Lexington Medical Center has teamed up with award-winning entertainment personality, health advocate and Irmo native Leeza Gibbons to develop a new program called HUGS, which stands for “Helping U Grow Strong,” to support family caregivers. The first graduates of the program were recognized on Thursday, July 7. This first-of-its-kind program allows experienced local caregivers to support other caregivers in the Midlands.
The Lexington Medical Center Foundation is able to offer the HUGS ambassador program thanks to a donation from Leeza Gibbons and her husband Steven Fenton in honor of the outstanding care Gibbons’ father received while he was a patient at Lexington Medical Center.
HUGS ambassadors take a six-week course that gives them the skills they need to help empower other caregivers to face their difficult journeys with courage and strength. The curriculum includes learning how to help others navigate health resources in our community and how to provide the emotional support caregivers need. The HUGS program validates the tremendous role family caregivers play in the recovery and treatment process of others.
The first group of HUGS ambassadors graduated from the program at the July 7 event inside the Lexington Medical Park 1 auditorium. They are Maisy Babbitt, Fran Bond, Dottie Foreman, Becky Furgeson, Dottie Fulmer, Harold A. Kline, Mary Malnic, Judy McNair, Gael Stanley and Joanne W. Taylor.
“More than 65 million people across our nation provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or elderly family member or friend each year,” said Barbara Willm, vice president of Development and Community Relations at Lexington Medical Center. “We’re thrilled to work with Leeza and her family to launch such an important outreach program. Leeza has such a passion for serving those who care for others, and the Midlands community will benefit greatly from her generosity.”
Graduates of the HUGS ambassador program will be placed at Leeza’s Care Connection, a new community resource center in Irmo dedicated to caregivers. Leeza’s Care Connection also operates a resource center in Los Angeles.
“Caring for someone you love with a chronic illness or disease is not anyone’s version of ‘happily ever after,’ and yet, every year hundreds of thousands of courageous caregivers emerge in partnership with someone they love to face a diagnosis they never wanted to battle,” Gibbons said. “This program allows us to salute and support those who make the defining difference.”
For more information or to volunteer to become a HUGS ambassador, call (803) 791-2540.