June 7, 2004

Inaugural Rosalynn Carter event celebrates caregivers


By Katherine Baust

The Rosalynn Carter Institute (RCI) will hold its first Gala Celebration of Caregivers on Tuesday, June 15, at 7 p.m. in Atlanta’s Symphony Hall. The gala will be headlined by “American Idol” star Clay Aiken, and Miss Atlanta Danica Tisdale also will perform.

“It will be a tribute to America’s unsung heroes and an entertaining evening of comedy, music, song and celebrities with special wishes and dreams for the young, elderly and disabled,” said Rhonda Talley, RCI executive director. “The gala will highlight the beautiful hearts and souls of those who provide care and let the compassion of caregivers shine. The glow of individual stories and recognition will give a spiritual lift to all in attendance.”

A new award for professional caregivers, the RCI Caring and Competent Caregiver Award, will be inaugurated at the gala and given to four individuals who represent professional caregivers not typically recognized for their heroic efforts, said Neil Shulman, associate professor of medicine.

He will co-host the event with WSB-TV anchor Monica Kaufman.

“This is a Miss America pageant for beauty from within,” Shulman said. “Holding this gala and awards ceremony provides a way to thank, recognize and inspire other professional caregivers across the nation to make a difference in people’s lives.”

The 2004 awards, divided into four categories, will be given to:

• Nurse’s Aide/Patient Care Technician Beverly Christman, who works at Arden Courts, an assisted living facility in Allentown, Pa.

• Licensed Practical Nurse Scott Law, from Heartland Home Health Care and Hospice in Virginia Beach, Va.

• Certified Nursing Assistant Gayle Were, who works at Manor Care Health Services in Minot, N.D.

• Home Health Aide Raschanda Cunningham, from Heartland Home Health Care and Hospice in Independence, Ohio.

Award winners will be flown in for the gala and will receive a bronze medallion presented by former first lady Rosalynn Carter and a $1,000 educational grant given in honor of Louise Casey, a former licensed practical nurse (LPN). Casey campaigned for licensure of practical nurses in Nebraska; she took the first test to license practical nurses and awarded license No. 1 as an LPN. At the age of 80, Casey retired the
No. 1 license back to the Nebraska State Board of Nursing, and at age 86, she was awarded Nebraska’s Nurse of the Year for her pioneer leadership and dedication to a life of caring for others.

RCI was formed in 1987 in honor of Carter and is based at her alma mater, Georgia Southwestern State University. The institute also has an office in Washington. Through research, education and training, RCI promotes the mental health and well-being of individuals, families and professional caregivers; encourages effective caregiving practices; builds public awareness of caregiving needs; and advances public and social policies that enhance caring communities.

The institute is accepting donations in honor of caregivers. Gala tickets are available for $100 per person, and professional caregivers who serve in one of the four award categories may obtain tickets for $25. Tickets are available through the Woodruff Arts Center box office at 404-733-5000 or www.woodruffcenter.org/wac/tickets.html.