Improving the Lives of Mississippi Children
Centenarian Mary Burkett has a passion for daylilies. She has one of those gardens people drive long distances to see, and counts gardening as her favorite hobby. Her other hobby—real estate—has grown a garden of a different variety, one that will help thousands of sick and injured children at Batson Children's Hospital.
Mary is leaving the bulk of her estate, sprouted from wise real estate investments, to the children's hospital. The Hattiesburg resident has never stepped foot in Batson, has no children of her own, and has no relatives who have been treated there. She has no personal story of triumph or tragedy that framed her choice to include Batson in her will. Her reasons for doing so were far simpler: She loves children.
"I feel like somebody has to take care of them because they cannot take care of themselves," Mary says. "I want them to get the best of care."
"Ms. Burkett is a truly beautiful person and it is clear her life has been dedicated to bringing beauty, joy and, most of all, hope to others," Dr. Rick Barr, Suzan B. Thames professor and chair of pediatrics, says. "With this gift, she is now committed to bringing hope to children."
Mary encountered Batson for the first time through a letter sent to donors from Batson's Children's Miracle Network Hospitals program. Each time she received a letter, Mary would reply with a small donation.
This went on for nearly seven years until one day, Mary enclosed a handwritten letter to Barr, who co-signs the letters with hospital chief executive officer, Guy Giesecke.
"I almost fell out of my chair when I read Mary's letter, especially the last paragraph," Barr recalls. "It was similar to other letters I receive in that it outlined her personal connection to child health issues and her dedication to research in her career, but that last paragraph—that was really special."
That last paragraph explained that Batson would receive a significant portion of her estate. The declaration, worthy of some fanfare, was done in Mary's typical matter-of-fact fashion.
"I try to follow a Christian faith," Mary says. "And I feel like if you're in a position to help somebody and if it doesn't hurt you, then do it."
Change a Life
Contact Sandra Guest at email@example.com or 662-915-5208 if you are interested in learning more about giving back to Batson Children's Hospital. Gifts like Mary's are just one way you can change a child's life by supporting the University of Mississippi Foundation.