There is strong family tradition of philanthropy among the Ashworth family of Cary. It began in 1957, when Ralph and Daphne Ashworth moved to the quiet, tree-lined streets of this little town just west of Raleigh. Ralph, a pharmacist by trade, opened Ashworth Drugs, where he built a business that has become a cornerstone of the Cary community. Daphne, a successful entrepreneur in her own right, built a chain of 15 Hallmark stores throughout central and eastern North Carolina. Now, more than 55 years later, the two are still working to make a positive impact in the lives of the people they serve, and they’ve recruited another Ashworth to help them.
The Ashworth’s grandson Chris Ashworth joined their Hallmark team in 2009. In 2011, Chris created a marketing campaign that enabled Hallmark customers to purchase 99-cent greeting cards, which were then donated to our service men and women throughout the world. “During the last two years, we’ve shipped more than 60,000 of these cards to soldiers at eight different foreign and domestic military bases,” says Chris.
“The cards enabled soldiers to keep in touch with their family members and friends, sending messages like ‘happy birthday’ or ‘missing you.’ It’s been a way for them to stay connected to home.” The campaign was so successful that it earned the Ashworths an award from the U.S. Department of Defense for their service to the military community. When U.S. troops began returning home in recent months, Chris felt it was time to re-focus the company’s fundraising efforts on local needs.
“When I began volunteering at WakeMed in 2011, I visited the Children’s Hospital and handed out Sillybandz® bracelets to the kids,” Chris explains. “That visit really opened my eyes to the pain and suffering so many children go through when they’re ill. I realized that, while I wasn’t able to ease their physical pain, maybe I could help lift their spirits with a greeting card.”
Chris collaborated with the WakeMed Foundation on a program called Cards for Healing, which once again allowed customers at participating stores to donate a 99-cent card at checkout. The donated cards are then given to WakeMed’s child life specialists and nursing staff for distribution to patients and their families.
“These cards might be used for parents to provide notes of encouragement to their sick or injured child or patients to send notes of thanks to family members or caregivers,” says Chris. “I’m proud to say our customers have donated more than 13,000 cards in 2013.”
When asked why he felt compelled to become a part of the WakeMed Foundation, Chris credits his grandparents for establishing a family tradition of service. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve watched my grandparents help other people,” Chris explains. “They taught me that it’s my responsibility to give back to my community, and that if we all do our part, our world becomes a better place in which to live. So they’ve passed the torch on to me, and I’m happy to carry it for WakeMed.”
This article was originally published in the Fall 2013 Developments, a publication of the WakeMed Foundation. Download the whole issue here.