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Children’s Hospital renamed for $20 million benefactor

By Staff | Nov 2, 2012

CAROL ORR HARTMAN Sanibelians, Dr. Steve Brown (Lee Memorial Hospital Board of Director), Dick and Emily Muench were part of the large Sanibel contingency that showed up.

Several months ago, Lee Memorial Health System announced an anonymous donation of $20 million had been made to the building fund drive for the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida

That anonymous donor was identified Tuesday as B. Thomas Golisano. The Naples resident and philantropist is the founder and chairman of Paychex Inc, a leader in the payroll, human resource and benefits outsourcing industry. Golisano’s gift challenges Southwest Florida to raise $20 million which he will match dollar for dollar.

With his identity revealed, the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation is renaming the children’s facility to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

“Since we started the fund drive, the naming opportunity has been out there for a significant donor,” said Mary Briggs, system director for Lee Memorial Health System. “Since he has several other children’s hospitals named after him makes this a huge deal.”

Golisano’s generous gifts in the past 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 Tom Golisano Field House at Ave Maria University.

“With his multiple generous gifts to children’s hospitals gives significant credibility to the work we are doing here,” said Jim Nathan, Lee Memorial Health System CEO. “His group does a lot of research on the organizations they choose to invest in.”

The renaming announcement was made Tuesday morning in the Atrium of HealthPark Medical Center in South Fort Myers, where the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is to be built.

“I have not seen that much energy before,” said Briggs. “People (patients, physicians, families, staff, clinicians) were ringing all four levels of the Atrium, cheering. It was very exciting.”

The foundation’s goal is to raise $125 million to construct the state-of-the art, 128-bed (expandable to 160 beds) comprehensive pediatric health care facility. Officials expect to break ground by 2014 and to open in 2016.

“Clearly, we knew from the beginning that we wanted to get a naming donor for a big-dollar donation, whether it came from a foundation, an individual or an organization,” said Nathan. “We are over halfway to our goal, and adding (Golisano’s) donation being matched puts us over $100 million.”

Sanibel Captiva Cares has been involved in the fundraising effort for a dozen years, having raised more than $3.4 million in support. A pediatric ambulance for facility carries the island organization’s logo on it.

“It was exciting to hear that one individual had stepped up to contribute $20 million to the cause,” said Joe Mondelli of Sanibel Captiva Cares. “It gives energy to all organizations trying to raise money to build the hospital. It means all the money they raise will be matched.”

When the anonymous donation was announced, the hospital foundation donations jumped $3 million in a short time.

“We have raised a half-million a year, but this announcement gives us some momentum,” said Mondelli. “Big donations make all the little donations mean so much more. A number of people with Sanibel Captiva Cares were there (Tuesday).”

“We couldn’t be so successful fundraising in this community if not for the support from citizens like those associated with Sanibel Captiva Cares,” said Nathan. “They are very important to the effort.”

Golisano also attended the announcement ceremony.

“I have deep admiration for the heroic work of the physicians and clinical staff of The Children’s Hospital, who every day provide skilled and passionate care, and are saving the lives of sick and injured children in Southwest Florida,” Golisano said. “This gift comes as my personal commitment to help Lee Memorial Health System build a hospital where all children in Southwest Florida will receive the best possible care close to home. I hope this gift helps leverage support from others in the region and motivates everyone to contribute in a meaningful way to this important endeavor.”

When fullfilled, the $40 million will be the largest single philantropic donation in the history of Southwest Florida and the second-largest in the state of Florida.

All gifts, big and small, made to the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida Capital Campaign are eligible for the match and include but are not limited to estate gifts, multi-year pledges, corporate donations, grants, special event sponsorships and auction revenues.

“The challenge grant is having its intended impact on our fundraising efforts,” said Sharon MacDonald, chief foundation officer of Lee Memorial Health System Foundation. “We’ve received a tremendous amount of interest and support since announcing the challenge in August, and have raised an additional $3 million to be matched as a result of Mr. Golisano’s generosity.

To make a gift or learn more about the many giving opportunities available, contact the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation office at (239) 343-6950 or visit www.ChildrensHospitalGoal.org.