Rancho debuts patient resource center

DOWNEY - The four-decade partnership between Las Floristas and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center reached its zenith Wednesday with the grand opening of a spectacular new patient resource at the world-renowned hospital. The Marilyn J. Hilton Resource Center & Gregory R. Dillon Garden Plaza were officially opened in a ceremony filled with golden memories, heartfelt emotion and hope for a better future for Rancho patients.

"I am so excited about this garden and resource center," said Rancho CEO Jorge Orozco. "We are very proud of the world-class clinical care we give here. But we recognize that individuals who are injured or sustain an injury or illness do not recover just because of our clinical staff. We only play a small part in their lives. And then they return home.

"And really, returning back to life starts when they leave Rancho," he said. "It's about love, it's about relationships, it's about work, it's about play, it's about happiness. And this center really represents our commitment to that.

"We do not get reimbursed for the services we provide at the resource center," Jorge said. "But we feel that they are critical to people continuing with their lives."

"This garden and resource center is truly a team effort," he added. "I want to recognize Las Floristas for making this center possible. I also want to thank our Chief of Rehabilitation Therapies Lilli Thompson and the clinical staff who really partnered with patients to create a vision for this center."

"The resource center was a vision that we had many, many years ago," Lilli said. "Rancho has incredible resources, incredible knowledge and incredible information to share with our patients, their family members and with other professionals. But we had no central place for people to come to find out what we have to offer, what the bounty of Rancho really is, until the vision became a reality through the incredible efforts of Las Floristas, the Rancho staff, the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation and all those that helped us along the way.

"We're hoping that people will come here and find out about things they didn't know about before," she said. "We also hope that it's communicated throughout the community, so others will come here and find out information that will help them live successfully with their disability."

The resource center and garden plaza are part of Rancho's comprehensive Wellness Center, which includes dozens of classes each month,a full gym for patients to work out and many other components to improve the lives of patients.

Rancho patient Lanell Chappell spoke of her experience with the resource center. "Once I felt alone and unfulfilled. But because of the resource center, I don't anymore. The resource center will help me expand connections with my Rancho friends. I feel a sense of belonging. I will spend many hours enjoying this place. Thank you to all who helped make this possible."

Among those attending the grand opening ceremony were Ron Hilton, son of Marilyn and Barron Hilton; and Lori Dillon, Gregory Dillon's daughter-in-law.

Maggie Simms of Las Floristas spoke eloquently about the late Marilyn Hilton and Gregory Dillon, a pair of powerful and committed leaders for whom the resource center and garden plaza were named.

"Marilyn and her husband Barron of the Hilton Hotels Corporation were married for more than 50 years and raised 8 children," she said. "Marilyn was a 43-year member of Las Floristas and Barron was our most generous and loyal supporter. Marilyn served with distinction as ball chair and president and was our honorary chairman in 2001. Her deceptively diminutive figure and captivating smile belied her strong leadership.

"Gregory Dillon served for many years as vice chairman of the Hilton Hotels Corporation," Maggie said. "He was a member of the board of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. His wife Nancy Dillon and Marilyn were best friends. Las Floristas thrived under Marilyn's and Nancy's leadership. After Nancy passed away, Gregory continued to support Las Floristas in many ways. He served as our 1996 honorary chairman and was an integral part of our fundraising activities.

"If you needed something, you would call Gregory and he'd find a way to get it," Maggie said. "He was one of our most enthusiastic supporters. And we even named him an honorary member of Las Floristas.

"What motivated both Marilyn and Gregory during their years with Las Floristas was their love and concern for the children here at Rancho," she said. We could not find a better way to honor their tireless efforts and dedication than with the establishment of the Marilyn J. Hilton Resource Center and the Gregory R. Dillon Garden Plaza."

Maggie's leadership was a key factor in the establishment of the new resource, and in addition to Lilli, Rancho Occupational Therapist Michele Berro played a key role in making the project happen. Architect Gene Klow managed the project, with Ron Kober of RK Construction responsible for the work on the resource center. Greg Simms and Simms Construction created the dazzling garden plaza. The Rancho Facilities Department was also indispensable, and Lowe's Home Improvement Center also made a sizable donation to the project. "With their help and support, we were able to complete this project on-budget," said Las Floristas member and event MC Karen Garlington.

Although the day belonged to Rancho's patients, it was also a day to remember for Las Floristas. "Las Floristas is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and in the last 40 years we have designated our fundraising to Rancho," Karen said. "This is another of those very special miracles that happen at Rancho because of so many people on behalf of the patients," said Los Angeles County Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe. "Las Floristas has been an integral part in the lifeblood of this institution, having raised more than $10 million over the years for this wonderful hospital called Rancho."

"The Ladies of Las Floristas have shown their love and commitment to our patients," said Rancho Chief of Pediatrics Luis Montes, MD. "They have come to exemplify what the relationship between the community and the hospital can truly be."

********** Published: January 17, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 40