By Tammie Ritchey, Executive Director, The MED Foundation
They met in Illinois, “through Elvis.” That’s how Sharon Parker and Kay Shepard explained it from the fluorescent-lit room in The MED’s basement, stacked to the brim with Elvis memorabilia. They were sorting through collectibles for a special reception, just for Elvis fans and donors, to be hosted by The MED Foundation a few days later.
When I asked if they had found anything interesting among the artifacts, they both gestured toward two towering stacks in the corner of the room. “It’s such a treasure-trove! You have very rare Elvis books here; many that have been out of print for who knows how long,” Kay said. Their enthusiasm was downright contagious.
The Elvis keepsakes were offered for sale to benefit the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center. This year’s “Elvis Week” marked the 34th anniversary of the death of the king of rock and roll, and for us it means a chance to visit with friends, thank our longtime supporters (many of whom are Elvis fans) and even make new acquaintances.
The Elvis collectibles that were offered for sale at our annual Elvis Fan Reception August 11th were, in large part, due to the generosity of Elizabeth Portolano, who amassed an extensive and rare collection of Elvis artifacts before her passing last December. Her best friend, Joann Passalacqua, decided to donate the items to The MED Foundation in Elizabeth’s honor.
Joann and Elizabeth have been coming to Memphis since 1980, even though both called New York home. A plaque will be hung in Elizabeth’s honor on The MED’s Donor Wall of Honor in the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center. The “Wall” recognizes donors who cumulatively contribute $1000. Nearly 300 plaques hang there today, each dated and inscribed according to the donor’s wishes.
Dr. Reginald Coopwood, CEO of The MED, had an exciting announcement to make at this year’s reception. The MED will pay tribute to Elvis by re-designing the entrance to the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center in a way that honors him. The design process has already begun, with work to be completed later this year.
The Elvis Fan Reception drew fans from as far away as Brazil and Japan this year. Some are faithful attendees, having attended The MED Foundation’s annual Elvis Fan Reception for over two decades – since the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center opened in 1983. Others are new to The MED Foundation’s tradition.
Kyle Timm, a Colorado resident, proudly sported a tattoo of Elvis on her forearm. “I think the reception is just awesome! It’s a great opportunity to meet people, and support the Elvis Presley Trauma Center.” This was her second year to attend, and she’s sure she’ll continue to make it a tradition.
Everyone in the room had an interesting Elvis story to tell, and there was a spirit of camaraderie lingering long after the event. With over $4,000 contributed by Elvis fans during the reception, Elvis’s spirit of generosity lives on. Next year’s event will be even more spectacular, as 2012 marks the 35th anniversary of Elvis’s death.
Click here to make a special donation in Elvis’s name to the Trauma Center or to learn more about the Donor Wall of Honor.