In 1992 the RWJ University Hospital Foundation received $145,000 from the Estate of Warren Richter, who bequeathed all of his assets to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital to support the purchase of various patient mobility equipment and resources. Over the next decade as the remainder of his estate was settled, the total gift from Mr. Richter would exceed $1.3 million dollars. Throughout the years, the fund has been used to purchase wheelchairs and patient recliners for use in the hospital, as well as wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility resources for patient use outside of the hospital. The file folder for the fund is rich with stories of impact, but one in particular stands out. In May 2000, the Foundation purchased a wheelchair for a young boy who suffered from spinal muscular dystrophy. His family was unable to afford a wheelchair when his condition deteriorated. At the time, the wheelchair cost $13,829.34.
The young man would grow up to achieve many accomplishments – he was a natural scholar and committed to service. In 2006 he enrolled at Rutgers College, where he excelled in academics and joined organizations dedicated to working on behalf of homeless individuals and in defense of human rights. Professors said he was a brave and gentle, wonderful soul. He wanted to change the world. His mother had said that he was “…not to be pitied. He never had the attitude of ‘I can’t.’ It was always ‘I can, and I will make this happen for myself.’”
Sadly, the young man suffered a seizure in 2007 and passed away. The following year, his parents wrote a letter to the Foundation. In it they said that “[Our son’s] many accomplishments were in large part made possible by the mobility and accessibility offered by his chair. The Foundation will always be a wonderful memory in the life of our cherished son.” Along with the letter was a check for $13,829.34 – the exact cost of the wheelchair purchased with money from the Richter Fund eight years before. His parents had received some settlement monies and said that they wanted to repay the Foundation so that some other youngster who needed a wheelchair would benefit in the same way their son did. They were so grateful for the gift that had provided their son with opportunities to succeed, to attend college, and to make a difference, and they chose to honor his memory by helping others like him.
When we talk about the impact of a gift, it is rare that we see it return full circle like this. Mr. Richter and this family remind us that one gift really can make a difference.