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From the Heart In the Magruder family, giving back is a legacy of love

Monday, July 15, 2019   (0 Comments)
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By Karen Werner

Growing up, sisters Kristine Thompson and Shannon Barthelemy share vivid memories of volunteering. Their parents, Sandy and Marion “Mac” Magruder, made it a way of life. Pitching in for the Golden Gate Guild, Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the Kiwanis Club, the Phoenix Thunderbirds and other charities formed some of their fondest recollections.

“The girls remember as little girls riding around with me picking up books for the Visiting Nurse Auxiliary book sale,” Sandy said.

“I remember going up to homes and picking up bags of books that people would donate,” Shannon said.

“And sorting them into categories,” added Kristine.

“And a huge warehouse — it seemed huge — and mom saying, ‘This is the section where you can go and find a book to read.’”

“I loved shopping for books at that event,” said Kristine.
Such warm memories, of collecting donations for the Jerry Lewis Telethon and being ball girls at the Phoenix Open, made them who they are today.

It’s a legacy built over time and through generations. Sandy grew up on a ranch in western Colorado and attended a one-room schoolhouse through the eighth grade. Though proud of her own sturdy upbringing, she points out that it was her mother who rode 10,000 miles to get her education, trekking back and forth to school on a horse, back in the days before women wore pants.

Mac’s childhood was equally impressive. His father was war hero Marion Milton Magruder, the first commanding officer of Marine aircraft squadron VMF(N)-533, who led the squadron during the Battle of the Marshall Islands and Battle of Okinawa in World War II.

Sandy graduated from the University of Colorado and married Mac, who became the youngest McDonald’s franchisee when he opened his first restaurant at age 23 in Grand Junction, a Western slope town. The couple quickly started looking for a larger market and got an opportunity to move to Phoenix in 1969. Together, they packed up their newborn Kristine and headed for the Grand Canyon State.

“It’s hard to describe how much it’s grown since then,” said Sandy. “The growth has been unbelievable but we’ve been blessed to get to know a lot of the families here. Our kids have grown up with their kids, and my grandchildren have grown up with their grandchildren. It’s been so much fun.”

Over the years, a few values have become synonymous with the family. The first is work. Both girls worked in the family business from a young age. Kristine started working at McDonald’s when she was 13. A few years later, Shannon joined her, working at the restaurant at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “That was when the uniforms had the polyester darts,” she laughed, but quickly went on to extol the virtues of working for the fast-food giant. 

“I think it’s one of the best jobs any kid can have. Aside from the technical stuff and organizational skills, it’s showing up on time, being responsible,” she explained. “And you learn how to treat people. Really, I think that was one of the biggest things that I took away.”

The next value that Sandy and Mac modeled was giving to others. “We’ve always believed that you should step up and give back,” Sandy said. “We are Christians and believe that if you’ve been blessed, you need to give back.”

This year is a testament to that ethic as the three women come together to serve the Greater Phoenix Heart Ball. Sandy chaired the event 15 years ago, during its 45th year. And this year, for the event’s diamond jubilee 60th year, Kristine is chairing the gala and spearheading efforts in the Valley to raise money and awareness about the dangers of heart disease and stroke.

Like most families, theirs has been impacted by heart disease. Sandy’s father had a triple bypass when Kristine was 6. “I still remember him taking Kristine for little walks around the neighborhood when he was recovering,” Sandy said. “And my mom had several incidences of TIAs over the years and passed away of a stroke a couple of years ago.” 

Shannon’s family was also affected by heart disease. Her husband Joel’s father had his first heart attack at 42 and passed away from congenital heart failure.

And Kristine’s husband Shane had an experience that caused her family to take stock as well. Approaching 50 and very fit, he had a physical and everything was fine. Three months later, he went in for knee surgery but the doctor refused because his blood pressure was off the chart. “It happened that quickly,” Kristine said. “One of his missions is to tell people to get tested because if he didn’t take the appropriate medicine and had gone another year to his next physical, who knows what would have happened?”

That all of the women’s families have been touched by the disease isn’t a surprise. Heart disease is America’s number-one killer, but much of it is preventable. “One of the things that’s very important to me is to showcase the importance of getting ahead of heart disease and encouraging people to live their best lives,” Kristine said. “Once you are struggling with it, it changes a lot of your options. But if you can prevent 80 percent of it, that would be amazing.”

So Kristine is marshaling her connections and resources to make the 60th Heart Ball a success. “It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” she said. “I love nothing more than meeting new people and building new relationships, so it’s perfect for me, though it’s a pretty full-time commitment.”

Luckily, Kristine is being guided by tradition. “One of the things that makes this event unique is that the past Heart Ball chairmen stay involved,” Sandy said. “We have a governing council, because there are so many past Heart Ball chairmen. We have a luncheon every year and it’s so fun to hear people talk about their memories.” 

Though the governing council ensures continuity so the event doesn’t change radically from year to year, the group also understands that life has changed and that technology can help spread awareness of heart disease.

“We want to harness social media to bring awareness so that people know they can prevent this disease,” Kristine explained. As part of that, the group has instituted a #KnowYourNumbers selfie challenge, where committee members share pictures of themselves with a ball cap emblazoned with the hashtag, wherever they may be. 

“It’s a way that the committee and their friends can be involved with the mission of spreading awareness on a daily basis, instead of going to one meeting here and there, and then to the ball,” Kristine said.

As she looks ahead to the Heart Ball this November, Kristine models her parents’ example as a way to handle expectations and stress. “One of the things they did such a great job teaching Shannon and me is that the pie is big enough for everyone. Just because someone else’s slice becomes bigger doesn’t mean yours becomes smaller,” she said. “That is incorporated into my views on fundraising. If somebody’s passion is some other event, that’s amazing. I’m thrilled that they’re involved in the community because that still benefits everyone. That’s helped me not to be completely nervous about the amount of money raised, because I really do believe it blesses everyone when we’re all involved.”

As parents of three children respectively, Kristine and Shannon do their best to pass along the values of work and charity to their own children. Kristine’s three daughters have grown up volunteering with their Brownie and Girl Scout troupes, and her older girls have gone on to do charity work with their sororities. 

And Kristine proudly shares how her youngest daughter, Tate, planned a fundraiser over the holidays. “I do a big Christmas coffee, and I don’t want people to have to do hostess gifts. So Tate asked for donations to Maggie’s Place instead, and she had several SUVs full of donations that she and her friends gathered and took down. That was all her idea,” she said.

Shannon’s three sons are also being raised with a heart for philanthropy. “You don’t all of a sudden start giving when you grow up if it hasn’t been a part of your life,” she said. “So we would take the boys once a month to different homeless shelters. We put together bags to feed them, and my boys would do the dishes and carry the food for the families. They would just sit and talk and listen. We wanted to start intentionally, when they were young, because of how we were raised.”

The 60th annual Heart Ball marks a big year for the family, as Kristine serves as chair and Sandy serves as Sweetheart. It’s also an opportunity for all of the family — Sandy, Mac, Kristine, Shane, Shannon, Joel and all of their children — to celebrate the legacy of work, charity and faith that makes them who they are. And though life has changed since Sandy’s mom was riding to school on horseback and Mac’s dad was leading “Black Mac’s Killers” in WWII, many things remain the same. And that’s a message that this Heart Ball chairman would like to share.

“Life is so transitory right now and filled with technology, I think human interaction is at an all-time low,” Kristine said. “Raising kids in this environment, it’s important for me to teach them that there is a bigger picture out there. All these things don’t matter as much as human interaction and the impact you can make. Everything else will come and go, but human relationships are where you can make a difference.”

For more information on the 2019 Phoenix Heart Ball, go to


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