Arkansas Children’s leadership, lead investors and volunteers celebrated Saturday evening (Jan. 6) as Mandy Macke, with the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, announced a culminating capital campaign gift of $8 million from the foundation to Arkansas Children’s Northwest Hospital.
The announcement was made during the Arkansas Children’s Grand Celebration held in a a large banquet tent onsite at the new hospital. Hospital officials earlier in the day provided media tours of the new facility.
Marcy Doderer, president and CEO of Arkansas Children’s, told the crowd the gift was the capstone capital gift for the hospital project. Doderer became emotional as she shared what it means to the area.
“The Walker family’s deep commitment to the children of this region is remarkable, really beyond actual words and we are so immensely grateful,” Doderer said. “It will transform how we take care of kids in this region and across the state of Arkansas.”
Doderer also announced the lighted stairwell that spans the height of the building and can be seen from Interstate 49 will be named “The Pat Walker Beacon of Hope.” Macke lit the stairwell for the first time from a remote control on the stage.
“Months ago when all we had was a rendering of what Arkansas Children’s Northwest would look like, we dubbed this lighted stairwell ‘beacon of hope.’ We could see it beckoning people from the highway, helping light the way for the children of Northwest Arkansas,” said Fred Scarborough, chief development officer and president of the Arkansas Children’s Foundation board of directors.
Doderer talked about the two-year journey in which 14,000 donors had raised $80 million. She said on her first visits to Northwest Arkansas she met with area business leaders, such as Wal-Mart Stores president and CEO Doug McMillon and J.B. Hunt Transport CEO John Roberts, and they all told her the same thing, “we need a children’s hospital.”
“Isn’t it a great relief – and I use the word ‘relief’ on purpose. Isn’t it a great relief to finally get a children’s hospital in Northwest Arkansas?” Charles Redfield, executive vice president, Walmart U.S. and board member of Arkansas Children’s Northwest, asked the crowd.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson told guests his childhood memories of the area around the hospital are of picking grapes and hauling hay and that he is glad to see the land being used for something that will touch generations to come. Hutchinson said good health care for children is important to the growth of the state.
“I really promoted bringing industry here … it could not happen without access to health care for children. When people look at large economic regions and metropolitan areas, they have children’s hospitals,” Hutchinson said. “Now this dynamic region of our state, Northwest Arkansas, will have state of the art access for children and their care. This is tremendous good news for the growth of our region.”
Doderer said she believes the state is at a turning point for child health care.
“I firmly believe that in a few short years, we will see the health and well-being of the children of the state elevated and we won’t sit at the bottom any longer,” she said.
Others who participated in the program included Barbara Tyson; Gary George; Mark Saviers, principal, Sage Partners and chairman of the Arkansas Children’s board of directors; John Lauck, president and CEO of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals; John Roberts, Arkansas Children’s Northwest board member; and Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields.
Arkansas Children’s Northwest outpatient services will open Jan. 9, with the entire hospital opening sometime in February.