Silver Cross Names Emergency Department to Honor Kurtz & Vana Family
Silver Cross recently paid tribute to a 40-year relationship by naming the hospital’s emergency services building as The Kurtz and Vana Family Pavilion.
Last May, Marilyn Kurtz along with Tom and Michele Vana presented Silver Cross with a legacy gift for a substantial undisclosed amount to be used where it is most needed. This includes the purchase of a new ambulance simulator for the region’s emergency medical services (EMS) training program.
“The state-of-the-art learning tool will have all the bells and whistles of an ambulance including a video camera for real-time observation and playback for debriefing,” said Dr. Dave Mikolajczak, Medical Director of the Silver Cross EMS System and Silver Cross Hospital Board Member. “It even has compressed air so students can attach the patient to oxygen. The technology is as lifelike as it gets so that we can make situations as intense as possible thus allowing students a safe environment to make mistakes and learn from them ultimately saving more lives.”
“Thanks to this, their latest, transformational gift, we can make sure that the residents of New Lenox and surrounding communities will continue to have access to safe, quality healthcare for years to come,” said Paul Pawlak, who will soon retire after 27 years as President & CEO of Silver Cross Hospital.
Decades of Support and Friendship
The Silver Cross-Kurtz relationship, although built on business, is one of friendship and family. In 1977, Karl and Marilyn Kurtz along with their two sons, Tom Vana and Joey Kurtz, moved into a farmhouse in New Lenox. On November 3 of that year, Kurtz Memorial Chapel started serving the New Lenox community. Just three weeks later, Karl started Kurtz Ambulance Service and ran over 300 calls the first year. The couple answered calls and dispatched ambulances from their home 24 hours a day for many years. Tom attended paramedic class at Silver Cross Hospital and at the age of 20 he was the youngest to graduate from the program at the top of his class receiving the golden stethoscope award. In 1987, Tom met Michele Matile in the Silver Cross emergency department where she worked as a nurse for nearly twenty years. They married in 1990 and gave birth to their triplets Matthew, Amy, and Jay in 1995.
From the initiation of both businesses, the funeral home and ambulance service, a close bond has grown with Silver Cross Hospital. This bond remains strong today. Over the last 40 years
Kurtz Ambulance has offered unwavering support for the medical facility. Kurtz has been and continues to be a premier sponsor for the Childerguild Ball and the Silver Cross Foundation Charity Golf Outing. Kurtz also offers scholarships to the paramedic program offered through the hospital.
After the unexpected death of their son Joey, Karl and Marilyn made a donation that allowed for the dedication of a trauma room in his memory during the renovation of the Joliet location emergency department. Kurtz has also supported all capital campaigns at Silver Cross with significant donations and provided all the paramedics and vehicles to move 129 patients from Joliet to New Lenox when the replacement hospital opened in 2012. As a member of Childerguild, Michele co-chaired the hospital’s grand opening Gala and currently serves on the Hospital’s Foundation Board.
“Our relationship has evolved from handshakes over desks to heartfelt hugs amongst friends, said Michele Vana. “We feel Silver Cross is more than a neighbor and business partner, they are family.”
“We have literally grown up together. This latest gift serves as a gesture of our gratitude for the continued support and friendship we have with our Silver Cross Hospital family,” said Tom Vana.
“Jaying It Forward”
After the tragic death of their 16-year-old son, Jay” in Silver Cross’s emergency department following a car accident in 2012, Tom and Michele took comfort in the compassion and love from the Silver Cross staff. Therefore both the family and hospital found it fitting to hold the dedication of The Kurtz & Vana Family Pavilion on the fifth anniversary of Jay’s passing on September 25. The date also had significance as it was the day after what would have been Karl’s 75th birthday. To honor Jay’s memory, after the ceremony, the family took about 30 teenagers from Big Brothers Big Sisters on a shopping spree at Jay’s favorite store as part of their annual “Jaying it forward” commitment of doing random acts of kindness in the community.
“I am sure that Jay, Karl and Joey are smiling down on all of us,” said Dr. Mikolajczak.