Writen By Citizen Reporter BEA LEWIS
Milo Pike and Penny Pitou have championed many charitable causes over the years, but perhaps none with such a long-term public benefit as their continued support of Lakes Region General Hospital.
Pike, who helped the company founded by his great grandfather, evolve into one of the largest asphalt and aggregate materials producers in New England, and Pitou, the first American to win an Olympic medal in downhill skiing and a successful business woman in her own right recognized early on the intrinsic connection between the community and its hospital.
Pike recalled he was just 32- years-old when he joined the hospital’s board of trustees in 1962. Just four years later, the hospital kicked off efforts to raise $750,000 to fund much needed improvements.
Applying the same business acumen that helped his company thrive, Pike recounted, he set about recruiting the most prominent name in town to head the fund drive.
MILO PIKE, front right, his daughter, Cindy Baron, front left, Penny Pitou, back left, her son, Christian Zimmermann and Cindy's daughter Jill Trimble, back right, each have a connection to LRGHealthcare. The Milo Pike and Penny Pitou Charitable Fund has made a generous donation to LRGHealthcare's $4 million capital campaign earmarked to make a number of renovations including making all patient rooms private, a new endoscopy suite at LRGH, updating medical imaging equipment at Franklin Regional Hospital and Lakes Region General Hospital and expanding the LRGH Emergency Department to accommodate the growing needs of the community.
Pitou whose name was still white-hot after winning two silver medals in the downhill and giant slalom at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California recalled that she met Pike while returning from a tennis match.
“I saw this pink Cadillac convertible bearing down on me. It pulled over behind me and this man jumped in to the seat beside me and says, ‘Hi, I’m Milo Pike and I’m trying to raise $1 million for the hospital and I’d like you to head the public drive,’” Pitou recounted.
She accepted the challenge and the drive ultimately raised $1.125 million. Along the way Pitou suggested the name be changed to Lakes Region General Hospital in keeping with its growing patient base. Pitou smiles as she recalled learning later that Pike asked her to head the drive despite harboring a major grudge.
Pike was in the throes of paving Main Street and found himself in the middle of a giant parade after Gov. Wesley Powell declared “Penny Pitou Day.”
Both Pike and Pitou said supporting the hospital was an easy choice to make. They each view their volunteerism and financial support as the ideal way to give back to the community that unselfish supported them when they needed it most.
“I realized that when you grow up in a community and you play baseball, people come out and watch and are always kind of on your side. If you had a good game, you got a pat on the back and they’d still support you if you lost. I guess I decided then I would have to give something back,” Pike recounted of his days on the diamond while at Laconia High School.
Pitou had similar high praise for the people of the Lakes Region, who she said were instrumental in helping her achieve her Olympic dream.
“People in this community were very wonderful to me when I needed them,” Pitou said.
When she was training, competitors were on their own — no teams with deep pockets to pay for slope time or living expenses. In 1956, the United States sent just 67 athletes (10 of them women) to compete in eight sports in the winter games.
The pair established the Penny Pitou and Milo Pike Charitable Fund in 1988 and structured it so that LRGHealthcare will continue to receive financial support in perpetuity.
“It’s great to be able to give back and to have that ongoing forever and ever,” she said.
Today, philanthropy with impact has become a family affair. Pike’s daughter Cindy Baron sits on the LRGHealthcare Board of Trustees and is a member of the Capital Campaign Committee.
“The hospital’s administration is very forward thinking and they are positioning this hospital to survive whatever happens. Health care is changing,” said Baron whose daughter Jill Trimble, is planning to deliver her first child at Lakes Region General Hospital in December.
“I didn’t really have to think about it. I was born here and its convenient living in Gilford. The caring for women facility has been so amazing, very welcoming and I like the atmosphere,” said Trimble explaining that she and her husband, Andy, have decided not to learn the baby’s sex in advance.
Pitou’s son, Christian Zimmermann, president of Pike Industries which is now owned by CRH of Dublin, Ireland said, he has tried to emulate the philosophy of his predecessor Randy Pike by giving back to the community with a special focus on children.
While the company is now publicly owned, Zimmermann said, they still pride themselves on being an involved corporate citizen giving when they can including transforming old gravel pits into ball fields and making a donation to the Capital Campaign. Pike’s employees, he said, continue to give generously to the Lakes Region United Way.
Randy Pike, Milo’s son, and Randy’s wife, Patty, also donated to the campaign.
“We did make a donation as we felt it was important to support the hospital and God forbid we need it someday we want the care that they offer and are grateful it is right here in Laconia! Also after seeing the new private rooms, we know how important a private room is to a person’s recovery and wellbeing,” Patty Pike said.
The goal of the LRGHealthcare Capital Campaign is to raise $4 million to convert existing multi patient rooms to single rooms at Lakes Region General Hospital and Franklin Regional Hospital and to complete other improvements.
To date, $3.2 million has been pledged. Nearly 60 percent of the employees at LRGHealthcare have made donations, raising more than $286,000. The entire board of trustees has pledged to the campaign and 100 percent of the senior team and managers have also made a gift. More than $325,000 has been donated by LRGHealthcare providers.
Other renovations to the hospital will include private bathrooms and showers, family sleep sofas and state of the-art patient lift systems, providing the safest and easiest way to move a patient. In addition to private patient rooms, other work will include a new endoscopy suite at LRGH, updating the medical imaging equipment at Franklin Regional Hospital and Lakes Region General Hospital, and the expansion of the LRGH Emergency Department to accommodate the growing needs of the community.
For more information about the campaign visit the LRGHealthcare website.
LRGHealthcare is a not-for-profit healthcare charitable trust representing Lakes Region General Hospital, Franklin Regional Hospital, and affiliated medical providers. LRGHealthcare’s mission is to provide quality, compassionate care and to strengthen the well-being of our community.