Local Program Spotlight

Transformational gift to establish new infusion center

Federal Way, Wash. (April 27, 2023) – When Sheryl and Baird Stephenson married in 1967, Baird worked for the Navy’s Nuclear Submarine Service. He brought home $222.22 a month. Each month, Sheryl put a little bit aside to save.

"We would never have spent our extra $5 on a latte, we’d put it toward the future," Sheryl says. "And over time that investment would grow." 

Now, 56 years later, Sheryl and Baird have built a beautiful life. They designed their Bellevue home together — carefully choosing every detail — and love celebrating the holidays there, with their two children and their families. 

Sheryl and Baird made Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) their health care home in the early 1980s. Sheryl met Kim Pittenger, MD, when she needed an emergency appointment on a holiday. He became her physician for the next three decades. "Dr. Pittenger is the perfect embodiment of a primary care physician," Sheryl says. "I have always appreciated his commitment to lifelong learning, his networking abilities, his straight-shooting, and his bedside manner. He is as much responsible for this gift as Baird and I."

Sheryl and Baird have each beaten cancer before with the help of the VMMC Oncology team. Now, Sheryl is facing a third cancer diagnosis. Throughout the treatments, Baird never leaves her side. Once again VMMC’s whole care team is there for both of them.

While awaiting treatment at VMMC’s Floyd and Delores Jones Cancer Institute, Sheryl had an idea. "We were sitting in the center and I saw a picture of donors Floyd and Delores Jones," she says. "I knew we wanted to do something to give back, too."

The Stephensons worked with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Foundation to identify where funding was needed most and where their support could make the biggest impact. Knowing the realities of cancer all too well, they were on board with supporting a new infusion center when the team at the foundation suggested it. "We’ve given to VMMC in the past, to the departments that have directly impacted our lives. This is no different," says Sheryl.

Sheryl and Baird ultimately made a transformational gift: $5 million to build the Sheryl & Baird Stephenson Infusion Center at the Virginia Mason Federal Way Medical Center.
"The Stephensons’ gift will play a crucial role in accelerating Virginia Mason Franciscan Health’s (VMFH) long-term plan to expand outpatient care throughout the Puget Sound," says Ketul Patel, CEO, VMFH. "This infusion center will make vital treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases more accessible for so many people, and it is possible because of this generous gift." 

Like all of the Stephensons’ investments, this one was made with an eye toward the future. Their gift will make a profound impact on many families. 

"This donation represents the magnificent work of our care team each and every day," says Jeanne Jachim, Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer at VMFH. "This transformative gift, benefiting thousands of future patients, underscores the Stephenson's compassion and generosity and highlights them as true philanthropists."

About Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Foundation

The Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Foundation works with grateful patients and families, doctors, nurses, employees and community leaders to raise funds to improve health care for our community through programs and services at Virginia Mason Medical Center, Bailey-Boushay House, Benaroya Research Institute, St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor, St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw, St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, and Franciscan Hospice (Hospice House) & Palliative Care. Learn more at VMFH.org/Our-Foundations