Creating the Path Forward

Meet four trailblazing women who see an even more promising future for the Betty Ford Center—and are helping to build it.
Trailblazer Women, Cini Robb, Mary Pat Woodard, Susan Ford Bales and Maria McDonald
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Mother made sure everything was welcoming and comfortable for patients. Accommodations were very nice but not plush. Her priority above all was the dignity and humanity of patients.

Susan Ford Bales

Across the country and around the world, First Lady Betty Ford is an icon of courage and compassion. She transformed her pain into healing and hope for so many—first, by openly seeking treatment for addiction when quietly doing so would have been so much easier and, then, by co-founding a treatment center so others could find what she found: New life in recovery.

As the Betty Ford Center embarks on its fifth decade, plans are underway to expand and advance Mrs. Ford's groundbreaking work on behalf of patients, families and the nation. At the heart of those plans are four trailblazing women—Susan Ford Bales, Maria McDonald, Cini Robb and MaryPat Woodard—who carry the healing legacy forward. Through their philanthropic collaboration, each has taken a leading role in helping to transform the beloved campus to meet emerging and evolving needs for generations to come.

The four recently met on campus to celebrate the Betty Ford Center's 40th anniversary and share their excitement for what's ahead.

Embracing Patients with Compassion and Dignity

Susan Ford Bales, Trustee
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

From the start, the Betty Ford Center was envisioned as place of profound empathy, personal transformation and exceptional care—and no detail was left to chance. During construction, Mrs. Ford visited the campus every day to check on progress. She personally selected fabrics, furniture, carpeting and artwork, and even tested beds before the Center opened to experience every aspect from the patient's perspective, recounts Susan Ford Bales.

"Mother made sure everything was welcoming and comfortable for patients. Accommodations were very nice but not plush. Her priority above all was [attentiveness to] the dignity and humanity of patients. I'm proud to carry my mother's legacy forward."

The campus transformation will expand access to treatment and recovery support with an emphasis on fostering the sense of belonging and connection vital to recovery.

Creating Natural Spaces for Reflection and Connection

Maria McDonald, President
Betty Ford Center Philanthropy Council

The Betty Ford Center is a place of "miracles" for Maria McDonald who was introduced to the world of treatment and recovery as a Family Program participant in 2001. She wants other families to feel the same healing embrace.

"I love this place. I love the desert. I love the mountains," says McDonald. "I'm excited to support the expansion of trails and natural spaces around campus, because I love the outdoors and I know that movement is medicine. Movement and nature help people feel better."

Designed to give patients and visitors more places to enjoy being in nature, tranquil outdoor gathering areas and expanded walking trails are prominent components of the campus transformation.

Expanding Treatment Options and Access

Cini Robb, Trustee
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

As an alumna of the Betty Ford Center, Cini Robb recalls an extraordinary moment when she had the opportunity to personally thank Betty Ford. "I told her she saved my life,and she said, 'No, Cini, you saved your life. I just provided the home for you to do your work,'" Robb recounts.

"When I heard about the campus transformation, I said, 'I'm in!'" Robb shares. "[The expansion] is all about the patient experience, just as it was for Betty Ford—centered on the treatment experience, respect and camaraderie."

A new residential pavilion will significantly increase the Betty Ford Center's capacity, giving patients more options for on-campus care and creating additional space for flexible treatment options.

Bringing People Together in Healing and Hope

MaryPat Woodard, Trustee and Vice Chair
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

The remarkable friendship between her mother and Betty Ford gave MaryPat Woodard a sense of the spirit of recovery. "Their example showed me what recovery was and that it worked," Woodard shares. She later learned about recovery first-hand, as a Betty Ford Center patient—and has championed the cause ever since as an advocate and philanthropist, including her instrumental role in expanding Mrs. Ford's pioneering Children's Program.

"We are all aware of the destruction this disease causes across every aspect and level of society, but there are a lot of people who don't understand what addiction is," says Woodard. "If we can carry that message through technology and in-person services, I have tremendous hope for the healing that can take place."

A new auditorium will serve as a central gathering place for patients, families and the recovery community, with state-of-the-art technologies providing a global reach for programs and events.

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