Philanthropic Giving for the Kids

January 18, 2021

The generosity of Aprile and Gene Renna has allowed K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital to continue the critical work of palliative care.

Aprile and Gene Renna were staying in Florida when Aprile unexpectedly and inexplicably fainted. Doctors there placed an implantable loop recorder, which monitors heart rhythm, to pinpoint the cause.

While in New Jersey at the Rennas’ summer home, Aprile experienced a second fainting episode. She met with Mark Mascarenhas, M.D., an electrophysiologist at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, who discovered that the recorder showed no evidence of heart rhythm at the time of fainting. He immediately knew that Aprile needed a pacemaker to maintain a regular heartbeat—and quickly.

“We brought Aprile to the lab at Jersey Shore and implanted a pacemaker. She has been doing well ever since,” says Dr. Mascarenhas, adding that fainting episodes can be a sign of a variety of issues, including low blood pressure and cardiac abnormalities. He urges anyone experiencing these episodes to seek medical care.

“Dr. Mascarenhas was excellent,” says Gene, who retired in 2002 as the executive vice president of Exxon Mobil. “He was able to see us right away, and Aprile had a very good outcome with the surgery.”

The pacemaker surgery wasn’t the Rennas’ first experience with Hackensack Meridian Health. On the contrary, for years, they’ve played the roles of patient, donor and even board member (Aprile and Gene’s son Jim Renna serves on both the Hackensack Meridian Ambulatory Ventures Board and the Hackensack Meridian Health Ventures Board).

Over the years, Aprile and Gene’s philanthropic giving has focused on supporting the care of the littlest patients. “Their generous gifts to K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital allow us to provide compassionate, high-quality care for the kids that need it the most,” says Ellen Hahn, development officer for the Children’s Hospital. “They have such large hearts for children, especially sick ones. For them, giving isn’t just about making a donation. They want to make sure their gifts are going where they will make the biggest impact.”

“We hate to see kids struggle. I know we can’t do everything in terms of donations, so we’ve chosen kids,” adds Gene, who, along with Aprile, also supports children’s charities in Florida, their home base.

Specifically, the Rennas’ impact has been on pediatric palliative care—specialized medical care for patients and families with chronic illnesses and life-threatening conditions. “The Rennas’ gifts have allowed us to continue that critical work,” Ellen says. “We are able to continue improving the quality of life of these children by providing them and their families with comprehensive care and support as a result of the Rennas’ generosity and the support of other donors.”

This year, the Rennas have also focused their efforts on COVID-19 relief for the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Their donation has helped provide personal protective equipment for team members and support renovations to the PICU to create negative-pressure rooms for COVID-19 patients.

“We could not do the work we do without the support of our community, and at the top of that list are the Rennas,” Ellen says. “They are so big-hearted, and we truly value their longtime support.”

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