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In 1987, before she knew the granddaughter who would follow her into nursing, Dori Berndt died in a Mercy Flight crash along the Rocky Mountain Front with a pilot and two doctors.
Dori, a flight nurse at Deaconess Hospital (now Benefis), inspired her daughter Sherry to become a flight nurse, too. And now her granddaughter, McKenzie Taylor, is studying to follow in the footsteps of her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Lillian, who was a nurse at Choteau’s hospital.
“My grandmother gave her life to her profession,” McKenzie said. “Knowing that my family has given so much to the nursing profession, it is my heart’s desire to follow in my own mother’s footsteps, as well as the paths of two prior generations.”
Donors to Benefis Foundation’s scholarships program sponsored $100,500 in scholarships for 47 students like McKenzie this year. Many students already have ties to Benefis as employees furthering their medical education. Since the scholarship program’s founding, 715 students have shared $1,381,000 in scholarships.
This year, McKenzie received the Darcy Dengel Nursing Scholarship, named for a nurse who died in a Mercy Flight crash in 2007. Another Benefis Foundation scholarship honors paramedic Paul Erickson, who also died that day.
“I am honored to receive this scholarship in Darcy’s memory,” McKenzie said. “Besides the money, it helps boost my motivation and confidence to keep going beyond my RN to become a registered nurse anesthetist.”
McKenzie and her mother recently visited the new memorial at Benefis Health System honoring those who died in the two Mercy Flight wrecks.
“For me, it brought up a lot of emotions knowing what my mom went through growing up without her mom,” she said. “It made me think of my grandmother’s passion for her profession and that I have that in my blood.”
McKenzie, who grew up on a ranch at Rock Springs, Mont., between Miles City and Jordan, splits her summers between cattle chores and working as a certified nursing assistant taking care of elderly patients.
She’s a junior on the Dean’s List at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., but dreams of building her expertise to bring back to serve rural Montana communities.
If you would like to help Montana students pursue a career in healthcare and medicine, make a gift to Benefis Foundation Healthcare Scholarship Program. Click here to contribute.
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