Skip to content
Friends of Children's Hospital Pledges $20 Million to Capital Campaign
Friends of Children's Hospital board chair Sara Ray, left, is thanked by Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, for the nonprofit group's $20 million pledge to the Children's of Mississippi capital campaign.

Friends of Children's Hospital, a nonprofit group dedicated to raising funds for Batson Children's Hospital, has committed to raising $20 million over the next 10 years to go toward the $100 million Children's of Mississippi capital campaign.

“Friends of Children's Hospital is extremely proud of the $17 million we've raised since 1989 and the impact that it's had on improving health care for Mississippi's children,” said Sara Ray, board chairman of the group. “We were among the first on board when the Medical Center needed support to build Batson Children's Hospital in 1997 and have contributed annually ever since to enhance the patient and family experience.”

Children's of Mississippi is the umbrella organization that includes Batson Children's Hospital and all UMMC pediatric care, including clinics offering specialty care around the state.

The funds raised in the campaign 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.

“Batson Children's Hospital provides state-of-the-art health care,” said Ray, “but the increase in patients needing this care means we now have a critical need to expand this facility.”

The campaign, chaired by Joe and Kathy Sanderson, was started in April with a personal $10 million pledge from the Sanderson Farms chairman and CEO and his wife.

Said Joe Sanderson: “We believe that the hospital is at maximum capacity and needs updated infrastructure in several vital areas. The hospital is beyond capacity in the neonatal intensive care unit and is badly in need of additional space. Children are transported long distances to the adult hospital for vital diagnostic imaging procedures, often requiring sedation. And further, there needs to be additional facilities for pediatric surgeries, particularly cardiac surgery.”

This newest Friends of Children's Hospital pledge is a strong renewal of commitment to the group's mission, Ray said. “Only 20 years after Friends of Children's Hospital helped make Batson Children's Hospital a reality, we are once again committing to make a dream come true for our little ones. We're dreaming bigger this time and have committed to raise $20 million over the next 10 years to expand our beloved children's hospital. Our state's children deserve the best health care available, and we invite you to help us make it happen.”

“We cannot thank Friends of Children's Hospital enough for all they've done for the health of Mississippi's children,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. “This incredible group of dedicated volunteers has, for more than 25 years now, been an integral part of not only the growth of Batson Children's Hospital but its very existence.”

University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said the commitment to excellence shown by Friends of Children's Hospital volunteers and leaders is a testament to their long-time support of the University of Mississippi Medical Center's pediatric care.

“Part of the University of Mississippi's mission is improving the lives of Mississippians, and central to that worthy goal is helping our children lead healthy lives through excellent pediatric care at Children's of Mississippi," Vitter said. "We thank Friends of Children's Hospital for their generosity and vision for the future of health care.”

The first $3,000 in the building fund of what would become Batson Children's Hospital came from Friends of Children's Hospital. By 1994, when plans for a new children's hospital were drawn, Friends of Children's Hospital pledged $175,000 to make the first five floors a reality. Later, when the sixth and seventh floors were added, Friends of Children's Hospital, which had experienced tremendous growth, pledged $1.7 million to the project.

Later, in 2009, the Eli Manning Children's Clinics at Batson Children's Hospital opened, thanks to a partnership between the nonprofit and Eli Manning, which raised $3 million over five years through an annual gala event, An Evening with the Mannings Presented by BankPlus. Friends donated another $1.7 million to the expansion and renovation of the children's emergency room.

Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children's of Mississippi, said the generosity of Friends of Children's Hospital is a lifeline for children who need specialized medical care. “This gift will help provide vitally needed space and equipment for our smallest babies in the neonatal intensive care unit and more room and equipment for our pediatric intensive care unit. It will aid in shortening imaging wait times due to additions of space and equipment and will provide additional equipment for the Children's Heart Center and expand the number of children we care for. This will absolutely result in improved care for the children of Mississippi.”

To make a tax-deductible, planned gift to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, contact the UMMC Office of Development at 601-984-2300. 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


Online gifts for the 2024 calendar year should be made no later than noon on December 31, 2024.  Checks by mail will need to be postmarked by December 31 to be counted in the 2024 calendar year.