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Ron Donahue, chief executive of inHealth  Integrated Care, dispatched two ambulances and crews to Panama City to help those affected when Hurricane Michael struck Florida. Little did he know at the time that his crews would bring a piece of the Sunshine State back to the Region.

“During the two-and-a-half week tour, our crews came across displaced dogs and cats that have been surrendered by owners no longer able to care for their animals,” Donahue explains. “Either their houses had been destroyed, or they have been separated and the owners are unable to find them.”

Once the ambulance Strike Team had provided disaster relief in Panama City, it was able to rescue 45 dogs from the devastation and bring them back to Northwest Indiana.

This is the third hurricane inHealth has sent ambulances and crews to in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “While they were down in Florida our crew members texted pictures of all these animals left behind in the hurricane,” Donahue says. “There were hundreds of dogs needing homes.”

That's when Donahue reached out to Lakeshore PAWS and his crew in Florida to organize the rescue mission. “We brought the dogs back to Northwest Indiana,” he says. “The crews drove straight through, stopping occasionally to walk the dogs and give them time to stretch. It was an 18-hour journey.”

Donahue and the volunteers of Lakeshore PAWS gave the animals baths and a medical check-up before they were put up for adoption. “Several of the volunteers who prepped the dogs ended up adopting some,” Donahue says. “The remainder went up for adoption pretty quick, and I believe most found homes in just a few days.”

The Florida rescue operation is just one example of the type of charitable work that inHealth provides to Northwest Indiana.

Another operation it coordinates is the annual Easter Bunny Breakfast at the Porter County Expo grounds.

“Our goal was to come up with a creative family fun event to raise money and awareness for the Salvation Army,” Donahue says. “Over the years we have raised more than $25,000. All this money is put directly back into our community.”

The Salvation Army food pantry is a major beneficiary of inHealth.

The donated breakfast is prepared by local chefs from hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities, and restaurants, who devote countless hours to help with this event.

“Our Easter Egg hunt has over 10,000 hand stuffed eggs,” Donahue says. “EMTs and paramedics from inHealth and Porter EMS (Emergency Medical Services, another ambulance operator) start stuffing about a month before the big hunt.”

In 2018, more than 800 families attended the breakfast with the Easter Bunny. “The event grows every year,” Donahue says. “It’s wonderful to see so many people come out to a charitable event that helps those in need.”

The Easter Bunny Breakfast and the rescue operation in Florida are testaments to the way Donahue and his wife, Crystal, view their roles. “Crystal works for the Salvation Army,” he says. “We both believe in reaching out to lend a hand to those less fortunate.”

The couple also helps distribute infant and child car seats provided by a state program. “We’re hoping to have another car seat give away before the end of the year,” Donahue says.

With locations in Valparaiso, South Bend, LaPorte, and Merrillville, inHealth provides ambulance transports, EMS standbys, wheelchair and ambulatory services, and bariatric services. This gives the Donahue family the opportunity to reach out to those in need all over Northwest Indiana — with charitable works too.