Mary Anne Gross, manager of Mercy's JFK Clinic; and Dr. Stuart Waite, chair of Mercy's department of dental medicine and director of the dental residency program

Photo by Sarah Crowder

Mercy Hospital continues to stand by its commitment to provide compassionate service to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. To bolster this effort, the hospital will hold its 10th annual Mardi Gras Masquerade on March 1 at The Chase Park Plaza.

The themed gala raises much-needed funds that help provide health care to uninsured and underinsured residents of St. Louis County, St. Charles County and the surrounding region. This year’s event will be no exception, as it aids an important cause for Mercy: the JFK Clinic. Because Mercy has identified a void in dental care access for uninsured and underinsured patients, the hospital will use gala contributions to help integrate preventive adult and pediatric dental care at the clinic. “In many ways, the JFK Clinic is the most basic example of the Sisters of Mercy’s mission at work,” says clinic manager Mary Anne Gross. “The clinic exists to serve as many patients as we can in a compassionate, healing environment, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.”

Dr. Stuart Waite, chair of department of dental medicine and director of the dental residency program, says expanding the clinic’s comprehensive medical services to include preventive adult and pediatric dental care, dental hygiene, and diet and nutritional counseling will benefit the patient’s overall health. “When preventive issues are overlooked, oral health problems can begin to affect general health. Examples of dental infections such as abscess and periodontal disease are possible links to cardiac issues, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and pregnancy complications. Preventive dental care provides the patient an opportunity to make decisions before big problems complicate the picture of their general health.”

Through the anniversary gala, Mercy also is honoring longtime co-chairs and Mercy Health Foundation board members Peggy Ritter and Marsha Rusnack. Under their leadership, the Mardi Gras Masquerade has raised more than $4.2 million to support Mercy’s charity care programs. “Peggy's and Marsha’s service to Mercy through their leadership and vision for the Mardi Gras Masquerade, along with their involvement on the Foundation’s board of directors, has been integral to our success over the past 10 years,” says Tanya Lieber,  VP of Mercy's Health Foundation. “The 10th annual event will truly be a celebration of Peggy and Marsha, and the culmination of a wonderful partnership between two philanthropic community leaders and Mercy.”

And Ritter and Rusnack say this year’s celebration promises to be bigger and better than ever. The gala is coming full-circle, as its first year also featured a New Orleans'-style Mardi Gras theme—along with special guest Jim Belushi. Another special guest will grace the stage this time around, along with additional surprises, organizers say. The evening will begin with a cocktail hour at 7 p.m. and dinner at 8:15 p.m., followed by a surprise performance, with music and dancing capping off the night. “In 10 years, this event has grown to be one of the most unique celebrations in town,” Ritter notes. “Each year, the theme and special performances continue to surprise guests, which is why I think people keep coming back.” Rusnack adds that like past events, this year’s theme will not disappoint. “The Mardi Gras Masquerade has been a wonderful opportunity for Peggy and me to support a cause we are so passionate about—helping provide superior health care to those in need in our community.”

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