It was in Paris in the mid-1970s that the Bauers met CeCe Orvis, who was then director of volunteers at Norwalk Hospital, and Orvis mentioned her role at the hospital to Carol.
"We were taking a walk in the park when I asked her what she was doing," Carol said, adding that the park was in a suburb of Paris, just west of the City of Lights. Carol said she was so impressed with the work Orvis did that she told her she would begin volunteering at Norwalk Hospital when she and George returned to the United States.
Orvis recalled that day as well. "I said, `You must come down and learn about being a volunteer at Norwalk Hospital,' and she did and was a wonderful volunteer," Orvis said. "Her career did start because of my encouragement, but she's her own person and a very knowledgeable and gifted person, as well as being a generous person."
Orvis said she and her husband didn't know the Bauers before they met in Paris. She said her neighbor in Wilton worked at IBM, as did George Bauer, and that her neighbor arranged for the couples to meet while Orvis and her family were on vacation in Paris.
Carol Bauer initially volunteered as a receptionist in the Intensive Care Unit's waiting lounge, and, after a few years, she became president of the volunteers. Over the years, Carol and George helped to create a waiting lounge in the Emergency Department, where Carol also volunteered, and Carol served as vice chairman and chairman of the hospital's board of trustees.
"As chairman, she also volunteered so she could get that input" from volunteers, George Bauer said.
The Bauers, of Wilton, formerly of New Canaan, also helped to fund a larger neo-natal intensive care unit after their first son died as an infant. "We decided it would be a good way to honor our son," Carol said, adding that she also volunteered in that unit, which is known today as the Jeffrey Peter Bauer Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
Orvis said her own grandson was born prematurely, at one and-a-half pounds, on May 22, 1995, and that the Bauers were there for her and her family.
"She was very instrumental in making us feel better about the situation," Orvis said, adding that her grandson is now 17, doing well and a senior at New Fairfield High School.
"They do have miracles that happen there because of the terrific staff of medical people and people like Carol," Orvis said of the Jeffrey Peter Bauer Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
After Carol stepped down as chairman of the board of trustees in 2002, she studied for four years to become a chaplain and now serves as a chaplain at Norwalk Hospital, which she said is "very rewarding work."
"You're with people at the beginning of life, during illness and at the end of life and with families," Carol said.
George Bauer's work at the hospital began with helping to implement a Price Waterhouse study of hospital operations while Carol was chairman of the board of trustees. "I had retired from IBM but had experience with large organizations and systems, and they asked me if I would work on the implementation of recommendations in the study," George said. "I did some organizational work for IBM, and it's helpful in thinking about affiliations with the hospital."
George also served as a member and treasurer of the hospital's board of trustees.
Mary Franco, president of the Norwalk Hospital Foundation, the fundraising arm of the hospital, said proceeds from the hospital's its 20th Anniversary Gala honoring the Bauers, which will be held at the SoNo Field House in South Norwalk, will help to fund an expansion of the hospital's Emergency Department.
The department was expanded 12 years ago to accommodate 25,000 patients a year and the upcoming expansion will increase its capacity to 65,000 patients a year, Franco said. "We're about to break ground on a new ambulatory pavilion, and, key to the pavilion is a new Emergency Department," she said.
The new Emergency Department will include dedicated treatment areas for pediatric patients, behavioral health patients and urgent care patients, as well as state-of-the-art medical equipment, a "better flow" and the ability to "flex with the space and demand."
Norwalk Hospital just finished building a new parking garage at a cost of $23 million, and the new ambulatory pavilion is projected to cost $100 million and be completed in the summer of 2015, Franco said. "We're fast-tracking it," she said.
The hospital is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to help pay for the ambulatory pavilion and the goal of the campaign is $30 million, with $25 million raised so far, Franco said. "The gala will help us push a little further toward our fundraising goal," she said.
Franco said the Bauers had given a generous gift toward the project and also helped to fund the Emergency Department's expansion 12 years ago.
"We are very, very excited that we are honoring the Bauers this year and that the proceeds go to the new Emergency Department we're building," Franco said. "They've given us so much time and talent and their philanthropy. We just can't thank them enough. They've been wonderful angels to this hospital. ... They are such special people."
The Bauers, who have been married for 57 years, are so committed to Norwalk Hospital that they spent one of their wedding anniversary dinners in the hospital cafeteria because a woman Carol was ministering to was due to deliver a baby in the hospital that night. "It was very last minute,' " Carol said. "I said to George, `We're going to have to have a fancy dinner later.' "
Carol credits her and George's family with instilling the value of volunteer work in them. "We both came out of families who didn't have a lot of means, but who consistently gave to others," she said.
Carol said she and her husband are humbled to be honored at the Oct. 13 gala and that they love what they do. "People ask us when are we going to do something for ourselves. We say constantly, `What makes you think we don't love what we're doing?' " she said.
George, who runs an investment banking business and travels often, said he and Carol also love being busy. "We hope to die with our boots on," he said.
The 20th Anniversary Gala will feature cocktails, silent and live auctions, catering by Chef Michael Batt of Food Design in Greenwich and dancing to music by the Dream Team Band of New York City.
Franco said the foundation expects about 450 people to attend.
The deadline to get a ticket is Oct. 6. Tickets are $500 and $1,000. Patron Tables are $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000.
For tickets, tables and sponsorship opportunities, call Kathleen Custis at 203-852-2022.