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Hospital is a testament to multitude of givers

Rochester Business Journal
May 22, 2015

By the time the University of Rochester Medical Center opens the Golisano Children’s Hospital this month, thousands of supporters will have had a hand in bringing the $146 million first phase to fruition.

The hospital, which university and medical center leaders say will be among the nation’s best and attract equally talented medical professionals, was made possible in part by a massive fundraising effort that has drawn everything from seven-figure gifts to checkout-line donations.

“Every gift at every level has been so deeply appreciated,” said Scott Rasmussen, senior vice president for advancement at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “We often find ourselves promoting the larger gifts, but we literally see kids coming in with their piggy banks or kids who sat out in the hot sun all weekend and brought us $43 they made from a lemonade stand.”

The fundraising efforts were kick-started in 2011 when Paychex Inc. founder and chairman Thomas Golisano announced a $20 million gift—$2 million more than university and medical center leaders expected (see related story on page 27).

The hospital is finishing the first phase of its building project, of which the institution funded $85 million. The remaining $60 million came from a mix of individual and institutional giving, with $20 million of that covered by Golisano’s gift.

“We’ve whittled that down to just a touch under $7 million,” Rasmussen said in the weeks before the hospital was set to open.

Rasmussen said the response to the fundraising has been tremendous, with a number of large gifts and a total donor base that stretches across the region.

“We have in the neighborhood of 14,000 separate gifts,” he said. “On top of that are even bigger efforts, with Walmart and Sam’s Club do a lot of fundraising and that gets more people in the community involved.”

It is not just the customers giving money at the checkout registers. Walmart itself gave $1.5 million to name the hospital’s lobby.

For many, the giving is deeply personal. Mark Siewert made a $1 million commitment to the efforts in memory of his son, Mark Daniel Siewert, who spent eight months in the pediatric intensive care unit at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Siewart, the children’s hospital board chairman, said the experience demonstrated the strength of the hospital’s programs and medical staff, but also showed him firsthand some of the needs in the facilities themselves.

“Being able to stay there, you could see how tight it was,” he said.

Siewert said he and his wife saw the upgrades to the pediatric intensive care unit in the old hospital and realized the potential that could come with more spacious and family-friendly facilities. They decided to make a large commitment toward the new hospital.

“This is the largest gift my wife and I have ever given,” he said. “They are doing such great work, but the facilities were cramped. For families trying to stay, it was especially cramped.”

Siewert said he had additional motivation for his gift. As board chairman he wanted to take a leadership position, and Siewert and his wife were among the first individual donors to make major gifts.

The response has been tremendous, he said.

“Even aside from all the big donors, the community has really stepped forward,” he said. “This hospital will be such a critical thing for Rochester and for all of Upstate New York, and so many people have come together to make it happen.”

Like Siewert, Kim McCluski also was moved to give to Golisano Children’s Hospital after a personal tragedy. Her son, Ryan McCluski, died at age 21 after battling a neuromuscular disease at the hospital.

McCluski wanted to find a way to honor Ryan, who often went to sporting events at Pittsford Sutherland, and she found help from another Pittsford family touched by tragedy.

Katelyn Pasley was a third-grade student at Park Road Elementary School in Pittsford when she was diagnosed with leukemia and died after five weeks in the hospital. Together, the McCluski and Pasley families founded the Rainbow Classic, an annual basketball game between Pittsford Sutherland and Pittsford Mendon high school varsity teams.

The game not only raises money for the hospital and individual efforts within it—including helping to fund a teen lounge—but also has brought the schools together to support a common cause, McCluski said.

“The students in Pittsford have been so amazing,” she said. “The cheerleaders and basketball players have always been so supportive, and now there are a number of art students who are involved painting murals for the teen lounge.”

The game itself is a huge hit, McCluski noted. The teams alternate giving up a home game to host the event at UR, and it usually sells out in just a few hours.

“We’ve made well over $300,000 toward giving at this point, and it might even be close to $400,000,” she said. “It’s just such a great event and the kids and families really support it.

“It’s a great thing that something that was so tragic for both of our families, and others who have lost a friend or brother or sister, can (be turned) into something good,” she added.

These connections have been a pivotal factor in fundraising efforts, Rasmussen said.

“Anywhere you go, if you ask someone they know someone whose child has been treated here,” he said. “They all feel great about the care that’s delivered, and the caregivers are top-notch. I don’t think it can be overstated what a resource to our community this is, and it shows in the response we’ve gotten.”

5/22/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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