“Think Big, Mary!” The Beacon House saves lives and receives Grace

Among the hundreds of ‘Thank You’ notes wallpapering the halls of the Beacon House, a 3” x 5” piece of paper tacked to Mary Tavernini-Dowling’s bulletin board reads three simple words, “THINK BIG, MARY!” The note was passed to her by none other than Steve Mariucci after a golf outing two years ago, teeing off the first plans for an annual Celebrity Golf tournament.


The Beacon House is considered an essential part of the medical care community, and 2014 marked the celebration of the organization’s 10th year as a staple charity in Marquette, MI.

bea•con ˈbēkən/ noun
noun: beacon; plural noun: beacons

  1. a fire or light set up in a high or prominent position as a celebration.
  2. a light or other visible object serving as a guide, especially in a time of desperation

Not many people tell Tavernini-Dowling to think big. It is advice she doesn’t hear often. Mary makes it a habit of thinking big. In fact, she calls it ‘Mary Mode’. Since 1999, Mary’s get up and go approach to her professional career piloted marketing and communication strategies for businesses all across the Upper Peninsula. As President and CEO of M. Tavernini & Associates, and former owner of La Dolce Video and Design, Mary Tavernini-Dowling has ‘thought big’ for businesses long before planning this year’s fourth annual Celebrity Golf Classic. She brings more than 30 years of experience in management and marketing to the organization.


Mary and Beacon House Guest Travis. Travis is doing rehab at MGH, and learning to walk again after a tragic accident. He is making incredible progress.

Chief organizer of one of the Upper Peninsula’s largest fundraising events, Mary Tavernini-Dowling has helped expand the organization far beyond the Beacon House. Since 2002, as CEO of the parent organization ‘The Hospitality House of the Upper Peninsula’ (HHUP), Mary’s full time gig now canopies over five organizations; The Beacon House, Hospitality Gifts, Hospitality Rooms, Your Coffee for a Cause, and the Wig Salon. In 2013, when MGH/Duke LifePoint became a for-profit entity, HHUP adopted non-profit oriented operations to continue supportive and compassionate services for patients receiving medical care and for their loved ones.

As a charitable organization, their fiscal sustainability is solely reliant on the generosity of partners and all those who understand that the need for Beacon House may only be a heartbeat away.

On June 25 & 26, The Mariucci Family Foundation will co-sponsor the benefit golf competition raising nearly one third of HHUP’s annual operating budget. Managing this year’s Celebrity Golf Classic is a year-round operation. HHUP is taking Steve Mariucci’s advice, and thinking bigger.

The 2014 golf tournament is no small feat. Hundreds of volunteers, donors, and 36 nationally recognized celebrities will gather on two golf courses to raise funds for the organization. Over the course of two days, HHUP will feed four meals to 500 people, and hold more than 11 different events. Included among the festivities are a live auction, a golf-clinic, a ‘Match Party’ catered by Elizabeth’s Chop House, and live entertainment.

All for a good cause, the proceeds benefit The Beacon House, a non-profit organization that provides patients, families and loved ones an affordable place to stay when receiving medical care at Marquette General Hospital, Bell Hospital and the Upper Peninsula Medical Center. Over 150,000 guest night stays have been provided since Beacon House opened in June 2002. Beacon House is one of the largest hospitality houses in the nation and accommodates a large number of patients, caregivers, and family members.


When a loved one is being treated for cancer, or while a premature baby fights for life in the NICU, HHUP hopes to provide an environment that promotes healing, emotional support, shared strength and comfort to patients and their families.

A Beacon House guest is, for example, recovering from a limb amputation, or visiting a father who is undergoing major heart surgery. They are at Beacon House waiting to hear if there is hope, or coping with the reality of a deceased loved-one. Beacon guests are searching for answers, and embracing each other with healing and community.

“It is science,” said Dowling. “Patients heal faster when loved ones are by their side.” Guests stay free of charge. There are 33 rooms in the former Village Inn, and all operations are funded by donors, sponsors, and charitable events like the Celebrity Golf Classic. Mary Tavernini-Dowling says her marketing / sales background is a lot easier to tap into these days. “It’s so easy for me to ask for money from the community when I know how helpful it is to our guests and their families. I look forward to coming to work every day because I know what we’re doing makes a difference.”

Countless examples of HHUP’s impact on peoples’ lives can be told through albums of Thank You letters, consistent monthly donations from former guests, and testimonies of current guests. Most recently, the story of young woman named Grace exemplifies the power of community healing provided by HHUP.

One minute, all that Grace knew was that she was simply driving down the highway, and in the next she was in a coma with a cranial pressure gauge in her head. Grace’s parents were guests at The Beacon House during her hospital stay at Marquette General.

“While in the hospital, she knew her father was there; she knew that when she opened her eyes she would see him,” said Dowling. “She knew it didn’t matter how long it took for her to recover, he would be there when she did.”

To this day, Grace has never seen the inside of the Beacon House. She has never walked through the doors of the building, or stepped a foot in a room. Still, she says it saved her life. Grace believes she is here today because of HHUP. For her, it was a conduit that connected her to her family in her coma, and throughout her long and difficult recovery. “Without it, without them, she doubted she would have pulled through.”


“We always hope we are making a difference in peoples’ lives, but to hear just how much of an impact we’ve made is beyond rewarding… Donation[s] make those times possible, when nothing else matters except to be together.” – HHUP

For more information about this year’s Celebrity Golf Classic, HHUP, or the Beacon House, visit them online at www.upbeaconhouse.org