When George and Jennie Scarfo moved to Arizona in 1965, they were seeking a drier climate for George’s health. Beyond building a new sense of home, the couple wanted to embrace and support the local community. Originally, the Scarfos were supporters of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. But as they saw the dramatic growth of Phoenix Children’s, the Scarfos saw an opportunity to make an impact close to home.

“Why would we get involved out of state?” George asked. “Let’s take care of our own local kids.” For 36 years, the Scarfos have given their time and made annual financial contributions to improve the health of Arizona’s children, but they don’t want to stop there. As longtime members of Phoenix Children’s Legacy Society, a group of people who have made a gift to Phoenix Children’s in their will or trust, the Scarfos hope they will make a lasting impact on generations to come.

Jennie and George Scarfo stand in the CVICU playroom they helped to fund.

Connections that count

In addition to the Legacy Society, the Scarfos are part of Innovation Circle, a giving group whose participants jointly invest in high-impact projects led by Phoenix Children’s physicians, researchers and clinical leaders.

Members’ gifts are pooled to form a grant fund. Proposed projects are pitched to the group, and members vote on how to allocate funding. “We’re in the decision-making process, and we get to vote,” George says. “You feel like you’re making a contribution just by raising your hand.”

The ability to connect with leaders, clinicians and staff is one of the many reasons why the couple keeps their philanthropic emphasis on Phoenix Children’s. Over the years, they’ve gotten to know the doctors, nurses and other staff members. “Among the people who work at the hospital, there’s a pervasive attitude of, ‘What can I do to help your children, and what can I do to help you?’ Everyone takes their work seriously,” George says.

The couple also volunteers at the hospital several times a year, doing everything from manning the coffee cart to making arts and crafts with the kids to delivering teddy bears and toys to patients. “We get a lot of joy out of seeing the smiles on the children’s faces,” George says. “The bravery of these kids is amazing.”

Plus, the couple can be spotted at events, assisting with fundraisers and various holiday festivities, and regularly attending fundraising functions such as Beach Ball. George has even volunteered to coach researchers and clinicians on public speaking and presentation skills to help them improve their chances of getting funding for their work. “There is a limited amount of money available,” he says. “Not all programs can be funded, so it’s important to present well.”

Jennie and George Scarfo sit in the lobby of Phoenix Children’s.

Enduring generosity

The Scarfos, who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in December 2023, say that not having their own children has in some ways made it easier to incorporate Phoenix Children’s into their estate planning. “Since we didn’t have children of our own,” George says, “we decided the patients of Phoenix Children’s would be our children.”

And they’ve already made an impact, providing the final installment to improve the playground on the Thomas Campus; donating to the Homeless Youth Outreach program, which provides free comprehensive medical care to unhoused youth; and funding a year’s worth of the Patient and Family Assistance Fund to provide emergency relief to patient families experiencing financial hardship. The fifth-floor playroom on the Thomas Campus carries the Scarfos’ name as well.

In gratitude for their many years of volunteerism and philanthropy, the Scarfos have been named Phoenix Children’s first-ever Legacy Society Honorees of the Year.

With more than 36 years of active involvement, along with their legacy gift that will continue to support Phoenix Children’s for years to come, the Scarfos know they’re doing something valuable for the community. “It’s something that gives us satisfaction,” George says. “A financial gift is an easy thing to do, but when you get yourself involved, it’s so much more meaningful. We feel like we’re part of the family.”

Create a Legacy of Hope

If you’re considering leaving a legacy that will bring a future of hope for the children of tomorrow, contact Nicola Lawrence, associate vice president of philanthropic advising, at 602-933-3870 or giftplanning@phoenixchildrens.com.

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