical tunes in the institute's lobby.
"We encourage volunteers, students, faculty, and members of the Emory community to come and play whenever they can," says Nease, who plays at least once a week. "Now some of the patients are even beginning to come in and play the piano, which is better than I ever imagined. The piano is so beautiful, and I am just thrilled so many people have been playing."
Tellepsen, a Georgia Tech graduate, understands how Nease's personal experiences have led to her dedication. His 93-year-old mother also is a breast cancer survivor.
"Brenda is so pleased to be on the advisory board at Emory Winship, and I was honored when she called and gave me an opportunity to make a gift," says Tellepsen, chairman and CEO of a 100-year-old, family-owned construction company in Houston. "I'm just happy to be able to help her help others. This is a gift that keeps giving because it is not only a gift for Emory Winship, but for all of the patients."
Emory Winship executive director Walter J. Curran shares this sentiment.
"The gifts of time, talent, and philanthropy that Brenda Nease brings to her volunteerism efforts at Emory Winship make a meaningful difference for everyone. We are humbled by her thoughtful focus on the patient experience," Curran says.
Since the piano was delivered in September, patients arriving at Emory Winship for early morning appointments have often been greeted by the sound of staff member Tricia Harper playing hymns before her shift begins.
"When I saw that they needed volunteers willing to play I immediately responded," says Harper, an ultrasound technologist who began playing piano again in the past couple of years after being away from the instrument for many years. "I have a keyboard I play at home, but there is nothing like a real piano. I mostly play old church songs that a lot of people recognize, and I think they find it comforting and soothing. Just about every day one or two people will come by and say thank you or to tell me they enjoy it."
The Tellepsen family's gift is part of Campaign Emory, a $1.6 billion fund-raising endeavor that combines private support and the University's people, places, and programs to make a powerful contribution to the world. Investments through Campaign Emory fuel efforts to address fundamental challenges: improving health, gaining ground in science and technology, resolving conflict, harnessing the power of the arts, and educating the heart and mind.
If you would like to volunteer to play the piano at Emory Winship, please contact DaVida Lee-Williams (404.778.2405), Emory Winship's coordinator of volunteer services.
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