FORT MYERS — An anonymous donor has challenged Southwest Floridians to raise $20 million for The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
If they do, the donor will match it — dollar for dollar. It is said to be the largest philanthropic gift in Southwest Florida history.
“This truly remarkable gift is one that will rewrite the future for the children of Southwest Florida,” Sharon MacDonald, the chief foundation officer for the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation, said. “We hope the tremendous generosity of this pledge inspires the community to help build America’s newest children’s hospital.
The capital campaign, which the grant will support, will construct a new 128-bed (with expansion capabilities to 160 beds) pediatric health care facility on the grounds of HealthPark Medical Center in South Fort Myers.
“Our current facility is sometimes at 100 percent occupancy. There is no more room at the inn,” said Jim Nathan, president of Lee Memorial Health System. “This will allow us to add more beds. We are going to recruit new pediatric specialists to decrease the wait time. The hope is that families will not have to travel two-and-a-half to three hours to get to these major academic centers. That creates tremendous pressure of families and parents.”
Dan Fink, chief administrative officer of The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, said the money will help Southwest Florida families get care for critically ill children, many of whom have to travel to academic centers hours away for treatment.
“This will allow children to stay close to home, close to their own pediatrician and their own family unit,” he said. “Research has shown that children heal faster (when they are close to home).”
MacDonald said the hope is to meet half of the target — or $10 million — by the end of the year and to meet the entire goal by the end of season next year. The donor has given the foundation until May 16, 2014, to meet the goal.
MacDonald said the foundation has raised $2 million toward the goal since May 16, which was when the donor agreed to start matching donations. The foundation had raised $54 million toward the project before the grant.
Hospital officials declined to give any details about the donor, but said he or she might come forward eventually.
The new facility is expected to open in 2016.
To donate to the campaign or for more information, contact the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation office at (239) 343-6950 or visit www.ChildrensHospitalGoal.org.