Spirit of Meridian Awards

Spirit of Meridian

2020 Spirit Winner
Governor Eric Holcomb

Governor Eric Holcomb is the recipient of Meridian Health Services’ 2020 Spirit of Meridian Award, a recognition that pays tribute to an individual who demonstrates proactive actions in promoting healthier communities. The annual recognition is awarded to someone who has contributed significantly to the overall health and well-being of people and somebody who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

“We could think of no one who has had more impact in a just a short period of time on the overall health of our state,” said Hank Milius, Meridian’s president and chief executive officer.

Governor Holcomb has identified healthcare as a major initiative in his legislative agenda and specifically focused on attacking the opioid crisis as one of his five pillars of accountability. Holcomb, on his first day in office in 2017, appointed the state’s first drug czar, tackling addiction and the state’s anti-drug efforts.

“In large part, the governor’s priorities mirror the ongoing work at Meridian. His support of these initiatives and demonstrating clear achievements made him our first choice for this annual award,” Milius said.

Holcomb reinforces his healthcare initiatives in the 2020 Next Level Agenda, which includes adding more recovery housing for Hoosiers coping with substance use disorder, more mental healthcare services, tools to assess substance use disorder in pregnancy, and prioritizes reducing neonatal abstinence syndrome.

The governor’s agenda also includes expanding recovery housing for people in recovery fighting opioid use. In addition, Holcomb’s efforts to effect Indiana’s infant mortality rate are showing signs of working. Indiana’s infant mortality rate fell at the highest rate in six years.

The award will be given to Holcomb at the 2020 Rialzo, Meridian’s annual charity gala, which is April 18 at the Horizon Convention Center in Muncie, Indiana.

Meridian Recognizes 2019 Spirit of Meridian Recipients Through a Decade of Philanthropy

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

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

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.

Patrick Kennedy

Meridian Health Services presented Patrick Kennedy, former U.S. Congressman with the first National Spirit of Meridian Award. Kennedy reflects Meridian’s vision for more integrated healthcare systems and whole-person health. He also served as the lead sponsor of the groundbreaking Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act, signed into law in 2008. The Federal Parity Act provides millions of Americans previously denied care, with access to mental health and addiction treatment by requiring insurance companies to treat illnesses of the brain, such as depression and addiction, the same way they treat illnesses of the body, such as diabetes and cancer.Meridian Health Services hosted Patrick Kennedy at the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott for a speaking engagement. Kennedy addressed a full capacity audience, sharing his personal experiences with addiction and mental illness that impacted he and his family. He also signed copies of his book, “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction” for invited guests.

Jeff Arnold

For changing the narrative about drug addiction in Delaware County, and for his tireless efforts to bring treatment and recovery programs to those who need it most, Meridian Health Services is proud to announce Delaware County Prosecuting Attorney, Jeffrey Arnold as the 2018 Spirit of Meridian Award winner.

The annual recognition is awarded to someone “who has contributed significantly to the overall health of our community and somebody who goes above and beyond the call of duty,” said Hank Milius, president and CEO of Meridian Health Services. Arnold has been an invaluable partner to Meridian Health Services and a key individual with Meridian’s Maternal Treatment Program at the Suzanne Gresham Center, a program for addicted mothers and their newborn babies, which opened just last year.

Arnold’s efforts are an example of caring for the social health of our community, and support Meridian’s whole-person philosophy of physical, mental and social well-being. His connection to this have a personal and professional background as he earned his undergrad, and Master’s degree in counseling psychology and worked in the field, prior to pursuing a law degree.

His caring but “tough love” approach in helping those in need has been key in getting people the supports and direction they need to rehabilitate and start a new life.

Arnold was awarded the Community Spirit of Meridian Award at Meridian’s 2018 annual charity gala, Rialzo IX “A Whole New World”. Arnold’s contributions and perseverance have helped create “whole new lives” in Muncie and Delaware County communities.

Sagamore of the Wabash Recipients

Mary and Cornelius Dollison

Mary and Cornelius Dollison have spent a lifetime helping others. The Dollison’s opened their home more than 30 years ago during summer vacation, to help educate children in their neighborhood. That small gathering of youth was the foundation for what became Motivate Our Minds [MOM]. “Seeing the importance of helping children help themselves, helping families help themselves is a challenge, but one that’s worth it for the health of community and those within it,” said Mary Dollison.For their remarkable service to Muncie and Delaware County, the Dollisons are being awarded Indiana’s highest honor—Sagamore of the Wabash. The award is the highest honor, which the Governor of Indiana bestows. It is a personal tribute given to those who have rendered a distinguished service to the state, or to the governor.The Dollison’s were presented with the Sagamore of the Wabash Award at Meridian’s 2018 annual charity gala, Rialzo IX “A Whole New World”. The Dollison’s, through their selfless contributions made throughout Muncie and Delaware County, are creating “whole new communities.”

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

Meridian Health Services named IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital’s NICU team winners of the Spirit of Meridian award for being on the frontlines in the local fight against addiction.

Today, an average of more than two babies a week are born at Muncie’s hospital with exposure to drugs. They have Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which normally causes them to cry and shake non-stop. Because of this, they need constant care.

That’s where IU Health BMH’s NICU steps in. The team is committed to taking care of these newborn babies born suffering from withdrawal, sometimes logging 12-hour shifts on their feet. On average, these nurses care for 11 babies per day, making for a total of approximately 250 per year.

Because of their devotion to caring for these babies, the doctors and nurses at IU Health BMH are helping promote Meridian’s whole-person health cause.

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