Katherine Tarbox is a former senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine. Previously, she was editorial director for Washington Life. She is the author of the international bestselling book A Girl’s Life (Dutton, 2000) and has made hundreds of media appearances including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN.
Good Neighbor Dave Philp: A Champion for Local Health Care
"I knew that if we could build support for and awareness of the need for a center, the money would come."
November 1, 2010
As an adult, Philp’s "asking" skills have brought world-class health care to thousands of people who live in the counties west of the Twin Cities. Over the past 25 years he’s helped raise more than $3 million to turn a small community hospital into a highly respected regional health care network that today includes an acute-care hospital, specialty clinics, emergency services, a birthing center, a heart center, and a brand-new hospice home. The health network, Ridgeview Medical Center, also has grown to become one of the largest employers in the area, with more than 1,300 workers.
At the core of Philp’s fund-raising efforts is an annual Golf & Taste Celebration, which he became involved with in 1985. This year’s event in June, which marked the 25th anniversary, was the most successful one yet, bringing in $951,000 through donations and corporate sponsorships—that’s nearly three times more money than was ever before raised at the event, and close to double the annual goal.
The funds are earmarked for the new Marie Steiner Kelting Hospice Home, which opened in October 2009 to provide a comfortable, home-like setting where patients can spend quality time with their family while they receive end-of-life care. Located on a scenic lake in Chaska, the home has private suites with a full kitchen, a great room with a fireplace, spas with whirlpool baths, and even children’s play areas.
Awareness First, Money Second
Having high-quality, accessible health care is something that Philp has valued for as long as he can remember. Growing up, he recalls his father, a family doctor who’s now retired, "riding on snowmobiles to deliver babies and making house calls in the middle of the night."
So Philp knew what a loss it was for the city when a major local hospital closed in 1979, leaving residents without easy access to good medical care. Years later, as he was making a name for himself in the real estate business, board members of the small community hospital asked him to use his connections to help raise money for a new state-of-the-art medical center. He took on the role with vigor.
"I never approached it as just a fund-raiser," Philp says. "I knew that if we could build support for and awareness of the need for a center, the money would come. I call it a friend-raiser."
By making the act of giving fun through a golf tournament and celebration, Philp finds that people in the community are more willing to participate. His first year as volunteer chair, he had a modest goal to sell out the event—a goal that he handily met, raising $13,000. Year after year, the event grew bigger and better—he added a post-tournament dinner, invited local restaurants to participate in a "Taste of Ridgeview," incorporated bridge and Bunco tournaments, and organized silent and live auctions. It’s become so popular that there’s a waiting list to play in the golf tournament, which runs $1,100 per foursome.
‘Nobody Else Would Be as Good’
Philp says that it takes a dedicated team of volunteers—this year there were more than 200 of them—to put on such a successful event. But his cochair Jeff Nelson, a local executive, says Philp is just being modest about his remarkable leadership abilities, likening him to "William Shatner as Captain Kirk. Nobody else would be as good," Nelson says.
Besides boosting awareness of the Ridgeview Medical Center, Philp’s event has helped raised money that directly funded a birthing center that opened in July 2009, a heart center, a mammography machine, and an $87,000 scholarship fund for local high school students who’d like to enter the medical field.
But most notably, in the last two years the event has raised more than $1.3 million for the medical center’s largest project to date—the new hospice home. "I couldn’t imagine my mom being in a better place," says Sue Austin, whose mother spent her final months at the hospice home after it became clear that her kidney cancer was terminal. "The hospice home just let us be and love our mom. We didn’t have to worry about pain management or medicine or personal care. We were just able to sit with her and love her."
Philp’s fund-raising skills have earned him respect and recognition in his home town, and not just for his work with the medical center. The father of three also is founder of a 17-year basketball tournament fund-raiser for children’s sports and an annual marching band festival. "I’ll continue until I’m not making a difference for Ridgeview or until someone takes my place," Philp says.
Ridgeview Foundation/Ridgeview Medical Center