Why I Give: Mark and Dana Burris

Austin Burris
Austin Burris, Evansville

When Mark Burris thinks of the word “hero,” his mind immediately goes to one place: Riley Hospital for Children. “People tend to make professional athletes out to be God-like heroes,” says Burris, who is president of Rudd Equipment Company in Louisville. “It’s one thing to admire someone for hitting a golf ball, but it’s another thing to admire someone for working on a baby’s heart the size of a strawberry.”

Mark and his wife Dana first met their Riley heroes in November 2000 after their oldest grandson, Austin, was born at Deaconess Hospital in Evansville. Austin was having heart trouble, and was rushed by ambulance to Riley Hospital, where doctors discovered he had a serious defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Austin’s best chance of survival would be to undergo a series of three risky open-heart surgeries before his third birthday. 

Thanks to the skills of world-renowned Riley heart surgeons John Brown, M.D., and Mark Turrentine, M.D., the surgeries were a success. Austin is now a thriving 13-year-old who can swim and ride his bike like his friends.

Mark and Dana met with Dr. Mark Turrentine late in 2013 to find out how they could make a difference for other heart patients. They ultimately decided to establish The Burris Family Fund for Excellence, which will support a new cardiac mechanical assist device program at Riley. The equipment allows a child’s heart to rest until receiving further treatment or a heart transplant. “If we can change one life, then it’s worth every penny,” says Mark.

Although there are many deserving charities, Dana says her family focuses their philanthropic giving on Riley. “They gave us the best gift, and that’s Austin.”



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