Bethany award honors Raili Hanson’s inspiring spirit

Raili Hanson was known as a quiet leader on the Bethany of the Northwest Foundation board. Sometimes though, her shy reserve packed a wallop.

Jim Stephanson is director of development for Bethany, a nonprofit agency that provides nursing care, rehabilitation services, assisted living and senior apartments at several Everett facilities. He remembers Hanson as a mighty fundraiser.

In 2004, Bethany hosted its first Taste of the Northwest, a beer-and-wine-tasting event and silent auction. At a meeting that year, Stephanson said some board members talked about selling tickets to the fundraiser.

“Somebody had sold two. Another had sold five,” Stephanson said Thursday. “And Raili quietly said, ‘I’ve sold 125. Can I get more?’ “

Asked for her salesmanship secret, Hanson shared that she simply called people she knew and asked how many tickets they’d like — and then sent those tickets out by mail.

“With her years as a nurse, she had a real soft spot for seniors,” Stephanson said. “She was a really good advocate for seniors, for us as board members.”

Hanson, for 40 years a nurse at Everett General Hospital — now Providence Regional Medical Center Everett — and the wife of former Herald publisher Larry Hanson, died last October at age 71.

This October, she will be honored by the agency she faithfully served when Bethany of the Northwest presents its new Raili M. Hanson Inspirational Award. The agency is accepting nominations for the award, which will be presented at the Oct. 12 Breakfast with Bethany fundraiser at the Holiday Inn in Everett.

“She would be so honored and embarrassed,” said Larry Hanson, who will attend the breakfast with his family and present the award. “Raili was kind of the consummate caregiver. And Bethany was something that she really felt strongly about. She served on their foundation board for a very long time, and was a big, big fundraiser,” he said.

Raili Hanson never lost sight of people needing that financial support. In 2010, Bethany served 2,182 residents, most of them low-income Snohomish County seniors relying on Medicare or Medicaid.

Stephanson said the 2010 fundraising breakfast raised more than $20,000 and that this year’s goal is “closer to $35,000.” Proceeds help fund a “dignity project” — a wish list of items not covered by the agency’s budget. “It might be rehabilitation equipment, more wheelchairs, or things for activities,” Stephanson said.

In addition to her many years on the foundation board, Raili Hanson was later on Bethany of the Northwest’s operations board. Well into her eight-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, she continued to attend meetings, an inspiration to other board members.

“She would come into meetings with her caregiver or Larry,” Stephanson said. “You could tell it was a struggle for her to get the words out, but here we were complaining about our long, busy days.”

Stephanson hopes award nominees are just as inspiring in their own ways. The recipient doesn’t have to be working with seniors.

“They could be helping Cocoon House or Boys & Girls Clubs, someone who exemplifies giving back. And they don’t necessarily like the spotlight,” he said. “We feel this award is a good way to honor both Raili and that deserving person in the community.”

Larry Hanson said his wife was shy and quiet, but always found ways to help.

“She really was an inspiration to a lot of people with all her caregiving,” he said. “She had a spirit to help others.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Nominations sought for award

Bethany of the Northwest Foundation seeks nominees for its new Raili M. Hanson Inspirational Award, named for a longtime board member.

Nominees should be helping people in need in Snohomish County. Nomination deadline is Sept. 16; the winner will be announced at the Breakfast with Bethany fundraiser, 7 to 8:30 a.m. Oct. 12 at the Holiday Inn in Everett.

For breakfast information or to nominate someone, contact Jim Stephanson, 425-551-6403 or email jims@bethanynw.org. Or mail a nomination with your contact information to: Bethany of the Northwest Foundation, Jim Stephanson, P.O. Box 5128, Everett, WA 98206.

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