Friday’s highly anticipated ice bucket challenge at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital turned out to be double the fun.
Chief Executive Officer Paul Hammes, wearing a green surgery cap on his head and a multicolored striped beach towel around his neck, was preparing to face having a bucket of icy cold water poured on his head when he issued a challenge of his own.
Hammes was one of eight administrators and physicians who agreed to participate in a competition to raise money for the hospital’s Yadkin Valley United Fund campaign. Their names were posted on buckets set out in the hospital cafeteria during the busiest lunch times so staff could donate to whoever they wanted to see take the ice bucket challenge.
While Hammes’ bucket collected the most money, he told everyone there to see him take the ice bucket challenge, “it was brought to my attention that there was a very narrow margin between the first-place winner and the person who came in second place.” Hammes said he had asked Dr. C.S. “Skip” Whitman, who came up short by $83, to be at the event.
“I’d like to propose that if I were to close that gap …” he said while pulling out $83 to make it an official tie, that Whitman might join him in taking the ice bucket challenge. To the delight of a large gathering of hospital employees, Yadkin Valley United Fund officials and other visitors cheering him on, Whitman agreed.
Though the temperature was in the 50s, the wind made it seem cooler. And the temperature of the water was 33 degrees, according to Brent Slate, director of plant operations for the hospital, who was standing on a ladder ready to empty the first bucket.
Hammes, who put on goggles before positioning himself in front of the ladder, went first. Event attendees gathered in front of the hospital’s main entrance counted down loudly, “3, 2,1,” cheering as Slate poured the bucket onto the CEO.
“That’s 30 degrees,” Hammes shouted.
His expression when the water hit him reflected the cold shock. Afterward, Hammes grabbed his beach towel and ran around entertaining everyone watching by shaking water out of his pant legs.
Whitman, who was more reserved, walked up to the ladder, turned and faced his audience, which started another rousing countdown, standing perfectly still as Slate poured the water on him. Hammes attributed it to the surgeon’s Special Forces training in the Army.
Whitman, an orthopedic surgeon at Hugh Chatham for 23 years, said afterward that he was determined not to flinch, and he didn’t. He continued standing in exactly the same position with the same expression on his face when he was soaking wet as he had before the water was poured on his head.
Whitman agreed with Hammes that the water was cold. He said afterward that Hammes had asked him to be at the event and said he might have a proposal for him, but he didn’t know for sure what it was.
“But I would do anything for this hospital,” he said. “I would do anything for the United Fund and the whole tri-county area. I raised my family here.”
Ann Ashman, who heads up the Yadkin Valley United Fund’s board of directors, said Friday’s event was the first ice bucket challenge held as part of the annual fundraising campaign. “This was the idea of the organizers here at Hugh Chatham,” she said, “and I’m so glad they did it. I want to thank Paul Hammes and all of his board and Dr. Whitman for being such a good sport.”
Addressing hospital staff and guests before taking the ice bucket challenge, Hammes praised Laura Oakes, director of medical staff development at the hospital, and Kathy Poteate, human services director, for their hard work in heading up the campaign “and creating some great energy here at Hugh Chatham.” So far, the campaign has raised $15,000, he said, four times as much as last year.
“It’s $15,000 that will go to people who are sometimes our neighbors who really have many needs,” Hammes said. “It’s going to make a big difference right here in our community, and that’s why we’re here.”
Hugh Chatham’s United Fund campaign is not over. A hot dog lunch fundraiser was scheduled for after the ice bucket challenge and Lori Gwyn, director of marketing at the hospital, said staff are still turning in their United Fund pledge cards.
Ashman also spoke at the event. “All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you, especially to Laura and Kathy and those who have really helped make this campaign so special,” she said. “It’s really gratifying. I also appreciate each one of you who has donated … I also thank whoever thought of the idea for the ice bucket challenge.”
Hammes chimed in, “I’d also like to thank them myself,” drawing laughter from the crowd.
Ashman said 25 agencies are funded through the United Fund drive, “so I just want to thank you for each one of those.” Three representatives of one of the agencies, the Elkin Emergency Rescue Squad, were at the event — Gary York, owner of WIFM Radio, Assistant Chief Mike Bovender and Captain Charlie Harris.
York said he will always treasure the 10 years he served with the Elkin Emergency Rescue Squad. “It was a tremendous calling to serve,” he said.
Bovender, who has been a member since 2009 and also serves in the Elkin Fire Department, thanked the hospital staff for supporting the Elkin Emergency Rescue Squad through their donations to the United Fund.
“It’s a joy to serve in the Rescue Squad, he said, and to be able to help people involved in accidents. It’s not for a pat on the back or an ‘Attaboy’ or anything like that,” he said.
Charlie Harris, who in January will have been a member of the rescue squad for 21 years, said he has served in every officer position except chief. He is also a firefighter.
Harris thanked everyone for their United Fund donations, which he said makes it possible for the rescue squad to help people in need.
Gwyn said the ice bucket challenge turned out to be a big success. “It was a way to make it fun,” she said, adding that the impromptu addition of Dr. Whitman to the challenge made it even better.
Ashman said the ice bucket challenge was a fabulous event. “I thank Paul Hammes for all his support and Dr. Whitman for being such a good sport,” she said.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 336-258-4058.