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Meridian turns hospital fundraiser into Sandy aid event

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The annual fundraising gala of the Jersey shore's Meridian Health hospital system was transformed into a Hurricane Sandy event that raised $400,000 last Saturday for disaster relief organizations, and to aid Meridian employees whose homes were flooded by the storm.

"We had a number of folks who were putting sand bags in front of the hospital while their own homes were being washed away," said David Flood, president of Meridian Health Affiliated Foundations. Meridian has six hospitals in Ocean and Monmouth counties — including Riverview Medical Center, in Red Bank, where a sandbag brigade prevented serious damage, Flood said. Other Meridian hospitals sheltered hundreds of residents left homeless by Sandy.

The gala had been planned for months, and normally would have been dedicated to raising money for medical equipment and services. After the storm, the gala's organizers decided to change course and make the gala, which drew 800 attendees, into a Sandy relief event.

"People wanted to come together, they wanted to help the community, and that opportunity was presented through this event," Flood said.

In addition to the $400,000 gala proceeds, Meridian has committed $1 million to a relief fund for those among its 12,000 employees affected by Sandy. Of the $400,000 raised by the gala, $250,000 will be equally divided among United Way of Monmouth County, United Way of Ocean County, American Red Cross Jersey Coast Chapter, The Salvation Army and Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief fund. The remaining $150,000 will provide financial assistance to Meridian's affected employees.

John K. Lloyd, president of Meridian, said, "This is about stepping up to take care of our own community, being an example for others, and hopefully inspiring more organizations and individuals to get involved."

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