In The Name Of Progress D’Amour Family Makes Key Donation To Cancer Center

Not long after Claire D’Amour Daley sent a global E-mail to Big Y employees letting them know that the D’Amour family had made a major contribution to the Center for Cancer Care at Baystate Medical Center, and that the facility would bear the family name, the responses started coming back. 

Several employees said the donation made them feel proud to work for the company. One went to great lengths to describe the care that a family member battling cancer had received at Baystate, and said the family’s donation would ensure that such service could continue. Wrote still another: “Thanks … although I admit, I sure hope I never have to use the facility.”

It is because so many people will have to use it that the D’Amour family made a seven-figure donation to a capital drive for the center, said D’Amour Daley, daughter of Gerry D’Amour, one of two brothers who founded the Big Y company 68 years ago, and now the vice president of corporate communications for Big Y.

“Cancer touches virtually every family,” she told The Healthcare News at a press conference at the cancer center to announced the donation, the largest single gift the D’Amour family has made to any institution. “The work that goes on here is very important to cancer victims and their families; we thought this was a great way to give back to the community.”

The gift from the D’Amour family (the specific amount was not disclosed) brings the total raised in a capital campaign for the $39 million center to just under $5 million, said Stephen L. Tanne, executive director of the Baystate Health Foundation and vice president for development at Baystate Health System. He said the system will continue to solicit donations for the center, which opened its doors in January.

The D’Amour family’s gift was announced at an April 6 press conference that drew many members of the family as well as Baystate officials. Charles D’Amour, executive vice president and COO of Big Y and son of Gerry D’Amour, said the gift continues a long tradition in the family of donating not only money, but also time and energy to Baystate and its various programs.

He told The Healthcare News that his father served for many years on Baystate’s Board of Trustees, and that he has done likewise, serving currently as chair of the board’s Investment Committee. Meanwhile, the family has donated to a number of building efforts and program additions, including the Centennial Building, the Visiting Nurses Assoc., and others.

“We feel blessed to help make this center a reality,” he said, adding that the donation was made in honor of those members of the extended Big Y employee family whose lives have been touched by cancer. “Every day, the center brings a new vision of care to the region. Cancer touches so many lives in our community; sooner or later, it impacts us all.”

Wilson C. Mertens, M.D., medical oncologist and medical director of the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, told The Healthcare News that the 65,000-square-foot cancer center is serving about 400 patients per day, more than originally projected, and that the facility is drawing excellent reviews for its highly personal approach to care.

He said the center’s success lies in its design, which is focused on coordinating care, facilitating communication, and providing a high degree of comfort for patients and their families. “Other facilities put all their cancer programs under one roof, as we have here, but in many cases, there are silos under that roof,” he explained. “Here, we have a truly integrated approach to cancer care.”

D’Amour-Daley told The Healthcare News that the D’Amour family has a long tradition of philanthropy in the Greater Springfield area, and that this pattern of giving has widened its reach as the supermarket chain has expanded into all areas of Connecticut and also into Eastern Mass. The company will open its 50th store in North Haven, Conn. in June.

When asked if there were specific priorities within the family’s philanthropic strategic plan, D’Amour-Daley said the family targets issues and institutions that have community-wide impact. For example, it has always made education one of its priorities, she said, listing everything from the creation of a homework-help program to donations to several area colleges, including Bay Path College and Western New England College. There are buildings bearing the D’Amour name on both campuses.

Another priority has been programs to help the poor and disenfranchised, she noted, adding that the Big Y family, as she called it, has long supported area food banks, homeless shelters, and other facilities.

Health care has also been at the forefront of the family’s philanthropic efforts, she said, listing donations to several area providers. But there is no specific strategy for the giving, other than a broad effort to strengthen area communities.

“We take each request one at a time and weigh the benefits to the community, and it’s a much broader community that we’re serving now,” she said. “The cancer center is a facility that will benefit many people and from a wide area.”

Tanne told The Healthcare News that the Baystate Health Foundation ap-proached the D’Amours about making a significant donation to the cancer center about a year ago, and that the family was very receptive to the idea.

The D’Amour family’s gift is by far the largest received to date, leading to the renaming of the facility, said Tanne, but there have been a number of significant contributions made by area families and corporations, and several rooms or facilities in the center bear those names.

The capital campaign is still ongoing, he said, adding that Baystate would like to offset as much of the cost of building the center as possible with private donations.

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