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National Frist Humanitarian Award Charitable Donation Update!

Written by Robin Yoder

In September of 2021, I was named the National Recipient of the HCA Healthcare Frist Humanitarian Award. With that award came $5000 to the charity of my choice. I split that award between two local non-profits near and dear to my heart, Sportable, and The Hawthorne Cancer Foundation. Sportable, is a Richmond-based Paralympic sport and recreational club for people living with physical disabilities and visual impairments. The Hawthorne Cancer Foundation is a local cancer foundation that helps people in the Richmond Metro area deal with the challenges of living with cancer.

I have been involved with Sportable as an athlete since the beginning of my journey with cancer and the amputation of my right leg in 2010. I personally have participated in running, triathlons, rowing, and most recently, Pickleball. Half of that award was given to Sportable earmarked for a Pickleball program. Thanks to Sportable and the Chesterfield Pickleball Association Founder, Linda Scott, and the awesome volunteers, an Adaptive Pickleball program was introduced and was successfully held this past summer for 9 consecutive Tuesday evenings at Chesterfield Career and Technical Center. 15 athletes from youth to adults came out to learn and participated. The majority of the athletes were chair athletes with a few stand up athletes like myself. This program required many things to be successful: location, staff, athletes, volunteers, equipment, funding, and an enthusiasm to learn something new!

The story of how I became involved with Pickleball is a sweet story that I would like to share to put context to why I earmarked my award to a Pickleball program. In April of 2021, I participated in the Sportable running program. The world was still very much dealing with COVID but this was an outdoor program and for the first time it was being held in Chesterfield County near my home, at Swift Creek Middle School. I hadn’t done much recent running but I was ready to get outside and be around people so the timing and location worked out for me to get back involved and to get myself moving again. The goal for everyone was to complete the Sportable Stampede 5K. After one of the training sessions, the opportunity was presented to everyone, to check out Pickleball up on the Tennis courts. I didn’t know anything about Pickleball and I wasn’t really interested in learning either. I am very rarely intimidated to challenge myself or to try new things but for some reason, I was intimidated. One big problem, between the track and my car was the Tennis courts. Because Amy and Forrest and all the volunteers had done such a super job organizing the running program and were kind enough to offer us an opportunity to try something new and different and supposedly, popular, I felt as though I couldn’t say “no thank you” without coming across as rude. I didn’t in good conscious, know how to walk past the courts where everyone enthusiastically flocked once the running session ended so I timidly walked through the gate of the courts and stood up against the fence nervously trying to come up with a polite escape plan! Then, Forrest put a paddle in my hand and hit the ball to me. And much to my surprise, I made contact and hit the ball back. At some point, Amy approached me and started hitting to me and educating me on the rules. And before I knew it, all that intimidating stress melted away and we were playing Pickleball!

I have come to love this sport and I am beginning to believe that I really can play with most people, able bodied or otherwise. But recently, I was faced with that similar feeling of intimidation that I shared earlier. Every Saturday I know there is open court play. I don’t know anyone who plays on Saturdays but I wanted to play. A few Saturdays ago, I woke up early, gathered all my stuff, and decided I was going to go insert myself in the pick-up rounds and play. And again, I became my own conflict. I felt intimidated….AGAIN! This time because I know that I am different and that I look different physically from everyone else. And because of my physical difference, comes many assumptions. I know my ability but others don’t. So I paced around my house and found a million and one excuses to stay home to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of everyone looking at me and wondering. I then thought back to that initial day when Forrest put a paddle in my hand and Amy started hitting the ball to me. And somehow, I mustered up the courage to get in my car (2 hours later) to simply show up and participate like everyone else. Emotionally, I said to myself, “my desire to play is greater than my care for what other people will think when they see me”. I didn’t know how the rotations worked but I noticed 1 open court and 3 old guys (older than me) sitting in the shade. I took a deep breath and I walked up to them, introduced myself, telling them I needed a partner and a team of 2 to play with me! They immediately stood up introduced themselves and off we went. Three hours later and many games with many different people in the hot sun, I called it a day! It was a good day for me and I held my own and played well.

Thank you Sportable (Forrest and Amy mainly) for pushing me on that very first day at Swift Creek Elementary School and for this recent experience. I am so thankful that my donation from the Frist Humanitarian Award made possible the offering of this program. So many of us benefitted from learning something new. I experienced firsthand the difference that donation made. I am sorry the program ended for the summer because I learned so much, met a lot of nice people, and had fun. My confidence grew because of the opportunities provided to me by Sportable and I know many experienced the same feeling of inclusion too while participating alongside others of all abilities. On Friday, August 5 marked the 12 year anniversary of my amputation because of cancer. It changed my life forever. It was an unbelievably scary time for me and my family yet at the same time, I had to completely embrace the unimaginable decision I was forced to make for a chance to live. Sometimes in life, you have to take a chance to get a chance. I am so thankful that I did!

The other half of the monetary Frist Humanitarian Award was given to The Hawthorne Cancer Foundation earmarked to starting a transportation fund. My involvement with The Hawthorne Cancer Foundation extends the entire scope of my 31 year professional career as an Oncology Social Worker. It was my vision in 2001 along with a generous financial bequest from Bill and Barbara Hawthorne that I founded the resource center pillar of the foundation that is currently on the campus of Johnston-Willis Hospital providing cancer related support and resources to anyone living in the Richmond area regardless of one’s hospital affiliation. Throughout the challenging times of the Pandemic and the fluctuations in the economy, I witnessed the stress and challenges transportation became for so many cancer patients throughout the Richmond area. Transportation in terms of needing “gas” should not have been the “barrier” for patients getting to and from treatment, but it was. To be able to gift a distressed patient with a gas card or cards during challenging times was so meaningful. To date, The Hawthorne has gifted 90 gas gift cards. I have chosen to continue to build that fund into the future because I recognize the meaningfulness and weight of such a small gift to a patient at a time in need.

Though both of these organizations are different, they have deep meaning to me. I am beyond grateful that through the Frist Humanitarian Award, I was able to make possible a difference in the lives of many Richmond area people living with cancer and living with physical challenges. I would like to sincerely thank HCA and the Frist Family for the honor of the award. It has been very humbling to me at a profoundly personal level for my life’s work to have been recognized in the same contextual vision of caring as Dr. Frist.

With sincere and humble gratitude,

Robin Yoder

2021 National Employee Recipient Frist Humanitarian Award


Yoder Frist Award Charitable Update
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Don't forget to support Robin by participating and donating to The Hawthorne Fall Challenge on the Virginia Capital Trail. All proceeds will help fund the Hawthorne Cancer Foundation Transportation Fund.

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