“Gloria Drummond’s passion to see something good come out of devastating personal tragedy is one of the most compelling stories our community has ever witnessed,” says Debbie Leising, president of the Debbie-Rand Memorial Service League, which has contributed more than $28.8 million and 2 million volunteer hours to the hospital through the years. “Not only was she the driving force behind the creation of our Hospital, she also established and nurtured the development of one of the largest and most effective volunteer service and fundraising organizations in healthcare today.”
Drummond reflected on her life in the November 2010 issue of Boca Raton magazine. Here are some excerpts from that article.
• Drummond and her then-husband, Robert, moved to Boca Raton from Michigan in the 1950s. The reason they relocated? Their dog, a boxer named King, had become the scourge of their Midwest neighborhood, killing any cat he could get his paws on. When threats against the dog—and the family—intensified, the Drummonds moved. However, King, who lived to 17, failed to change his ways in South Florida. “He was the reason for the leash law in Boca,” Drummond says. “The morning we finally were going to put him down? He went out and killed a cat—and brought it back to our house.”
• The Drummonds owned racing horses—30 trotters and pacers at one point—and would run them at Pompano Park. “Bob got to love golf more than the horses,” she says. “I told him he might as well sell them; they were losing money anyway.”
• April 12, 1962: “We knew they had been poisoned,” Drummond says. “We didn’t know who or how or why.” Later, she would learn that a neighborhood teenager laced the milk drank by her oldest child (Debra, 10) and youngest child (James Randall, 3) with pesticide. Years later, she would encounter the teen, who was never charged or punished—but Drummond declined to share that emotional incident in print.
• The closest hospital to Boca in 1962 was more than 30 minutes away. It took the Drummonds the better part of an hour to reach it because of a highway accident. When they arrived, emergency doctors were busy tending to the accident victims. “By the time doctors got to our kids, it was too late,” she says. “I cried for three months.”
• The crying stopped, she says, because of the Debbie-Rand Memorial Service League, which started in August 1962 when 18 women gathered for lunch at Drummond’s house. Their goal was to raise funds and coordinate volunteer services for a local hospital that, at that time, was still a dream. Five years later, the dream became reality when Boca’s first hospital opened with 104 beds.
• What started as a small collection of clothes by family friends in memory of Drummond’s children became the Debbie-Rand thrift shop, to this day the organization’s primary moneymaker. The original shop was housed on East Royal Palm Road in what used to be the city’s first church, which was built by Addison Mizner.
• The biggest early fundraisers, Drummond says, were the annual three-day “fiestas,” which raised upward of $100,000 each year and included golf and tennis tournaments, parades—and even a mascot, Pedro the donkey. “We tried to keep Pedro in a petting zoo, as part of the fiesta,” she says. “But he would kick all of wire fencing down and run away.”
• “The first year of the fiesta, I received a call from the police at 3 in the morning,” she says. “A tornado had hit the fiesta grounds. There was absolute destruction. Everything was flattened. ... I went home and called the membership—we had 300 members. I told them to bring buckets, brooms, anything they could to help with clean up. ... By 10 o’clock, we were ready.”