Evelyn Hope Olson

A Charitable Heart

This September [2011], Evelyn Hope Olson of Sparta will celebrate her 97th birthday. While a typical day for this outgoing nonagenarian no longer includes golfing or driving,  Evelyn finds enjoyment in other favorite activities, such as playing bridge, baking for church events and supporting the work of Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation.

Evelyn made her first charitable gift to the Foundation in 1993, in gratitude for the exceptional care she received following successful heart surgery in 1992. She has been a loyal supporter ever since. “I give because I believe in what the Foundation is doing,” Evelyn explains.

A Heritage Society member by virtue of her generous annual giving, Evelyn has also made memorial gifts to honor good friends who have passed away. “I’m just a common person who tries to do what I can,” she says modestly.

Robyn Tanke, CFRE, Senior Director of Development for Gundersen Lutheran  Medical Foundation, respectfully disagrees. “Evelyn has such a good and generous heart; she is just an outstanding example of philanthropy at its best. We are so grateful for her loyalty and commitment.”

When the Foundation reaches out to friends in annual phone-a-thons for support, Evelyn’s longtime response is a wholehearted ‘yes.’ “Sometimes it’s $500, sometimes $1,000,” Evelyn says. “When I get their call, I give what I can.”

The decision to make provisions for Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation in her will is a further expression of Evelyn’s commitment to giving what she can, even after she is gone. It’s also a testament to the depth of this grateful patient’s relationship with Gundersen Lutheran. Evelyn is quick to praise the physicians, nurses and other care providers she has met through the years, helping her recover from cataract surgery or through visits to the pain clinic. She has an especially warm regard for Dr. A. Erik Gundersen, her “wonderful” heart surgeon who now serves as the Foundation’s vice chairman. Dr. Erik not only calls to thank Evelyn personally for her gifts, “he even sends birthday cards!”

A high point of Evelyn’s year was attending her first Heritage Night event, a donor recognition celebration hosted by the Foundation. Beyond being a lovely evening spent with friends, it made Evelyn proud to see how contributions to the Foundation are invested in medical education, research and community health efforts. It’s a legacy she feels good about supporting, during her lifetime and beyond. “But if I get to be 100,” Evelyn says with a smile, “I may need to spend it all. Who knows?”
Back to Top