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Polli family donates $2.4 million to support WellSpan York Hospital behavioral health unit renovation

March 04, 2024

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From a distance, John and Maria Polli may seem like they've enjoyed nothing but success and prosperity through their hard work and business ventures.  

Far less visible are the family health challenges they’ve faced, including vital organ transplants and firsthand experiences with mental health challenges.  

“We’ve had a lot of uncertainty. It’s scary,” said John as he held his wife Maria’s hand.  

John and Maria’s healthcare journey inspired them to channel their empathy for others in their community through an impressive $2.4 million donation to support the new construction to develop a healing environment for the behavioral health unit at WellSpan York Hospital. This is the largest individual donation to support behavioral health in WellSpan’s history and is part of the ongoing hospital expansion and enhancement project. 

“John and Maria’s personal interest in championing mental health services will help transform a significant area of need in our community,” said Roxanna Gapstur, Ph.D., R.N., president and CEO of WellSpan Health. “Their vision will strengthen access to state-of-the-art behavioral health services and advance meaningful, life-changing initiatives for our patients.” 

The newly renovated behavioral health unit will provide care teams and patients with a modernized, state–of–the–art environment – offering dedicated serenity spaces and seclusion spaces, as well as private and group therapy spaces. 

“WellSpan has always been a leader in behavioral health in our area, and we just want to be a part of the solution that eliminates any potential barriers for members of our community seeking services,” said John, who operates Reliance Student Transportation with Maria. 

Maria added, “There is a growing demand for behavioral healthcare services. This community has been so good to us, and we want people to benefit for a long, long time from us being a part of it.” 

Continuing a legacy of giving 

The Polli Family’s vision for community impact extends beyond this remarkable donation as they previously contributed $750,000 to the WellSpan York Cancer Center Capital Campaign. Their 2020 gift sponsored the Wellness Center to support cancer patients’ care journey. They also donated their farmland for the Pappus House, an end-of-life care home in which they were instrumental in starting and relocating to a larger facility in Thomasville. 

Their decision to support behavioral healthcare is deeply personal for the Polli family. A family member required care, highlighting the importance of timely access to comprehensive mental health care. 

“It was really emotional for us and probably one of the hardest things we’ve experienced as a family,” John said.  

While John and Maria were gracious for the care their family member received, they saw opportunities to create a more welcoming environment for patients and families during mental health crises. They also believed that additional enhancements could help meet the increased demand.  

John says that the behavioral healthcare experience for a patient could be the difference between that patient seeking services again during a crisis.  

“Behavioral health is a significant issue in our community. … We have been there, we’ve seen the pain and emotion that patients and their families face,” said John. 

John says his inspiration to give was partly fueled by the example set by so many community leaders before him.  

He reflected on several York-based philanthropists including Bruce Bartels, Tony Campisi, Don Graham as well as those who have passed away -- Bob Kinsley, Bill Simpson, Art Glatfelter, and Louis Appell. 

“I am humbled to have worked with and been mentored by some of the local philanthropists who strengthened a legacy of giving in the York community,” John said. “I hope it encourages others to do the same in the future and carry on the philanthropic spirit of so many.” 

While John was raised in Valley Forge, giving back hits a little different for Maria who was born and raised in York.  

“I never actually thought I would be in a position to do the things we are doing, but I am very excited about the things that we are able to do here in York,” Maria said.  

Giving back also speaks to Maria’s gratitude from her personal care experiences at WellSpan.  

“I’ve been treated with exceptional care each time, and everyone goes above and beyond to make me feel comfortable,” said Maria, who has also undergone multiple kidney and pancreas transplants. 

Construction is currently underway on the behavioral health unit at WellSpan York Hospital with initial occupancy for the unit expected by December, and the fully renovated unit expected to be completed in 2025.  

To learn more about WellSpan’s philanthropy programs and regional giving opportunities, visit www.WellSpan.org/Philanthropy.