For years, Virginia “Gina” C. Drosos, CEO of Signet Jewelers, has helped spearhead the organization’s partnership with Akron Children’s Hospital. We spoke to Gina about the relationship between our organizations, and how Signet’s commitment to our hospital reinforces the company’s deeply held belief in supporting the communities in which its employees live and work.
Signet Jewelers has a strong relationship with Akron Children’s. When did it first begin?
Our relationship with Akron Children’s dates back more than 30 years to 1988. Our company was – and still is – filled with team members who were raising young families, and many were accessing Akron Children’s services, as were our retail jewelry customers. It was a natural fit for us to begin working with the hospital, initially through a volunteer employee giving program. The program became popular, and when our company opened our current campus in 1989, our employees expressed even more desire to support the hospital and community.
How has Signet’s relationship with the hospital grown over the years?
In the 1990s, we formalized our corporate giving programs, and by the early 2000s we laid plans to deepen our commitment beyond charitable giving. Members of our senior management team joined both the Akron Children’s board of directors and the Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation board. I’m proud to continue that tradition today as a member of the hospital board.
In 2010, our company (then known as Sterling Jewelers) made its first naming gift of $250,000, supporting the Sterling Family Respite Area where families can stay overnight while their children receive care. That same year, we began supporting the hospital with team member volunteer activities. These became annual events, including the holiday toy drive for patients.
In 2014, our company pledged $10 million for the new, seven-story Kay Jewelers Pavilion building, the Kay Kafe – a cheerful as well as healthful cafeteria and food service area for families and the hospital team – and the Signet Jewelers Office of Corporate Alliances.
We also expanded our team member volunteering efforts, launching the first Kay Carnival for patients and families – a tradition that continues. Due to COVID last year, we weren’t able to host the carnival, but we hope to resume this fun and loving tradition once it is safe to do so.
In 2021, we donated $1 million to the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our donation includes our annual gift to Akron Children’s for the Kay Jewelers Pavilion – delivered one year early – and was increased to address the hospital’s community vaccination efforts.
Why is corporate philanthropy so important at Signet Jewelers?
Our purpose at Signet is Inspiring Love — something the world really needs right now. We help all people celebrate life and express love not only through our products and services but through our advocacy and support. Frankly, this is why our company exists. There is no greater love than caring for our children, especially those who are sick and in need. Health care professionals express love and inspire love in others every day through their dedication, compassion and – as we’ve seen this past year – remarkable courage. When our team members and our company support Akron Children’s, we are fulfilling our purpose in a very meaningful way, and we are showing our immense gratitude for some of the vital frontline workers in our area.
Explain the significance of supporting children’s health care.
It’s critical for every community to keep its children safe and healthy. We’re proud to provide financial support that goes toward broadening access for health care emergencies at Akron Children’s, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. These services could not be provided by the hospital without funding from its corporate and community partners, and we’re proud to be among them. This generosity allows families to have peace of mind that their children will receive the treatment they deserve. All families should have some degree of comfort in difficult times. We are fortunate to be able to provide a degree of that for as many as possible.
How would you describe the importance of Akron Children’s to the community and Signet employees?
Akron Children’s is our “hometown” hospital. It’s a beacon of hope and love – and a deeply respected institution with a long history of health care excellence and community service. The Northeast Ohio community is fortunate to have a namesake hospital so advanced, specialized and committed to helping our children. In turn, we are committed to supporting its presence and long-term stability in every way we can.
You’ve participated in the Kay Carnival. Describe what it was like to spend time there with the Signet team and Akron Children’s patients and families.
What an inspiring event! Being in the middle of the Kay Carnival, I was struck by how joyful the children were, how relieved the parents seemed as they relaxed and enjoyed “normalcy” for a few hours, and how touched our team members were to be part of an event that brought out such laughter and love. As I played with children, wearing something funny on my head and seeing all the smiles, I felt something visceral, that our partnership with this hospital does indeed Inspire Love. That’s what all of this is about. Love is contagious, and when someone feels loved, they’re going to share more love with others. I was emotionally moved by how powerfully this event impacted all of us. It’s so important to give of ourselves, stand together and foster love in our community any way we can.
What do you hope Signet’s support of Akron Children’s will help accomplish?
When Akron Children’s was established in 1890, they pledged “to care for every child, no matter what.” We hope our support helps Akron Children’s fulfill that mission every single day. It’s remarkable that the clarity of that mission has remained so consistent for so long – and it’s an honor for us to be part of that mission through our financial gifts, our team member activities, our leadership support on the hospital and Foundation boards, and other ways. The Akron Children’s mission and our purpose are wonderfully aligned.