Mural Installed in Cancer Center at UPMC Northwest

A mural funded by the Northwest Hospital Foundation was recently installed in the waiting room of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC Northwest. Painted by local artist Deac Mong, the wall-size oil on canvas mural features the beauty of Venango County and gives peace and hope to patients and visitors. Animals and inspirational words are hidden among the details to make it even more interactive and engaging. Cancer Center staff celebrated the installation by posing with the new mural.

Pictured, back row from left: Robin Reisinger, Julie Snow, Kayla Swartz, Jodi Woods, Christie Whitling, Taylor Keverline, Sis McGrady. Front from left: Kali Barnes, Tamaria Flinspach, Janie Vlassich, Michele Lander, Dr. Shannon Penland, Megan Miller.

Marge Hajduk Gives to Remember

Mary “Marge” Hajduk is grateful for many things. Her four children and four grandchildren, her Oil City home, and two decades as principal of St. Stephens School immediately come to mind, as do the fifty years of marriage she shared with Michael J. Hajduk, DMD.

Photo courtesy Marge Hajduk

Marge and Mike met as juniors in high school, attended college in Erie, and married in 1969 at St. Joseph Church. After both graduating with advanced degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, Marge’s in education and Mike’s in dentistry, they returned to Oil City to establish Dr. Hajduk’s dental practice and start their family. When the kids entered high school, Marge left being a stay-at-home mom to become an assistant in the dental practice. She returned to teaching in 1993 at St. Stephens. In 1996, she became the principal, a position she held for twenty-three years.

The Hajduks shared a passion for supporting local healthcare. They were both members of the Corporation Board of the Northwest Hospital Foundation, and Dr. Hajduk was a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors for several terms. Through their involvement, they learned of the many ways the Foundation assists in meeting technology, education, patient hardship, and quality-of-life needs at UPMC Northwest.

The importance of a local hospital hit home when Dr. Hajduk was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, cancer of the blood and bone marrow. For thirteen years, Dr. Hajduk and Marge were frequent visitors of UPMC hospitals in Seneca and Pittsburgh. At UPMC Northwest, they saw firsthand how the staff training and equipment provided by the Foundation benefits patients here in Venango County. They were grateful to have access to quality, compassionate cancer treatment right in their community.

Dr. Hajduk passed away in 2019 after over forty years of practicing dentistry in Oil City. Marge carries on his legacy of supporting local healthcare by donating to the Northwest Hospital Foundation in his memory. She knows her gifts will directly benefit others seeking hope and healing at UPMC Northwest.

“We are so fortunate to have a hospital like UPMC Northwest here,” said Marge. “When people help each other, it improves the quality of life in our area. No gift is too large or too small when you are helping others.”

Woods & River Coffee Serves a Cup of Caring

Photo courtesy Woods & River Coffee

Erin Wanninger and Marcy Hall know what it means to run a coffee shop in a small town. They also know what it means for a small-town coffee shop to give back.

Woods & River Coffee is a trail-friendly coffee shop offering locally-sourced coffee, tea, and food in downtown Oil City. In the first year of its operation, the café has become a community staple, providing a space for people to connect and socialize while bringing outdoor recreation and tourism to the area.

With Woods & River being just a few minutes down the road from UPMC Northwest, owners Erin and Marcy are accustomed to filling orders for healthcare workers and patients. When the pair learned of the Northwest Hospital Foundation’s work in improving healthcare and patient access at UPMC Northwest, they knew they had to get involved.

Photo courtesy Marcy Hall

“The hospital saves so many lives here. Anything we can do to support the patients and staff we will do,” Erin said.

During National Hospital Week, May 7 to 13, Woods & River Coffee partnered with the Foundation to host a “Coffee for a Cause” fundraiser. Customers who ordered a drink from the café during the week and mentioned Northwest Hospital Foundation had 20% of their purchase donated.

Erin and Marcy were passionate about holding the fundraiser because they strongly believe in equal access to medical care. “No one should go without healthcare because they can’t afford it or it’s too far away,” Marcy said. “We are fortunate enough to have the resources to help. We knew the money raised would directly impact our friends, neighbors, and customers who need care.”

“The coffee shop is the spark in any community because it’s one of the only businesses people visit every day,” Erin added. “As that spark, we are the perfect place to bring awareness of local needs and the organizations working hard to meet them.”

Erin and Marcy believe the future is bright for both Woods & River Coffee and the region. “Health and growth go hand-in-hand,” they said. “We will continue supporting the Northwest Hospital Foundation because we want to see our community grow and thrive.”

Christ United Methodist Church Raises Funds for Patient Hardship

Easton Masterson and his mom Caitlin Masterson contribute to the collection for the Patient Hardship Fund. Photo courtesy Christ United Methodist Church.

Christ United Methodist Church in Franklin held a mission collection during its Vacation Bible School to raise funds for patient hardship needs at UPMC Northwest. Seventy children ages four years through sixth grade participated in the church’s Vacation Bible School held June 19 to 23. As part of this year’s program themed “Stellar, Shine Jesus Shine,” the children joined with the church’s adult congregation to raise money for the Patient Hardship Fund at the Northwest Hospital Foundation.

Each day of Bible School, the children brought in their donations and deposited them into a doctor’s bag. The adults took up a collection during their regular church services. In all, $2,218 was raised to assist uninsured and underinsured patients at UPMC Northwest with paying for expenses related to their care, including prescriptions, clothing, transportation, and durable medical equipment.

“What better way to shine Jesus’s light than to give back to those in need at our local hospital?” said Amy Smith, Director of Children’s Ministries at Christ United Methodist Church. “The kids were so excited to go up and place their donations in a real leather doctor’s bag. Every night they said, ‘Can we take our money up to the bag?’ They understood they were helping sick people get better.”

Theresa Edder, Executive Director of the Northwest Hospital Foundation, said, “We are so touched by the wonderful efforts of the youth and adults of the Christ United Methodist Church. This gift will allow us to alleviate some of the financial burden for many who turn to UPMC Northwest for care, turning their focus toward what truly matters – healing and recovery.”

For more information about the Northwest Hospital Foundation, please visit or contact Theresa Edder, Executive Director by calling 814-676-7145 or emailing

For the Merkels, Giving is a Family Affair

Photo courtesy Sarah Merkel

For over a decade, Greg and Sarah Merkel have been proud to call Venango County their home. Greg, an attorney with Dale Woodard Gent McFate Law Firm, and Sarah, a senior associate with an environmental consulting firm, keep busy raising their three kids and renovating their Victorian home in Franklin. Despite their full schedules, the Merkels always find a way to give back to the community they love.

Greg and Sarah first learned of the Northwest Hospital Foundation when they were invited to join the Foundation’s Corporation Board in 2014. Through their involvement with the Board, they became aware of the many hospital projects and programs funded by the Foundation. In 2019, Greg succeeded Sarah’s father Robert McFate, Esq. as the Foundation’s solicitor.

The Merkels are proud to support the Northwest Hospital Foundation because they see how the organization helps UPMC Northwest go above and beyond in providing healthcare for the people of our region. They see the Foundation as an invaluable asset to the hospital as well as the community. “We are blessed to have a regional hospital which is supported by such a caring and committed foundation,” they said.

They are particularly passionate about relieving the financial burden of patients with medical debt. Each year, the Northwest Hospital Foundation distributes charitable funds from private donors to assist local patients in need with paying their outstanding medical bills. Just this year, over $289,000 has been distributed in uncompensated care assistance for patients at UPMC Northwest.

Greg and Sarah donate annually to this fund because they know how much this assistance helps individuals struggling to pay their bills. “It is something we believe in. We wouldn’t want people not to be able to access quality healthcare because they have medical debt,” Sarah said. “Receiving this assistance is life-changing for people,” Greg added.

The Merkels are committed to raising their family in this area. “The hospital is the cornerstone of our community, and we must do everything we can to make sure it continues to thrive and provide people here with the care they need. Supporting the Northwest Hospital Foundation is one way we help make sure our family, friends, and neighbors have access to quality healthcare for many years to come.”

Dr. McCandless Carries on Family Legacy of Care

Photo courtesy UPMC

For over a century, the McCandless family has provided medical care for the people of Venango County. Now retired, David McCandless, MD is continuing this legacy through his support for the Northwest Hospital Foundation.

He first became acquainted with the Northwest Hospital Foundation in the early 1980s when he began practicing internal medicine at Franklin Hospital. In 1992, Franklin Hospital and Oil City Hospital combined to form Northwest Regional Medical Center. The hospital merged with UPMC in 2001 to become UPMC Northwest. Dr. McCandless retired from UPMC-affiliated Franklin Community Medicine in December 2022 after 45 years of practice.

Throughout his career, Dr. McCandless provided compassionate, patient-centered care to countless people. He considers the Northwest Hospital Foundation a valued partner in this mission. “I personally identify with the importance of providing up-to-date, top-notch care for the community,” he said. “Having been a practitioner, I’ve been able to see the many resources the Foundation has provided to the hospital and how they are put to use to help patients in our area.”

Over the last three years, the Foundation has invested over $800,000 in technology and medical equipment for the hospital. “The Foundation is very thoughtful about providing the hospital what it needs, when it needs it,” said Dr. McCandless. “They make sure people are able to get the specialty care they need right here without having to travel long distances.”

Not only does high-tech equipment help with patient care, it also helps the hospital attract, recruit, and retain skilled physicians. “It is crucial that we continue to supply physicians with the tools they need to treat patients right here at UPMC Northwest, and the Foundation is a big part of that.”

Dr. McCandless has no plans of relocating from his Sugarcreek home. He loves being near his family and enjoys running into former patients, some of whom were treated by multiple generations of McCandless doctors. He is now honored to hold the distinguished position of “full-time grandpa” to his six grandchildren.

After all these years, Dr. McCandless remains committed to ensuring people in Venango County receive the care they need right here: a true legacy in action.

Cooling Caps Bring Comfort to Chemotherapy Patients at UPMC Northwest

The Amma™ by Cooler Heads is a portable, FDA-cleared, patient-administered cooling cap. Photo courtesy Cooler Heads.

One of the greatest stressors for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy is the side effect of hair loss. A new therapy available at UPMC Northwest aims to alleviate some of this anxiety by protecting hair from the effects of chemo.

Amma™ by Cooler Heads is a portable, FDA-cleared, patient-administered cooling cap which lowers scalp temperature to 65 degrees before, during, and after chemotherapy. Cooling reduces blood flow to hair follicles and minimizes the amount of chemo drugs reaching hair roots, helping preserve hair and decrease the severity of hair loss.

Amma™ cooling caps also help regulate overall body temperature and prevent overheating. Patients who use cooling caps report feeling more relaxed and less anxious during treatments. Because the caps are designed to be lightweight, patients can wear them comfortably for extended periods.

Shannon Penland, MD, specializes in oncology, hospice, and palliative medicine at UPMC Northwest. She emphasizes the psychological and emotional benefits of patients retaining their hair. “This equipment empowers patients by giving them some control over their circumstances. Preventing hair loss can help people in treatment maintain their sense of self during a difficult time in their lives,” said Dr. Penland. “We make sure all patients in our cancer center are aware this therapy is available to them.”

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC Northwest is proud to be the only cancer center in Northwestern Pennsylvania currently offering cooling cap therapy. “This is a game-changer for patient-centered care at UPMC Northwest,” said Dr. Penland.

The cooling caps were made possible by the Northwest Hospital Foundation. To learn more, contact the Northwest Hospital Foundation at (814) 676-7145 or

RGHS Health Club Raises Funds for Patient Hardship

Karen Baldwin, CEO Franklin-Oil Region Credit Union, Kelly Hart, Principal of Rocky Grove High School, Leann Highfield, teacher and Health Club advisor, Juliet Hilburn, Annual Giving Officer of Northwest Hospital Foundation, and Theresa Edder, Executive Director of Northwest Hospital Foundation, and students of the RGHS Oriole Health Club meet outside Rocky Grove High School.

The Rocky Grove High School Oriole Health Club and Franklin-Oil Region Credit Union raised $200 to benefit the Patient Hardship Fund of the Northwest Hospital Foundation. The RGHS Health Club hosted a Community Night Fundraiser at Hoss’s Restaurant in Seneca on April 28. The students raised $100 which was matched by Franklin-Oil Region Credit Union.

The Patient Hardship Fund is an emergency fund for patients at UPMC Northwest who are uninsured or under-insured, and without the means to pay for minor expenses related to their care. It is available to assist patients in obtaining prescriptions, durable medical equipment, supplies, or services they cannot financially afford.

For more information about the Patient Hardship Fund, please visit or contact Theresa Edder, Executive Director by calling 814-676-7145 or emailing

Gift from Local Clubs Helps Kids Prepare for Surgery

Pictured left to right are Fryburg Sportsman’s Club members Tom Nale and Jerry Hooper, UPMC Northwest Director of Surgical Services Patricia Boland, Clarion Rod & Gun Club member Phyllis Agnello, and Northwest Hospital Foundation Executive Director Theresa Edder.

Thanks to a donation from two local clubs, children at UPMC Northwest are receiving a comfortable and personalized experience in the operating room.

The Fryburg Sportsman’s Club and Clarion Rod & Gun Club donated $1,000 to the Northwest Hospital Foundation for the purchase of stuffed animals for children in surgery.

Stuffed animals help kids overcome some of the anxiety that goes along with surgery and enables them to learn about their operations in a fun way. “A stuffed animal greets each child upon arrival and is used to demonstrate what will happen during the operation by the surgical team. The child gets to keep the stuffed animal throughout the procedure and take it home after discharge,” said UPMC Northwest Director of Surgical Services Patricia Boland.

“It’s easy for children to feel overwhelmed or nervous about going to surgery. These fluffy friends offer the children a comforting sense of security, fostering emotional growth and resilience.”

The Northwest Hospital Foundation is seeking additional support to continue the program. For more information, please visit or contact Theresa Edder, Executive Director by calling 814-676-7145 or emailing

Hospital Foundation Purchases Ambulance Lift

John Anderson (Executive Director, Community Ambulance Service), Tim Fletcher (Director of Operations, Community Ambulance Service), Jeff Hollidge (Operations Supervisor, Community Ambulance Service), Benjamin Hart (EMS Specialist, UPMC Northwest), and Theresa Edder (Executive Director, Northwest Hospital Foundation) with the Stryker MTS Power Cot-Load.

A new piece of hydraulic lifting equipment will make it easier and safer for our area’s first responders to transport larger patients to and from UPMC Northwest.

Recently the Northwest Hospital Foundation donated a Stryker MTS Power Cot-Load lifting assist device that was installed in a Community Ambulance Service ambulance. With the push of a button, the device lifts the patient into and out of the ambulance on the stretcher, with no lifting and little assistance required. The Power Cot-Load is used to lift patients weighing up to 700 pounds.

Community Ambulance Service is the primary EMS transport in Venango County. They serve a population of around 50,000 people and deliver approximately 80% of prehospital patients to UPMC Northwest. With an increasing average weight of patients and an aging EMS workforce, lift-related injuries are on the rise. The most effective way to keep patients and EMS workers safe is to reduce lifting as much as possible.

The lifting device not only reduces the risk of stretcher injuries, it also ensures larger patients are transported comfortably to and from Northwest. Previously, UPMC Northwest and Community Ambulance Service did not have the ability to quickly transport heavier patients without outside assistance. The new equipment creates better experiences for these patients and improves their ability to seek medical care.

John Anderson, Executive Director of Community Ambulance Service, said, “We would like to thank the Northwest Hospital Foundation for this equipment. It is a great asset to our EMS workers to use in the field to safely move patients to, from, and between UPMC Northwest and other facilities.”

The Northwest Hospital Foundation thoughtfully enhances the health care of our community by making financial resources available to UPMC Northwest in its mission to deliver high-quality services to the residents of the region. For information, visit or contact Theresa Edder, Executive Director by calling (814) 676-7145 or emailing

Archives by Month:

Archives by Subject:

Archives by Year:

  • 2023
  • 2022
  • 2021
  • 2020
  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015