Their paths crossed during the construction of the freestanding Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Rob Sipos was a project engineer for Centex Rodgers, the construction firm tasked with building the pediatric health care facility. Alspaugh, a senior interior designer with ESa is the architectural and design firm responsible for the hospital.
Alspaugh remembers when Sipos’ son, Gabe, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in 2002. One Christmas, her firm purchased everything on Gabe’s entire wish list.
“It was amazing,” recalled Lu Sipos. “Some of those toys are still being used by children in our neighborhood. They have been well-loved for sure,” she laughed.
“It didn’t surprise me when Molly decided to help Gabe’s Chemo Duck program recently. It has been very fulfilling to reunite with so many friends who supported our family when Gabe was sick and to know that they continue to support children living with cancer … well it’s hard to even put into words!”
Alspaugh said the ESa’s motto – for the kids – was a consistent theme during the hospital build more than a decade ago. It continues to play a role in the firm’s commitment to community outreach.
The company hosts $5 Fridays as a way to raise money for various charities and recently sponsored a dress-down day to support Chemo Duck.
“When we saw that there was a way for us to help kids out – we were in,” she said. “We raised $500 for Chemo Duck. It was one of the most successful ones ever.”
The personal connection to the family was a definite appeal for donations, she said. The company plans to host another event next year.
The first week of August the Sipos family met with ESa employees at its Nashville offices. The gathering was a great reminder of the impact their work has on families, Alspaugh said.
“There were a lot of our folks who worked with Rob on the Children’s Hospital project and remembered Gabe’s story and the tough journey they traveled.
“It was great to be able to see Gabe – he is such an outgoing young man and truly inspirational and to learn what he is doing to develop Chemo Duck and the role he plays in the program was really neat. The last time we saw him he was just a baby and now he is making a difference in the world.
“It was truly gratifying to see the success of Chemo Duck,” she added.
“It’s wonderful that it is so effective and on such a global scale.”
Sipos said the fundraiser held by ESa will provide Chemo Ducks to 16 patients.