Philanthropic endeavors have leaders who believe in the cause and champion for it! For a decade, Charlie Sursa and Fred Reese have been particularly instrumental in Meridian’s philanthropic efforts and are being recognized as recipients of Meridian’s 2019 Spirit of Meridian Award.
Philanthropy means the love of humanity—it is the pulse of not-for-profit organizations such as Meridian Health Services. Through the passion and dedication of Sursa, Reese and Meridian’s board and staff, Meridian has grown and expanded its services to communities offering “whole-person” healthcare through the integration of physical, behavioral and social services.
Charlie Sursa and his family are known for a legacy of philanthropy which helped establish a culture of giving in the community. Sursa has selflessly given his time, talent and treasure to many organizations including serving on boards for the Indiana Youth Institute, Ball State University Foundation, Community Foundation, Muncie Symphony Orchestra, President of the local Rotary Club, and many others. In addition, Sursa has been on the Meridian Board of Directors and committees for over 15 years. He was instrumental in leading Meridian’s philanthropic initiatives with the creation of Meridian’s Fund Development Council. He led Meridian’s efforts to help create a culture of giving. “If it wasn’t for Charlie, Rialzo would not be here. He was the one who said we will never know if folks will donate unless we ask. And he was a pioneer in the support of Rialzo through his personal and corporate giving,” said Hank Milius, President/CEO, Meridian Health Services.
Fred Reese’s history in philanthropy led him to be known as the heart and mind of Meridian’s charity benefit gala, Rialzo. Reese’s dedication and passion brought Rialzo to life ten years ago. He has impressed people each and every year with beautiful decorations and astonishing themes making Rialzo the area’s largest charity gala while providing an incredible experience raising money for people in need. The owner of Willowbrook Interiors and NV Design, Reese’s professional expertise in interior design lends to his elaborate décor, keen execution of details, and his relationships within the community to help connect people to Rialzo and Meridian.
His collaboration and leadership with the arts community has made Rialzo an experience like no other with full theatrical performances and eventful productions at every Rialzo event. His time, talent and energy make Meridian’s charity gala and other annual events possible, including Holidays at Gresham. “Fred has a passion for the mission of Meridian’s programs and services, and generously invests 400+ hours of his time each year to Rialzo alone in planning and execution,” said Hank Milius. Reese has orchestrated ten years of transforming ideas and bringing them to life for thousands of attendees to experience Meridian’s “purpose with a party.”
“No one organization can be all things to all people and Rialzo is an example of exceptional collaboration,” said Milius. Rialzo is a true community collaboration with many organizations supporting Meridian including partnerships with businesses, corporations and the local arts community—Muncie Civic Theatre, Cornerstone Center for the Arts, and the Muncie Symphony Orchestra who offer performances throughout the event.
Since its inception, Rialzo has raised nearly $2.5 million in funds through donations, sponsorships, and sales resulting in Meridian’s ability to offer the following:
- Maternal Treatment Program – providing support and therapy for addicted mothers and their newborn babies.
- Pediatrics – Reach Out and Read Program funding (books for each well-baby visit).
- A therapeutic playground for Pediatric Rehab patients at our Suzanne Gresham Center
- Training for Foster Hope parents.
- Women’s Health – to help mothers in need with advanced technology testing.
- Wheeling for Healing Kits- portable therapeutic kits for behavioral clinicians to serve children in schools and in homes.
- Welcome Home Packs- for previously homeless patients making the transition to apartment living.
Many of these programs were launched due to the generous funds received through the philanthropic efforts of Rialzo. A big thank you to two of the most important people who helped bring all of this to fruition, Charlie Sursa and Fred Reese, our 2019 recipients of the Spirit of Meridian Award.