2013 Health Care Heroes: Roberta L. Walton

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Health Care HeroesWINNER: Volunteer

Roberta L. Walton

St.Vincent Foundation

Roberta Walton has made volunteering her full-time career since she and her husband, Robert D. Walton, M.D., an emergency room physician for St. Vincent Health, moved to Indianapolis.

“I didn’t know a soul here other than my husband,” she said. “My family is all out on the West Coast. Bob’s family is either up in Michigan or on the East Coast. I knew I needed to get out and meet some people, and I thought the [St. Vincent] Guild was a good way to do it.”

walton05-roberta-258.jpg(IBJ Photo/ Eric Learned)

That was in 1978. Since then, Walton, a former nurse, has added many more causes to her volunteer portfolio, dedicating time to volunteer work each day. “Since I was no longer nursing, I’ve always treated my volunteer work as my job,” she said. “I think it’s an innate part of being human, that if you have an ability, you do whatever you can to help others.”

Walton divided her time between the arts and health care organizations, until she received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2002.

“The diagnosis just comes out of left field,” she said. “But it gives you time to evaluate where you are in your life—what’s important, who’s important. After finishing treatment, most people make changes in their lives.”

Walton, age 66, resigned from a number of boards that didn’t fit her new focus on women’s health—cancer patients in particular.

She’s still involved with the St. Vincent Guild and is a past president of the organization. She sits on the St. Vincent Hospital Advisory Board and is the current chairwoman of the St. Vincent’s Women’s Hospital Advisory board. She’s served on the committee for the Key to the Cure annual fundraiser for women’s cancer charities, sponsored locally by St. Vincent and Saks Fifth Avenue, for five out of six years.

“Roberta and the St. Vincent Foundation are synonymous in their commitment to the ministries of St. Vincent Hospital,” said Sue Anne Gilroy, executive director of St. Vincent Foundation. “Every successful Foundation event or initiative over the past decade has enjoyed Roberta’s leadership. We love her spirit and her dedication.”

Walton’s also been a member of the logistics committee for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women for several years and served as chairwoman in 2011 and 2012. From 2000 to 2012, she served on Marian University’s Board of Directors and its Nurse Advisory board. She is a founding board member and past board chairwoman of The Wellness Community, now known as The Cancer Support Community.

In 2003, Walton trained to volunteer as a peer counselor for the Y-ME breast cancer support organization to help families get through the “gut-wrenching” pain of a diagnosis. When Y-ME was dissolved, she transitioned her volunteer work to the Pink Ribbon Connection. She’s also on the steering committee to create a peer counseling group at St. Vincent’s, and is looking forward to beginning peer counseling there in March. In February she was commissioned as a Stephen Minister for St. Vincent’s and began visiting patients.

“Roberta has dedicated her life to helping others with cancer, which is born out of her own experiences, as well as out of her sincere compassion and care for others battling the disease,” said Nancy A. Frick, director of foundation advancement. “She is an inspiring person—both personally and as a community leader. We feel very fortunate to have been at the top of her philanthropic priorities.”

Walton considers her biggest contribution to be chairing the annual Weekend to End Breast Cancer fundraiser in 2009 and 2010 and its successor, the Walk of Hope in 2011 and 2012, to raise money for the St. Vincent Cancer Center.

She thrives on leadership roles—putting something together, bringing people to the table, seeing it all come to fruition. “I love that part, so that’s why I stay involved with a number of special events, but I also like the one-on-one of peer counseling,” she said.

It was no surprise to anyone but Walton when she became the St. Vincent Foundation’s first Woman of Hope honoree in 2011. Walton was heavily involved with the initiative, serving on the sponsorship committee and helping raise more than $375,000 to support survivorship and patient navigation programs.

“I was so honored, because I think there’s something about being the first one that is emblematic of what the award is all about,” she said. “I take the award very seriously because it came from my peers—people I was working with who knew me pretty well and who knew my story.”

Don’t expect Walton to rest on her laurels—even after 35 years of volunteer service.

“I always keep the doors open and see where I’m being led for the next step,” Walton said. “I just don’t think I’m finished yet.”•  



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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.