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Children’s Hospital expansion that much closer to a reality

By Staff | Dec 26, 2012

Delivered by emergency cesarean section eight weeks early, Ellie was immediately whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit at The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Weighing only 3 pounds, Ellie spent her first month in the NICU, where the staff worked hard day and night to keep her breathing and alive.

Ben was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma a cancer that attacks developing nerve cells in infants and children. The cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, bones, bone marrow and other organs.

Ben was just 3 years old. After his diagnosis, Ben was immediately admitted to The Children’s Hospital to begin the aggressive treatment to save his life. In 2007, doctors declared Ben cured.

These children, and thousands more throughout our five-county area, depend on the lifesaving care provided at The Children’s Hospital.

As the only accredited children’s hospital between Tampa and Miami, we have seen admissions, treatments, surgeries and emergency department visits increase substantially since the hospital opened in 1994.

Such growth has resulted in crowded facilities and, sadly at times, children may be sent to other facilities farther from home to get the care they need, causing great stress on these young patients and their families.

As a result, the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation embarked on a capital campaign to expand The Children’s Hospital. The state-of-the-art, 128-bed comprehensive facility will consolidate all of the medical and ancillary services required to treat critically ill or injured children from throughout Southwest Florida.

Children’s medical services are highly dependent on philanthropic support through the generosity of our community. The project designing, constructing and completely furnishing the hospital with equipment and technology will cost more than $200 million. Partnerships with individuals, businesses, community leaders and supporting organizations and events are crucial to the success of the capital campaign.

This summer, the campaign received an extraordinary push forward a dollar-for-dollar matching pledge up to $20 million from an anonymous donor. The generous donor hoped that this pledge would inspire others from our community to give to help children throughout Southwest Florida.

So far, it has had its intended effect since announcing the matching pledge, $3 million has been raised, and with matching funds, now is $6 million. That is in addition to the $50 million in pledges and actual donations received from many generous benefactors.

On Oct. 30, at a special event held at HealthPark Medical Center, our generous, anonymous benefactor was revealed. He is B. Thomas Golisano, a resident of Naples and noted philanthropist. In addition to introducing Mr. Golisano and thanking him for his most generous gift, we unveiled the new name of our hospital Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Mr. Golisano is an astute and successful businessman the founder and chairman of the board of Paychex, Inc., a leader in the payroll, human resource and benefit outsourcing industry. He also is a steward of good works and philanthropy.

In addition to his support of our hospital, his generous gifts include the Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y.; Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y.; the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples and the Tom Golisano Field House at Ave Maria University.

He also is the founding sponsor and major underwriter for the past eight years of the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, which convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative strategies for some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including education, poverty, health and the environment.

In the speech he made at the special event on Oct. 30, Mr. Golisano reflected on something someone said to him many years ago “The only wealth you get to keep in this world is that which you give away.”

Mr. Golisano said he is thrilled to be able to give our community this gift. “I hope the community will rally in support,” Mr. Golisano said. “There is nothing more noble than taking care of our children.”

We feel extremely honored and blessed by Mr. Golisano’s gift, and his trust in our vision and our caring and talented team.

We are proud of the work we have done and the phenomenal care we have provided for the children and families of Southwest Florida, and we look forward to a promising future where we can serve more children and families with the health care and advocacy services they need as close to home as possible.

If interested in learning more about the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida Capital Campaign or would like to make a gift, please contact the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation at 343-6950 or please be sure to visit www.ChildrensHospitalGoal.org.