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$1M Child Life Endowment is Memorial for Friends Chair
Madeline Wilson, Children's of Mississippi Child Life specialist, laughs with Keidron Hall of Gulfport during his hospital stay.

When children being treated at the state’s only children’s hospital play as part of the healing process, it will be in memory of Sidney P. Allen, the Friends of Children’s Hospital board chair who died Nov. 10, 2018, after a brief battle with cancer.

A $1 million commitment to the Child Life program at Children’s of Mississippi from Friends of Children’s Hospital and the Allen family was announced recently at the Trustmark Children’s Hospital Pro-Am Sponsor Party at the Country Club of Jackson, Mississippi.

Friends of Children’s Hospital helps raise funds to support the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s pediatrics arm, including Batson Children’s Hospital, the state’s only pediatric hospital.

“The gift recognizes Sidney’s exceptional life, his genuine compassion for others and the profound impact he had on the lives of children and families through his commitment and leadership of Friends,” said Melanie Morgan, Allen’s successor as chair of the nonprofit.

Proceeds from the Sidney and Friends Child Life Fund will support Child Life and other similar pediatric programs that help patients and families cope with stress or other issues related to treatment and their time in the hospital.

“Dad spent 25 years working on behalf of Friends of Children’s Hospital to support vital programs at Children’s of Mississippi and more specifically, Batson,” said Allen’s son, Sidney Allen Jr. “When he passed away last year, mom, Rachel and I asked that donations be made to Friends instead of flowers or other such memorials. Through those very generous donations from many of our friends and family members, we were able to consider a way to permanently remember his service to Friends and the hospital.”

The Child Life program has been the designated beneficiary of the Pro-Am for many years. Child Life was also the first program supported by Friends in 1990, when the nonprofit donated $5,000 toward the hospital’s activity room fund.

“Working with Melanie Morgan, my wife Kristin, the board of Friends, and the development team at UMMC, we settled on the idea to establish the Sidney and Friends Child Life Fund so the Child Life program can be permanently endowed,” Allen said. “We are excited to begin this journey with Friends and UMMC so the Child Life program will be able to grow as Children’s of Mississippi grows.”

This endowment is the only one of its kind for Child Life, providing annual income for a program that relies on philanthropic support. In efforts to grow the fund, Friends will continue fundraising to ensure Child Life specialists have the resources needed to provide patients with therapeutic play, preparation for procedures and education to reduce fear, anxiety and pain.

“This endowment will provide for our Child Life needs at a time when Children’s of Mississippi is growing,” said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi. “We are grateful for the care that this endowment will help provide to our patients and their families.”

Child Life care helps in healing, said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair, professor and chair of Pediatrics. “By offering our patients opportunities to play, Child Life specialists are helping them learn, grow and heal.”

Laurie Heiden-Izard, Hospital School and Child Life coordinator, said the endowment will fund the needs of Child Life, providing patients with much needed resources and services.

“We are so thankful to have the support of Friends of Children’s Hospital in this mission,” she said.

Child Life specialist Tiffany Key said the endowment will provide comfort for patients and families when it is needed the most.

“This endowment will ensure that Child Life care here will grow as our hospital does,” she said.

The endowment comes as Children’s of Mississippi is expanding the children’s hospital through construction of a seven-story tower. The addition will include two floors of private neonatal intensive care rooms, a dozen state-of-the-art surgical suites, larger spaces for pediatric intensive care, an imaging center designed for children and an outpatient specialty clinic.

“As our hospital expands, this endowment will support a program that is at the heart of Children’s of Mississippi,” said Meredith Aldridge, director of development for Children’s.

Donations can be made to Friends of Children’s Hospital, Sidney and Friends Child Life Fund (memo line), mail to 3900 Lakeland Dr., Suite 205, Flowood MS 39232 or online at by adding “Sidney and Friends” under additional information.

To support the University of Mississippi Medical Center, visit or contact Natalie Hutto, chief development officer, at 601-984-2300 or

By Annie Oeth/UMC Public Affairs


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