It's a relatively small investment by state standards, but there is hope that it could provide huge returns in lives saved and lives improved. In providing more money for the Hunter James Kelly Institute, Gov. George E. Pataki's 2006-07 budget tacks an important addition onto the life sciences center that's rapidly evolving in Buffalo.
It's a small investment not just because of the money involved -- $7 million, in a budget totaling more than $100 billion -- but because it targets the smallest among us. The money will be used to attract and support a dozen scientists who will research childhood diseases at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The funding jump-starts the institute, which was announced in 2004 when the Hunter's Hope Foundation provided an initial $1 million endowment.
It's important work, well begun. And the center is well named. Hunter Kelly's struggle with Krabbe disease, which ended when he died last August at the age of 8, was followed by all of Western New York. His parents, Jill and former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, wrote a very public love story with their devotion to their son, and their efforts to turn their own family tragedy into a wellspring of hope for children with Krabbe and other diseases have been inspirational.
The state money includes $6 million for equipment purchases and $1 million for salary support. It's a good start, and one that should help children while increasing the ability of the new medical campus to attract even more grant money that will drive research and further expansion. It would be hard to find a more promising use of tax dollars.