Why I Give: Dean Winegardner
When children and families open a book together in the library at Riley Hospital, they sometimes notice a dedication inside: In memory of Leann Winegardner. The books they hold in their hands represent not only a gift to Riley families but a connection between a brother and the sister he lost at Riley more than four decades ago.
Dean Winegardner, now 54, was 8 years old when his sister, Leann, 10, passed away at Riley Hospital. He keeps a photo of her on his nightstand. “It was so long ago, and I was so young. It seems like a dream,” says Winegardner. But philanthropic involvement with Riley Hospital has helped him honor his sister. “By doing things like this, it keeps her memory alive,” he explains.
Winegardner is CEO and Founder of American Book Company, the country’s largest wholesale distributor of closeout and bargain-priced books. When he began his own business in 1988, his faith inspired him to make a strong commitment to charitable giving. Winegardner frequently travels from his home in Tennessee to Indiana to visit Riley Hospital and attend Riley events, including fundraisers hosted by Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation. “There’s just an atmosphere at Riley that seems to be different from any other place I’ve been,” he says. “What Riley does for kids and families is incredible. The people at Riley are the best people I’ve ever worked with. You can tell that for them, it’s not a job — it’s a mission.”
From making financial gifts, to donating thousands of books, to including Riley in his will, Winegardner envisions his support for Riley continuing “forever.” He says his faith calls him to give, but what he receives in exchange is priceless. “When you get to see your gifts helping people, it’s incredibly rewarding. My life would be very shallow without that opportunity to give back.”