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Lighting the Way to a Brighter Future

On his 49th birthday, Dwayne Chatoney was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. He received treatment at a hospital near his home in Lake Charles, Louisiana. But nine months later, the cancer returned, this time at stage 4. And this time, the hospital told him there was nothing they could do.

Then Chatoney learned about UAB. “My older brother told me they had a good hospital in Birmingham and that I should try to get in for an appointment,” he recalls.

So he made a call, and in just a few days, Chatoney was at the Comprehensive Cancer Center—now the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB. The first step was immediate surgery, but Chatoney still faced the prognosis of a 6 percent survival rate and about 11 months to live.

Three days later, the surgery was a success. Fifteen years later, Chatoney is still cancer free. “How do you ever pay someone back for saving your life? You never really can,” he says.

But he’s trying. Chatoney and his wife have designated UAB as the beneficiary to a charitable remainder trust. The gift will support the James P. Hayes, Jr., Endowed Professorship in Gastrointestinal Oncology, which funds research and patient care.

Chatoney’s planned gift will leave a legacy in the area of UAB that matters most to him and also will help countless other cancer patients for years to come. He and other individuals are contributing to a bright future at UAB through legacy giving.

karmie johnsonBenefits both ways

When Chatoney wanted to sell his business, his research led him to the option of a charitable remainder trust. It was the perfect choice for him and his family, he says. “Here I am at 65 years old, enjoying money off of it for my retirement,” he says. “And when I pass, the money will go to UAB.”

He hopes he can play a role in furthering the work of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB. “If I could help in some small way to give back to the university for what they did for me, that’s what I want to accomplish.”

Never too young

To say UAB has been a big part of Karmie Johnson’s life would be an understatement. She earned three degrees at the university, worked as a UAB charge nurse in mental health care, and is now an assistant professor for the School of Nursing.

UAB has made her the person she is today, she says. And for that, she’s giving back. Johnson has named UAB as a beneficiary for her retirement fund to establish the Dr. Karmie Johnson Endowed Honors Scholarship in the UAB Honors College.

Before Johnson attended UAB, she interviewed with the University Honors Program (UHP, now part of the UAB Honors College). “Not only did that affirm that UAB was the university I wanted to attend, but UHP also awarded me scholarships,” she recalls. Johnson was awarded the Hess-Abroms Honors Scholarship and the Juliet Nunn Pearson Scholarship. “If I hadn’t gotten that scholarship, I would have had to take out massive loans. UHP changed the course of my life.”

When Johnson retires, she’ll get to enjoy her hard-earned retirement assets long before they impact UAB. And though she’s younger than most planned giving donors, she thinks it’s a good time to think about making a difference in the future.

“You’re never too young to give back to an organization that has contributed to your success,” she explains. “When you start to factor giving into your budget, you can begin to plan for a time in life when you’ll be in a position to give more.”

sheila bensonInvesting in UAB and Birmingham

For Sheila Benson, UAB is more than a client. It’s an opportunity to help shape a new generation of business leaders. As founder and CEO of Employment Screening Services (ESS), a company that specializes in providing background checks and drug testing services for businesses, Benson helps vet potential UAB employees. She also serves on the Collat School of Business’s advisory board and provides sales and marketing students with real-world experience at ESS before they hit the job market.

As Benson considered leaving her legacy, she wanted to continue playing a role in the success of business students. She and her husband, Don Williams, decided to designate a gift in her will to name the ESS Quiet Study Room in the Collat School of Business building.

ESS is the fourth business Benson has started, but her entrepreneurial acumen took time to develop. She hopes students can gain knowledge in the classroom and through internships that she earned through trial and error. “I am proud to give back and see students have opportunities I didn’t,” she says. “I feel like I’m making a difference in the community.”

She is giving back because UAB is doing great things. “Engaging with UAB is important because they’re building future business leaders for us. I want to be part of UAB’s continued growth.”

And growth at UAB leads to growth for Birmingham, she says. “When we all work together to help UAB, we’re helping Birmingham grow—and isn’t that what we all want?”

How will you leave your legacy?

There are many ways to make a difference at UAB that will last for generations. Discover which option is best for you. Visit uab.planmylegacy.org to learn more.


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