From left, SEF Board Members Bob Cahn, Chris Kearbey, and Marcia Wilson; SEF Director Tamara Ferguson; Friends of Wings President Maryanne Barkley; and Friends of Wings Board Member Brenda Eardley stand next to the Wings on Wheels vehicle purchased in part with proceeds from the 2016 SEF Golf Tournament.

Simmons Hanly Conroy recently welcomed a special visitor when a white cargo van pulled into the firm’s parking lot. To the average observer it may have looked like just a van, but for employees, it was the manifestation of their charitable contributions to a local organization that will bring comfort to BJC Hospice patients and their families.

In 2016, the Simmons Employee Foundation (SEF) decided to donate the proceeds from their annual golf tournament to Friends of Wings, the fundraising arm of Wings – BJC’s pediatric hospice and supportive care program – which provides an array of support for children in hospice, their families and anyone affected with a severe illness, death or trauma. For four years, the organization raised money to purchase a van for Wings on Wheels (WOW), a mobile expressive therapy program – and the approximately $13,000 they received from the SEF golf tournament was the final push they needed to make it a reality.

“There is so much research that non-verbal expression during trauma and times of grief is instrumental for children and young people,” said Maryanne Barkley, Illinois Board President for Friends of Wings. “This vehicle allows us to visit schools, churches, and homes of families suffering through trauma and severe illness. It allows us to help them explore their thoughts and feelings, through music and art, to work through grief and promote the healing process.

“These services are offered at no cost to the families and communities, so the only way we are able to provide this life-changing therapy is through good people like those of you at Simmons Hanly Conroy,” Maryanne added.

The van is equipped with a host of books, art supplies, musical instruments and other supplies to help children express their feelings of grief and celebrate the lives of loved ones who have either died or are suffering with a severe illness.

For SEF Director Tamara Ferguson, seeing the van and hearing the different ways it has helped St. Louis-area children and families makes all the hard work worthwhile.

“We don’t always get to see how the money we raise is used, so this was a special treat for us,” Tamara said. “It was amazing to hear about the meaningful and important work Wings on Wheels is doing and it was heartwarming to know we had a part in making it happen.”

SEF is continuing its support of Friends of Wings by sponsoring a pre-show extravaganza at the Muny before a performance of Disney’s The Little Mermaid held June 27. For ticket information, visit www.friendsofwings.org.

The WOW vehicle will be on display at this year’s SEF Golf Tournament held June 23 at Spencer T. Olin Golf Course. To register for this year’s tournament or for more information, contact Stephanie Elliott at sjelliott@simmonsfirm.com.