Why I Gave

After losing Kevin Nunnink far too soon, his family carries on his vibrant legacy of giving back. Kevin Nunnink and his wife Jo, daughter Morgan, and son Brandon knew that he might be predisposed to heart disease. His father had dealt with it and died at 72. But Kevin was healthy and regularly exercised.

One day while working out, he didn’t feel quite right. He ended up at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, where he received two stents—on his 50th birthday.

Kevin fully recovered and enjoyed seven years without any problems. But then that same uneasy feeling returned.

Kevin went back to Saint Luke’s, where his heart rate skyrocketed and he soon crashed. “It became a battle to keep him alive,” said Morgan. “His heart was failing, and we faced a transplant situation.” Kevin was placed on an ECMO machine, which pumps and oxygenates blood in patients experiencing cardiac and/or respiratory failure. A week later, he received a left ventricular assist device. Kevin’s fight to live lasted 21 days, but his organs were failing. He passed away in August 2009 at age 57.

Jo, Morgan, and Brandon soon established the Kevin K. Nunnink Foundation to honor Kevin’s legacy as a respected businessman, partner, and mentor to many. Kevin and Jo founded the real estate appraisal service company known today as Integra Realty Resources, and the foundation continues Kevin’s love of mentoring by providing scholarships for real estate education. It is also dedicated to funding cardiac research at Saint Luke’s, to help prevent and cure heart disease.

The Nunnink Foundation holds an annual golf tournament, now in its fifth year, to help raise funds. “Kevin didn’t do anything halfway. He jumped in with both feet,” said Jo. “I know he would’ve supported this.” The family’s gifts recently played a critical role in the current flu season. Thanks to the Nunninks, Saint Luke’s purchased two additional ECMO machines, which helped numerous patients battling the respiratory effects of the flu.

The Nunninks noted that Kevin was always very driven in every part of his life. “He’d dream it and do it,” Morgan said. “His ability to make dreams reality was unparalleled.” Added Jo, “He would want us to make lemonade out of lemons. We’re simply continuing his legacy of giving back.”

By: Tanya Carson