Joe and Kathy Sanderson are chairing a $100 million fundraising campaign for Children's of Mississippi, the umbrella organization that includes all pediatric care at UMMC and Batson Children's Hospital.
Leading by doing, the CEO and chairman of the board of Sanderson Farms and his wife are not only heading up the drive, the largest in the history of Children's of Mississippi, but they are also making the campaign's first large gift: $10 million over the next five years.
“This is a wonderful day for the medical center,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
The funds will help the Medical Center expand and update its space dedicated for pediatric care including an expanded and renovated neonatal intensive care unit, more rooms for the pediatric intensive care unit, more operating rooms and the creation of an imaging clinic especially for pediatric patients. A new pediatric clinic will make care for outpatients more convenient and comfortable for families.
Expansion of the Children's Heart Center is also on the drawing board. Batson Children's Hospital is the only hospital dedicated exclusively to the needs of children in Mississippi.
“Children's of Mississippi must grow so Mississippi's children can keep growing,” said Joe Sanderson.
“The goal to provide the best health care for children in Mississippi today and tomorrow is one that we must meet and exceed,” said Woodward. “We consider it an honor and a privilege to take care of Mississippi's children, but we are taking care of those children in areas that are undersized and outdated. A healthy future for our children depends upon the priorities we set now. This investment in the growth of Children's of Mississippi that each of us is called on to make will mean that little ones here will grow up with the best of medical care, right here at home, and it will pay dividends of healthier families and a healthier state.”
Knowing the demands of serving a growing population and of raising funds to meet those needs, Woodward said the question was who had the vision as well as the concern for Mississippi's children to bring these goals to fruition.
“An extraordinary plan needs extraordinary leaders. Joe and Kathy Sanderson were the first people we thought of,” she said. “We knew if anyone could help us reach this lofty goal, Joe and Kathy, with their track record of dedication to Mississippi, to Children's of Mississippi and to UMMC, could.”
The Sandersons know Batson Children's Hospital well, not only through their philanthropy but because their granddaughter, Sophie Creath, was a patient at the hospital as a young child, suffering from pancreatitis. “After witnessing the competent, loving care of (pediatric gastroenterologist) Dr. Paul Parker and the team at Batson, we realized the importance of this wonderful hospital,” said Kathy Sanderson.
“Sophie was in severe pain, but she was never afraid,” she said, “because of the extraordinarily competent and very loving care she received. That all the children of Mississippi can receive this kind of care has got to warm your heart. I know it does mine. We are all here for such a time as this, to give them the most wonderful care.”
Though they received the best of care for their granddaughter, the Sandersons realize that growth and expansion are needed.
“We believe that the hospital is at maximum capacity and is lacking in several vital areas,” Joe Sanderson said. “The hospital is beyond capacity in the neonatal intensive care unit and is badly in need of additional space. Children have to be transported to the main facility at UMMC because of a lack of equipment at Batson. Children sometimes need sedation when being transported. And further, there needs to be additional facilities for pediatric surgeries, particularly cardiac surgery."
One of the state's leading businessmen, Joe Sanderson said a state-of-the-art children's hospital would be an economic boost to Mississippi that would draw the best employees to the state. “Knowing the state has resources to care for children of their employees would certainly be a comfort to any business or family considering Mississippi as a potential home.”
The Sandersons are leading the way with their own generosity, giving a tenth of the goal themselves. “Kathy and I feel like Children's of Mississippi is the most important and most worthy charitable endeavor in the state at this time,” Joe Sanderson said. “This will be the largest gift we have ever made because we felt like this project was the most important to the state and to the children of Mississippi now and for years to come.”
Support for Children's of Mississippi in the state has been unwavering, said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children's of Mississippi. “The people of Mississippi want us to have a strong children's hospital, and they want it to thrive and be successful.”
Having the best of care for our children is a cause the people of Mississippi can embrace, Joe Sanderson said. “I think people across the state have a great deal of respect and admiration for what is being done at the state's only children's hospital. I think that when the story is told about the need of today and for the future, I think people will be willing to help make the project become a reality. Of all the things to which they could give, this project will be one of the most important and last longer and impact our state and the children of our state more than anything else they could do."
To make a tax-deductible gift to Batson Children's Hospital, contact the UMMC Office of Development at (601) 984-2300, or visit umc.edu/give2childrens. If making a donation by check, please mail your gift to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Office of Development, 2500 N. State St., Jackson MS 39216.
By Annie Oeth, UMMC Public Affairs