Children's Hospital Donations Top $100 Million Goal

July 21, 2008
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The biggest fundraising campaign in the city’s history has surpassed its goal, with $102.46 million raised for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

“We think it’s absolutely spectacular,” said Dr. Robert Connors, DVCH president. “Giving in this kind of range really is unprecedented in the Grand Rapids area and West Michigan. It confirms we’re on the right track with what we’re trying to do with children’s services here, and that our community is with us.”

The $250 million children’s hospital is under construction next to Butterworth Hospital at Michigan Street and Bostwick Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s expected to open in 2011.

Vicki Weaver, president of Spectrum Health Foundation, said planning for the massive campaign went hand-in-hand with the planning of the facility itself.

“We did a study with close to 100 individuals,” Weaver explained. “We had a third party conduct the interviews. We shared the vision and tried to get insight into attitudes, how they feel about DeVos Children’s Hospital having those resources available to children and families in West Michigan, and would they be willing to provide financial support.”

Planning took about a year, while the campaign ran for two years, Weaver said.

Cornerstone funding was provided by a collective $50 million from the children of Helen DeVos and her husband, Amway co-founder and Spectrum Health board member Richard DeVos: Dick and Betsy Devos, Dan and Pam DeVos, Doug and Maria DeVos, and Bob and Cheri VanderWeide. Chairwoman of the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation is Donnalee Holton.

Weaver said the campaign’s outreach was led by 75 volunteers, who were divided into groups.

“A group just worked on contacting corporations, for example. We had a group that worked on the auxiliary hospital guild, a group that worked with physicians, a group that worked with schools. We did board-based things like sending letters out. We did a radiothon in December. There were targeted groups and broad-based activities,” she said.

Starting at $5,000, donors were offered the opportunity to have their names on one of 600 pieces of the hospital, from nursing stations to surgical suites to an entire floor. More than 300 donors have picked that option so far, Weaver said. Those who give $50 or more will be recognized inside the hospital, probably on a “donor wall,” she added.

Of the 4,400 donations, the most meaningful were usually small and accompanied by a note, Weaver said.

“Oftentimes we would receive a check and there would be a letter from a grandparent, and they would talk about the care their grandson received. There were so many heartwarming notes included in things like that. It was just really so inspiring,” she said.

“For some people, $10 or $3 or $25 is a sacrificial gift. We view every gift as very important, not just that they add up, but the emotional support that comes when people contribute their own money.”

Connors said the promise of the new hospital has helped to recruit 17 pediatric specialists to Spectrum Health.

“The hospital is just a building if you don’t have the right people inside,” he said. “We’re bringing people from all over the country into West Michigan. The caliber of people we’re getting here could go anywhere. The fact that the community is supporting this project, they can predict that they’ll have a wonderful future here.”

Even though children’s hospital construction projects are underway at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor and planned at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, Connors said he believes the local hospital is crucial not only to children and families in the Grand Rapids area, but outstate as well.

“If there is a serious injury at 3 a.m., you’re going to get about 20 people to show up and take care of that child,” he said. “Those three are the only ones capable.

“Even though there are not a lot more kids, smaller hospitals are finding it more difficult to provide complex care to children. Many smaller hospitals only have one or two kids in the hospital at a time. A lot of what used to be in-hospital care of children is now done outside the hospital, so kids that are hospitalized are sicker than they used to be. It gets harder and harder for smaller hospitals to adequately treat.” HQX

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