The Northwest Hospital Foundation and the United Way of Venango County have partnered to ensure all babies born at UPMC Northwest have the opportunity to register for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library if they live in Venango, Clarion, and Forest counties. Every baby will receive Dolly Parton’s first Imagination Library book, The Little Engine That Could.

Babies and children who are enrolled in the Imagination Library program from eligible counties receive one new book in the mail each month from birth until their fifth birthday.  The program helps families create a personal library of up to 60 books at no cost to them, with a goal of establishing a child’s early reading experience and habits.

The first family to receive the book and be registered at UPMC Northwest was baby Joyce, daughter of Devon Johnson and Rachel Wagonseller of Cooperstown, Venango County.  She was the first baby born at UPMC Northwest in 2022 at 2:35am on New Year’s Day.

Nurses in the Family Birthing Center at UPMC Northwest educate parents of eligible children about the program and assist with the brief registration form.  Approximately 600 babies are born annually at Northwest.

Books are selected by a national panel of early childhood literacy experts who review hundreds of children’s books each year and choose those that best fit the needs of children as they learn and grow.

“This kind of partnership, especially now, is much needed to be able to continue offering this program in Venango County. United Way is committed to helping children in our community to be successful in school and life. This program guarantees access to books and inspires parents to read to their children. As little as fifteen minutes a day has a giant impact on a child,” said Will Price, Executive Director, United Way of Venango County.



Ivy Kuberry, Environmental Education Specialist from Oil Creek State Park, shows off a piece of gill-over-the-ground ivy during a one-mile nature walk that was hosted by the Northwest Hospital Foundation.   The walk was held last week at the UPMC Northwest walking trail for staff, patients, and the community.








UPMC Northwest Hospital has established an in-hospital room that is aimed at providing respite for health care workers.

“Imagine you enter a room that offers a glowing beach sunset, peaceful music, soft lighting, snacks, and the gentle hum of a massage chair lounger,” said Theresa Edder, executive director of the non-profit Northwest Hospital Foundation that used a private contribution to do the project.  The room was designed to help health care professionals de-stress and re-energize before returning to the daily stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Edder.

“We saw many acutely ill COVID-19 patients in the fall and winter of 2020.  Staff from across the organization were faced with challenging and demanding consecutive shifts during this unprecedented time,” said Robin Melvin, chief nursing officer/vice president for patient care services.  “Providing care under these circumstances took a mental and physical toll on our staff and care providers.”

Since its inception, the respite room has been very well received, she said.  “The first day we opened the respite room, the staff were elated-just smiling and just so excited they had an area to decompress from an incredibly stressful day,” said Melvin.  All hospital staff, one at a time, are invited to enjoy the new room, said Edder.

A sign outside the room, which is open 24 hours a day, lets staff know if it is occupied, and a sign-up sheet is available.

The next addition to the room will be a bulletin board for posting additional staff resources, such as grief counseling and faith-based support.

The room was made possible with a donation from Marilyn Ham in memory of her husband, Dr. James Ham, a well-known obstetrician from Franklin.  The physician who passed away in 2016, was philanthropic in the community and instrumental in the design and construction of the Physician’s Building at the Franklin Hospital.  Both he and his wife Marilyn, who was a nurse, had careers at the Franklin Hospital.

“We are so grateful to the foundation and to Mrs. Ham for providing the funding,” Melvin said.  “It’s been a huge win for our teams.”


The popular walking trail is getting an upgrade to provide better access to the walkway.  The one-mile-long trail that loops around the hospital began as a mulch-covered path in 2005.  It was later converted to a gravel walk and in 2017 was rededicated when it was paved.  The Northwest Hospital Foundation led the effort to provide nearly $80,000 to the hospital to have the trail paved and entrance areas installed.

The path is used by hospital employees as well as the local community and school students, including Cranberry High School runners.

The improvements being done now near the main entranceway to the hospital will correct the grade, improve drainage and provide installed ADA mats.  The work will bring the trail into ADA compliance.

Access will also be enhanced for patients and visitors with physical challenges with the installation of more accessible curb cuts.  “Since paving the trail in 2017, the hospital has received requests from individuals with mobility limitations who would like to access the trail independently,” said Theresa Edder, executive director of the non-profit foundation.  “Together we can ensure inclusion for all who want to benefit from the trail by ensuring safe access by wheelchair, walker, cane or any other assistance device.”

Funding for the project came from the Elizabeth S. Black Charitable Trust.  Whalen Contracting is doing the work which should be completed this spring.


UPMC Northwest is a little brighter this holiday season because of the generosity of a local couple.  A quartet of 20-foot-high, lighted Christmas trees have been erected on the hospital grounds.  The towering trees were funded by a donation to the non-profit Northwest Hospital Foundation.

“The donors wish to remain anonymous, but they are longtime supporters of our Foundation,” said Theresa Edder, executive director of the Foundation.  “Their gift also includes the addition of two 10-foot trees for next year.”

The trees were placed in atypical settings rather than in common areas, such as the entranceway to the hospital.  That was a deliberate choice, said Edder.

“Two are in the front, but another is near the emergency room and the fourth is near the Transitional Care Unit,” she said.  “In each case, they can easily be seen by visitors, staff and patients.”

The intent for the tree setup was provided by Brian Durniok, hospital president.  “We had a simple Christmas tree in the courtyard and he said he wanted more than that,” said Edder.  “So he approached the Foundation and we found donors who were right on board with that.”

The effort was prompted by what Edder described “unusual times.”  “Due to the unusual circumstances of this holiday season, there will be an unprecedented number of patients who will be alone this year due to COVID restrictions and countless healthcare heroes working long hours away from their families,” she said.   Those concerns prompted the tall lighted trees to be placed in areas that have high visibility for staff and patients.

“Brian asked for that specifically because of patients who don’t have visitors and staff that is working so hard in this pandemic,” said Edder. “It lets people look out the hospital windows, see the trees and take a breath.”

The distinctive trees will remain in place through the holidays.


Franklin VFW Post #1835 recently provided a gift to the Northwest Hospital Foundation to improve the quality of life for disabled patients.


“Sometimes it’s not simply a question of what’s for dinner. It’s how dinner will be eaten,” said Theresa Edder, Executive Director of the non-profit foundation that supports the UPMC Northwest Hospital.


“People with eating disabilities caused by stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or other disabling changes can now take advantage of adaptive feeding equipment at UPMC Northwest Hospital, which can be a key component of an effective nutrition plan.”


Working with Matthew Gaertner, Commander of the Franklin VFW Post, the Foundation received a $1,000 donation to purchase adaptive feeding equipment that helps Northwest Hospital patients achieve an improved quality of life. UPMC Northwest has had up to four patients a week benefiting from these tools.


“Things we might take for granted, as simple as food staying on a spoon. These utensils make a difference. They assist where hands might have limited grip or mobility,” said Connie McIntyre, UPMC Northwest Hospital Food Service Manager. “Our occupational and physical therapy staff are thrilled with the new adaptive eating equipment.”


Adaptive feeding equipment comes in various forms to serve different needs. The modified cups, dishes, and utensils come in bright colors to make food more visible and appealing, help to stimulate the appetite, improve food intake, and promote dining independence and dignity.


“If a patient’s hand will not bend, the utensil can be adjusted to fit their grip. These tools can help improve the nutritional status of patients with feeding disabilities. They improve overall health and can shorten the length of stay,” said McIntyre.


“The Franklin VFW has a long history of supporting the hospital.  It’s through generous donations like this that make a big difference for the patients and their quality of living,” said Edder.  “Gifts like this underscore how vital our donors are to our success.”





A program called “Look Good Feel Better” (LGFB), which is designed to help cancer patients improve their self-confidence by regaining control of their appearance, is underway through the Northwest Hospital Foundation.  Pandemic-related directives have changed the way the program is being offered.  It was previously held at UPMC Northwest, but is now conducted live online.

The makeovers include complimentary makeup and tips from volunteer beauty experts on skin, hair, accessories and other fashion options.  “Hairstyles and cosmetics are more than superficial concerns for women battling a life-threatening disease,” said Theresa Edder, executive director of the foundation that sponsors the program.  “Maintaining a positive self-image can have a beneficial impact on a patient’s recovery, especially for at-risk women during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Shirl Baughman, BSN RN and nurse navigator at UPMC Northwest said, “COVID has brought changes to the LGFB program, some of them positive.  Participants and volunteers have adapted to virtual classes.”  Until the hospital allows for in-person classes again, the LGFB program will continue to hold live virtual classes.  “These classes offer the opportunity for at-risk women to attend safely from home,” Baughman said.

LGFB workshops are free for all women undergoing cancer treatment.  Registered attendees receive makeup and skin care kits by mail or in person from Baughman prior to their scheduled online class.  “Most kits are mailed to participants.  If a patient is currently receiving treatment, I can deliver a kit in-person.  That way, they do not have to wait and can take a class offered sooner,” said Baughman.

To register for a free online workshop, individuals may visit www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org.  Additional information is available by contacting Baughman at 676-7746.

Funded by Northwest Hospital Foundation, the program is offered through a collaboration of the Look Good Feel Better Foundation and the Professional Beauty Association.

Dignity Health Cancer Institute is a member of the Look Good Feel Better Alliance.




Dr. Bawab and Evan Ward


UPMC Northwest Hospital is putting some of its smallest patients in the driver’s seat. Pediatric patients can now drive themselves to the operating room in miniature battery-powered cars. Most kids are stressed when it comes to operations and procedures, so the operating room staff came up with an innovative way to help calm their fears.

Patients are riding to the operating room in style thanks to an anonymous donation to the Northwest Hospital Foundation. Kids ranging from ages 2 to 10 can choose from a Jeep or Mercedes-Benz convertible. The cars light up, and they can play music with Bluetooth technology. The vehicles can be operated by the kids or by a nurse or doctor with a remote controller.

Since the cars were put in use almost a month ago, the driving experience is already working its magic. Children such as Evan Ward, son of Michael and Amanda Ward of Franklin, PA, are feeling less anxious about their upcoming procedures.

“Evan had a wonderful surgical experience at UPMC Northwest. The staff was diligent and very attentive to him when he arrived. Once he was settled in, the time quickly passed as he was given the opportunity to drive the new electric cars that they are utilizing for their pediatric patients. Instead of being apprehensive about the unfamiliar environment he was in, he was calm, laughing, and he enjoyed driving around the hallway where everyone greeted him. We are so thankful that Evan will remember his surgery day as a positive and fun experience,” said the Wards.

The program makes the staff and surgeon’s jobs easier, too. It puts their minds at ease to know the kids are happier, relaxed and having fun.

According to Dr. Ibrahim Bawab, Head of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at UPMC Northwest: “Surgery day can be stressful for almost everyone and especially for kids. As a surgeon who also manages the pediatric population, I’ve witnessed the anxiety and agitation firsthand, mostly when the kids are being separated from their parents and wheeled to the operating room.

“Luckily, now with the new cars at UPMC Northwest, the kids can be more at ease, they can ride the miniature cars, and head toward the operating room in style. This will certainly help decrease anxiety and create an overall environment of fun and playfulness,” said Dr. Bawab.



It was the stench of a Grinch celebration, at UPMC Northwest Hospital’s Family Birthing Center, which on Saturday, celebrated its Eighth Annual Baby’s First Christmas Party to honor the babies born at the hospital last year.

Family Birthing Center staff dressed up for the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” theme to greet more than 70 special newborn guests, including Emalyn Griffie of East Brady, PA, born May 5th and her parents Dustin and Melissa Griffie, along with her 5-year-old brother Jase.

The special guests were joined by more than 200 of their own family members, who enjoyed refreshments, basket giveaways, and coloring for the older children.

Santa and Mrs. Claus stopped by to make a special appearance so that each new baby could have their first Christmas photo taken with them. Each baby also received an ornament to commemorate this special occasion. Dr. Kyle E. Shilk, DO Anesthesiology, and his wife Pediatrician Heidi Ochs, DO, took on the roles of Santa and Mrs. Claus. They said, “It was a real pleasure in getting to share time with families and being able to be part of their Christmas memories. We look forward to sharing in the tradition in the future.”

This annual event also gives the Family Birthing Center staff a chance to reconnect with babies and families.

UPMC Northwest averages 600 newborn deliveries a year. The Family Birthing Center has three labor, delivery, and recovery rooms; a 10-bed postpartum unit; and a 12-bed newborn nursery.

To learn more about this and other events sponsored by Northwest Hospital Foundation, contact Theresa Edder, Executive Director at (814) 676-7145 or visit northwesthospitalfoundation.org.