Rhonda and Richard WamplerThe Rhonda and Richard Wampler Fund
Rhonda and Richard Wampler
Giving Wholeheartedly: A Heart to Heart with the Wamplers
Never missing a beat, Rhonda and Dr. Richard Wampler are always on the go. As Placer County residents for 30-plus years, they are a modern day family with Rhonda’s son, their daughter, Richard’s three boys, and a whole lot of grandchildren ages 5 to 22 that together make up their beautiful, blended family. Richard enjoys playing the trumpet and building various woodwork from scratch (skills he accredits to his craftsmen father and grandfather) and Rhonda loves taking her certified therapy dog to libraries where she reads with children. While the couple also enjoys spending time with their family and spoiling their grandkids, they likewise enjoy their involvement with their church, St. Augustine Episcopal Church, and most recently, Placer Community Foundation.
The Wamplers first learned about PCF through their attorney, David Kelly. “We told him about some of our desires and he introduced us,” recalled Rhonda. “It really fits a lot of what we want to do. You can stay involved as much as you want and you understand the differences you will make.” The Wamplers established the Rhonda and Richard Wampler Fund, a donor advised fund to support causes today. Through a gift in their estate plans, they are also honored members of the Community Foundation’s Legacy Society. Richard explained, “We wanted it to be personalized. I like the individual impact.”
Creating impact comes naturally to the Wamplers who do a great deal when it comes to community wellness—both by donation and hands-on work. Recently the couple traveled to Pueblo, Mexico on a mission. Rhonda, a retired marriage family therapist and advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault victims, worked one-on-one with women in Pueblo to teach personal health and hygiene. Richard, whose background includes being a physician, engineer and medical device inventor, worked to build a well for drinking water. “Whether it’s education or a well, we like to give people tools rather than handouts,” said Richard.
Richard’s work with wells stems back to 1975 when he went on his first trip with his church to Egypt. He didn’t know it then, but this trip would be pivotal in his life, becoming the “most transformative experience,” he ever had, changing his life and the lives of others. There Richard saw people living in meager conditions that made him appreciative of all he had. “Those kinds of things change you forever,” he said. While examining the inner workings of a well along the Nile River and watching the water pump, he had a breakthrough idea that led to his invention of a heart pump, known as the Hemopump. “The devices were intended for people in stage heart failure, or who were candidates for other reasons,” explained Richard. Today his invention has saved or extended the lives of approximately 50,000 people, including the life of former Vice President Dick Cheney, although Richard was quick to assert that he did not vote for him. Over the years, he has met some of the heart pump recipients and when he sees the improvement his invention has made to someone’s life, he shared, “It’s a powerful experience.”
Rhonda has similarly had her share of powerful experiences and improving the livelihood of others is something she is passionate about. As a young adult, Rhonda had an interest in helping people get back on their feet. She volunteered at the National Council for Drugs and Alcoholism and found it rewarding to see patients recover. This first experience blossomed into many more throughout her life, including helping in shelters, addressing homelessness, education, mental illness, and being a voice for abused women and children. “I have a passion for women and children,” said Rhonda. “Most of my focus has been on the outreach with my church. Helping people find a safe place.” She explained that Acres of Hope is one of several organizations that she and Richard support, and that sometimes people find themselves in the same unfortunate situations, and for her and Richard, it’s critical to “break the cycle.”
One way the Wamplers are trying to break the cycle is through education. They deeply value education and the opportunities it can create. Whether it’s formal schooling or teaching basic life skills, they want to give people the tools they need to enhance their quality of life. They acknowledged that some people are quick to make assumptions about individuals who may need a helping hand, but rather than speculate why someone is homeless or needs support, they practice kindness, since even the smallest of gestures can make all the difference in someone’s life. They recalled one time giving money to a homeless man on the street who wept openly. “It can happen to anyone,” said Rhonda, regarding homelessness.
Whether its homelessness or something different, the couple knows all too well the curveballs that life can throw. Richard’s own life was at risk 16 years ago when he was diagnosed with a deadly strain of leukemia. “It was uniformly fatal when I was in med school,” he recalled. “I’m a modern miracle.” Just as he modernized the heart industry, and is doing so again today with his newest invention of a fully synthetic heart, leads in cancer research and his faith in God saved his own life. During his recovery, his experience also opened his eyes to flaws in the medical industry. “I had no idea how dysfunctional the system was,” he said. This sparked his motivation to become a health advocate for patients; he now coaches patients and surviving spouses on how to be assertive about their rights in the medical field.
Saving lives, improving lives—this level of servitude is what the Wamplers embrace on a daily basis, and at the end of the day, they know they are here for a reason. “I strongly believe we are here to help each other, especially when you are in a position to do so,” said Richard. “Philanthropy is a big piece of our budget, and helping people is a big part of our time.” Rhonda agreed, adding, “We want to help in the community where we live. We’re all on this journey together.”
As they embark on their journey together with PCF, they will continue to improve the livelihood of Placer County residents and abroad through the Rhonda and Richard Wampler Fund.
P.O. Box 9207
Auburn, California 65604