Each year, more than 8,000 babies take their first breath at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center. With so many tiny lives on the line, the hospital has always made first- rate pediatric care a top priority.
That trend continues as St. John’s Mercy nears completion of its new patient tower, two floors of which will be the home of St. John’s Mercy Children’s Hospital, a consolidation of exceptional pediatric services set to open in 2010. “It’s the same continuum and caliber of care we’ve always provided, but the new, dedicated space will provide better amenities for our patients, their families and our staff,” says Patty Arnold, president of the St. John’s Mercy Foundation. The group will host its annual Benefit for the Kids this summer to raise funds for the project. The foundation’s biggest fund-raiser of the year, it includes a golf tournament at Whitmoor Country Club on July 27 and a dinner auction at the Sheraton Westport on July 31.
“When you have 8,000 babies born in a year, it propels the need for stellar pediatric services. From obstetrics to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to specialties like pediatric oncology care, St. John’s Mercy provides an entire line of services when families need it the most,” says Arnold.
Proceeds from the benefit will be dedicated to four specific pediatric service lines. “The money we raise will be directed to the level-three NICU (the highest rated level of neo-natal care a hospital can be awarded), the pediatric intensive care unit and regular pediatric in-patient rooms, the Pediatric Oncology and Hematology Center, and the Child Development Center, which provides specialized care for children that have autism, spina bifida or other developmental issues,” Arnold explains.
She says the new space is patient centered and family-focused in all its details. “It’s a care model we take very seriously. When a child is in the hospital, it’s a huge impact on the entire family, including the parents, grandparents and other siblings. Aside from the medical care, we have provided amenities to make the experience as positive as possible. Rooftop gardens, special areas for art, pet, music and humor therapy and a playful and childlike interior motif go a long way toward making the family more comfortable.” Even the patient rooms were designed with families in mind. “We worked with our nursing and clinical teams, who have for years listened to what families need when they have a sick child, and those suggestions became priorities when designing the space,” she says.
The fund-raising event, sponsored by Bissinger’s Handcrafted Chocolatier, is in its sixth year. “Last year we raised more than $600,000 over the course of the two-part event. It helps that we have a very robust committee more than 55 members, all wanting to do their part for the cause,” Arnold says. Connie Finger and Joe Garea are this year’s co-chairs. “They have brought so much new energy and excitement to the event, we’re delighted to have them.”
The golf tournament, which is a four-man scramble and includes the services of two PGA professionals from Gateway PGA, has grown in popularity over the years. “Golfers have a great time on Whitmoor’s two 18-hole courses, and are presented with awards, goodie bags and opportunities for raffle prizes at the end of the round,” Arnold says. The dinner, which takes place the following Friday, is equally anticipated, thanks in part to its auction. “There are always such wonderful items. Our auction chair, Janice Bruns-Mantovani, has held that post for many years and does a great job.” Ticket prices vary depending on which events you participate in. “It’s $450 to golf, but that includes two tickets to dinner. Sponsorships are available from $3,500 to $15,000, which includes golf and tickets to the dinner. Individual dinner tickets are available for $150,” says Arnold. “It works out really well. If the wives want to golf, the husbands still come and enjoy dinner later that week, or vice versa. Either way, the dinner ends up being twice as big as the golf tournament and is a wonderful way to cap off the week.”
But this is one charity event that isn’t just fun for the donors. “Between the tournament on Monday and the dinner on Friday, we keep the celebratory theme going around the hospital,” she says. “We arrange all sorts of special activities for the children, including visits from Fredbird, the Energizer Bunny and experts with animals from the Saint Louis Zoo. Everyone gets into the spirit of celebrating the wonderful care St. John’s Mercy has to offer St. Louis children.”