Meet People Just Like You

Every day people just like you choose to make our mission their own. Perhaps you are a grateful patient whose life was touched by a UVA doctor or nurse. Or, you are a community member who wants to ensure that UVA’s exceptional care is available whenever you or a loved one turns to us for help.

Whatever your reason, private support of UVA Health has an immediate and lasting effect on our patients and their families. Meet other people who chose to help make care at UVA even better.

Ashley Hale, Inspired Student

Ashley Hale

During her senior year of high school, Ashley Hale was one of the most experienced cheerleaders on her team. She took on a role as a leader and mentor and grew close to their coach, Ashleigh. At the beginning of the season, Ashleigh announced she was pregnant. The team was elated. They bonded over the excitement and anticipation.

The first 32 weeks of Ashleigh’s pregnancy were routine. Everything was going as planned until one afternoon; Hale returned home from school and learned that Ashleigh’s baby passed away.

In August 2018, Hale started her first year at UVA. After doing some research, she learned that University Hospital did not have a cooling bassinet or another reliable method to care for a stillborn baby. Hale made it her mission to change that.

Hale started a Get Involved fundraising page and promoted it on Facebook, shared it with family and friends, and sent letters to local businesses. Nurses at UVA Labor & Delivery shared it with their teams.

Through Hale’s efforts, UVA Health now has a Caring Cradle available to families who need it. Read Ashley’s inspiring story here.

Anna Pitts, Cancer Survivor

Anna Pitts

Anna Pitts was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) when she was just 18 months old. During the weeks leading up to her diagnosis, she had ear infections with high fevers. She also had a decline in appetite and pain in both legs that caused her to stop walking. After several doctor visits, her pediatrician decided to run a blood test. The Pitts family received the news that no one is ever prepared to hear – their energetic, sweet, innocent girl might have cancer. They were sent to the University of Virginia Hospital to meet with doctors for additional tests. 

"Knowing that your child is just beginning a journey that will include multiple surgeries, chemotherapy infusions and bone marrow biopsies leaves you with an extremely helpless feeling. Luckily, it didn’t take long to realize that our amazing medical team wanted the exact same thing that we did – to give Anna the best possible care, while allowing her to live like a normal kid. Anna completed two and a half years of treatment in January of 2014. She has been in remission since September of 2011. It was a tough road but she proved to be one strong little girl." - Krissy Pitts 

The Pitts family are passionate supporters of UVA Children's, and often share their story at fundraising events like Radiothon. To listen to an on-air radio interview with Anna, her sister Grace, and her mother Krissy, click here.  

Deb Owens, Nurse on a Mission

Deb Owens

Debra Owens leads a busy life. Right before Easter, Deb—a mother, wife, nurse practitioner, and manager of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UVA Children’s —was responsible for caring for many people. Then she developed a severe headache and noticed a drooping of her right eyelid.

Deb turned to her colleagues at UVA for help and learned that the carotid artery in her neck, one of the main vessels supplying blood and oxygen to the brain, was dissected and almost completely blocked. Cervical artery dissection is a major cause of stroke in children and young to middle-aged adults. Thanks to the early diagnosis and treatment she received at UVA, Deb is now on the path to full recovery and now serves as the director of UVA Children’s and women’s services.

Deb wanted to do something to show her gratitude for the exceptional care she received — and she wanted to help the next patient. She turned to our Get Involved platform to help plan an event that would support healthy lifestyles and raise awareness for carotid artery dissection and young stroke. “I was able to combine something that I was active in with a cause that’s close to my heart.”

Ryan Zimmerman, ziMS Foundation

Ryan Zimmerman Family Photo

Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals baseball player and UVA alum, wants you to Strike Down Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In 1995, after his mother, Cheryl, was diagnosed with MS, Ryan couldn't sit back and do nothing. He created the ziMS Foundation, which raises money for MS research and treatments.

Every fall for the past few years, Ryan and his family return to Charlottesville for Strike Down MS, a night of bowling to benefit the University's James Q. Miller Multiple Sclerosis Clinic. To date, the ziMS Foundation has donated more than $1 million to UVA and made several exciting research projects possible, projects that promise to improve clinical care and extend the quality of life for patients with MS.


Cali Gaston, Women's Four Miler participant

Cali Gaston

Cali Gaston and her husband were diagnosed with breast cancer one week apart. They underwent mastectomies one week apart. Married for 31 years, their choice had always been to do things together, but this was a whole new level of togetherness!

With guidance from their UVA physician, and the state-of-the-art technology that looks at the genetics of each tumor to determine the likelihood of recurrence, they are now being treated with therapies that are targeted to their cancer’s genetic makeup.

A cancer diagnosis didn't stop them. With her husband's help, Cali ran in the 2015 Charlottesville Women’s Four Miler and became one of the race's top fund raisers this year. Cali's dedication helps raise awareness and funds for breast cancer care and research at UVA, giving hope to all breast cancer patients now and in the future.