Ernie is one of the 2010 Healthcare Heroes for Southern Nevada, and tonight he is being presented with the Humanitarian of the Year Award for his volunteer work at St. Rose. That's really something to be proud of and I'm certainly proud of him. I met Ernie for the first time at my sister's funeral. He was there because he loved my sister, and also because my sister was his daughter's mother-in-law. Ernie and his wife Debbie are the parents of Stacey. Stacey is married to my nephew Jeff, my sister and husband Bob's son.
I could never do right by Ernie in describing what an incredible human being he is. I can tell you that he volunteers with the pediatric cancer patients. Yeah, the kids. I can't imagine how heartbreaking that could be. But I can imagine how uplifting it is because Ernie says so. He talks about his work (and others talk about him) here Words That Heal for St. Rose Pediatrics and here Las Vegas Sun - Ernie Devald. You really must read the articles. This is one amazing man.
If you've read Ernie's story, you know how compassionate he is and how much he loves the kids. He loves them so much that he even had his head shaved in solidarity and to honor the kids and their struggles.
This is a man who is always there for others even as he fights cancer himself. The old adage says "Behind every man is a good woman", and it's so true in this case. Ernie can do what he does not only because he is kind and loving, but also because he has the support and love of his wife Debbie. Debbie, too, has spent her life in helping others as Executive Director for Juvenile Diabetes and American Diabetes for over 20 years. While doing her own important work and volunteering, Debbie has been behind--no, make that "beside"--Ernie to help him in whatever capacity he needed so that he could continue to do the work that makes him so happy. But it doesn't stop there. She also works with her daughter, Stacey. Volunteering and philanthropy is a family tradition.
Stacey, my niece-in-law, is the founder and principal of "Professionals in Philanthropy, LLC". The mission of her firm is "To help donors and nonprofits become the catalyst for change through strategic, effective and thoughtful planning and action". That's the professional way of saying that they help people with lots of money and non-profits make the best use of their time and resources, and they do a lot of other things that I won't venture to put into words because I'm sure I would get it wrong. This company is a really big deal and you can read more about it at Professionals in Philanthropy, LLC. Stacey has been married to my nephew Jeff for about 9 years now. They fit together like a hand in glove. Jeff is a big ol' teddy bear, sweetheart of a guy who you just want to hug every time you see him. He and Stacey do everything they can to support and help Ernie and Debbie as they go on this cancer journey. I came across this exchange between Debbie and Stacey:
Debbie: Celebrating the holidays with family and friends. A two night stay at the M Resort was heavenly. Stacey & Jeff spoiled us with a fabulous dinner at Terzetto's Steak and Seafood Restaurant.....delicious!
Stacey: We enjoy spoiling you guys! We're all so fortunate to have each other and that we had another wonderful Christmas.
Isn't that what life is all about? Having one more dinner, one more Christmas, just one more day in the life with the people you love and who love you. You really can't ask for more than that.
Ernie is receiving his award tonight. I'm so happy that he is feeling well enough to be there. It's always good when the nice guy wins and when his family is there to be part of it. Congratulations, Ernie. Here's to you! And here's to those who love you.
(Many thanks to Debbie and Stacey for the pictures, etc., especially since I grabbed them without asking first!)