Gratitude Spans Decades After Childhood Illness

Virginia Moellenhoff

Grateful for the care she received as a child, Virginia Moellenhoff is proud to support St. Louis Children's Hospital with a charitable gift annuity.

During the Depression era that began in late 1929, resources were scarce for many families. Virginia Moellenhoff's father was out of work and struggled to provide for his wife and two young daughters. But 6-year-old Virginia had a lump behind her ear and was having trouble hearing in the classroom. With empty pockets and a glimmer of hope, they sought care for Virginia at St. Louis Children's Hospital knowing she would not be turned away due to the family's inability to pay.

Doctors discovered Virginia had mastoiditis, often caused by an untreated ear infection that spreads to a delicate bone behind the ear. Virginia quickly had surgery to remove the infected growth from the bone.

The "Little Things" That Mean a Lot

While Virginia's hearing improved, she contracted scarlet fever soon after surgery. During the 1920s-1940s, scarlet fever was rampant and caused many children to become very sick and die. Virginia required a blood transfusion and was hospitalized for several weeks.

Because the bacteria-caused illness was contagious, visitors were discouraged. "I remember my parents looking through the doorway but they couldn't come in the room," Virginia says. "It was very hard on all of us. It was the first time I'd ever seen my father cry."

Virginia Moellenhoff as a child on a horseThe bright spots during that troubling time were the nurses, Virginia recalls. "They took good care of me. Because there were no tissues then, the nurses tore toilet paper into squares and pinned them together on my crib. It was a little thing that meant a lot."

A Positive, Lasting Side Effect

Thankfully, Virginia recovered from her serious illnesses. She has had no significant lasting effects from the surgery and high fevers she experienced as a child. However, one lingering outcome remains: her appreciation.

Virginia says, "The care I received as a child was given gratis, for free, because we had no money. I didn't know it at the time, but I was given the same quality of excellent care as everyone else who could pay."

With a grateful heart and a desire to give back, Virginia grew up to be a reading specialist and raised four children. Today, Virginia is a healthy 93-year-old who lives with her husband just a few miles from where she grew up.

Her focus for the past several years has continued to be gratitude.

"I've been blessed and I'm extremely grateful to St. Louis Children's Hospital, which is why I contribute to the hospital every year," she says.

After learning about charitable gift annuities in a newspaper article, Virginia decided that was the way she wanted to give back to the hospital.

"It provides me with additional income while also helping the hospital—it's a double benefit," she says.

Charitable gift annuities provide donors with dependable income during their retirement years while also allowing the hospital to further its work. This type of donation also offers numerous tax benefits.

Thanks to her generous donation, St. Louis Children's Hospital is able to ease the financial burden—similar to what Virginia's parents felt when she was a child—through our Free Care Fund. Contributions provide financial support for patient medical bills as well as care that is not eligible for insurance reimbursement. This fund offers relief from financial stress so parents can fully focus on their child's treatment.

"Through my giving, I'm hoping to provide hospital care for children whose parents can't afford medical bills, just as I experienced," Virginia says. "I truly appreciate the wonderful care I received when my family was in desperate need. I give to the hospital because they saved my life."

You can help save lives like Virginia's with a gift to St. Louis Children's in your will or estate plan. Contact the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation at 314.286.0988 or slchfoundation@bjc.org to find the right gift option for you today.