Wanda Bissell

Making Birthday Memories

Wanda Bissell, member of The Guardian Society

Wanda Bissell, member of The Guardian Society

For years, children battling cancer at Children's National Hospital had something special to look forward to on Wanda Bissell's birthday. Miss Bissell, a member of The Guardian Society and retired government employee who now resides in North Carolina, would round up toys from friends and deliver them to the hospital. It was her unique way of giving back after overcoming a strenuous personal battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).

"I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 40," she recalls. "I learned that ALL is a cancer common in children. As time went on, I thought there must be something I can do to help young people who may be suffering with this awful illness. That's when I decided to call Children's National."

Miss Bissell met Debbie Freiburg, then-Vice President of Nursing at Children's National, who became a strong ally in her quest to bring cheer to children in treatment for cancer. "Debbie first greeted me with small red wagons, which we used to transport all the gifts I had packed in my car. She then led me from one child's room to the next," remembers Miss Bissell. "I dropped off games, coloring books, and electronic toys to the children, who smiled from ear to ear. It was wonderful the first time I did it, and it became a birthday tradition."

"As time went on, I wanted to make a lasting difference. I decided to name Children's National in my will and designate my gift to the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders," she says. "It was easy. I just called Children's National and spoke with the Planned Giving team at Children's National Hospital Foundation. They gave my attorney the specific language to be included in my will."

Miss Bissell, who now spends her time birding and walking dogs, believes her estate gift will have a real impact in children's lives. "I know what it means to receive a heartfelt gift, which I was given from an unrelated bone marrow donor. While I never met him in person, we did speak once, and for years we exchanged birthday cards. Children's National is a heartfelt place and so giving back was a natural thing to do."