The $10 million gift to rename a new children's hospital will do more than spur construction of a modern specialty facility to serve women and children in Western New York.
It also will further cement the transformation of downtown's Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus from vision to stunning reality, officials said.
Women & Children's Hospital will be renamed the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital following the announcement Tuesday of the "unprecedented gift" to Kaleida Health from the John R. Oishei Foundation.
The donation is the largest single gift from the foundation in its 72-year history and the largest ever to the pediatric facility currently based on Bryant Street in the Elmwood Village.
By the standards of health-related gift-giving in the United States, the donation may seem small.
Last year alone, two hospitals received $100 million donations - the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D, - according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
But the local gift is similar to charitable donations elsewhere in Upstate New York.
For instance, over the last decade, B. Thomas Golisano, the former owner of the Buffalo Sabres, gave $6 million for Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital in Syracuse and $14 million, followed a few years later by $20 million, for Golisano Children's Hospital in Rochester.
Charitable donations - both for philanthropy and corporate sponsorships - have become very common for hospitals, and the amounts have increased as the price of projects has grown, said Terry Burton, president of Dig In Research of Windsor, Ont., which tracks major gift-giving trends in North America.
However, Burton and others said the significance of a donation can't always be measured by its size.
"Gifts like these are all relative. It depends on the market. A $10 million donation in a mid-size city like Buffalo can be a game-changer," Burton said.
The gift from Buffalo's largest charitable organization also reflects the public perception of the children's hospital as a community asset, said James Kaskie, president and chief executive officer of Kaleida Health.
"The gift is consistent with the foundation's agenda of being a catalyst for change. And, it's a meaningful event for Buffalo," he said.
Kaleida Health hired a firm to help it put together a fundraising campaign for a new children's hospital, which will include in its design other opportunities for naming areas of the facility. Less than a month ago, the Children's Guild Foundation presented a $2 million gift for the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital. Other large donations are expected in the next few months, Kaskie said.
The gift from the Oishei Foundation comes with no other conditions and is for perpetuity, officials said.
The gift came about somewhat naturally, because of the relationship between Oishei and Kaleida Health, and a sense that the project appealed to so many people and organizations in the Buffalo area, said Kaskie.
For example, Oishei has worked with Kaleida Health in the past, including providing support for other projects and programs in the hospital system. Robert Gioia, president of John R. Oishei Foundation, is the outgoing chairman of Great Lakes Health, which oversaw a difficult affiliation between Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center.
"As we talked to [the foundation] about the medical campus, we asked that they consider us in their planning," Kaskie said.
He said a column by Donn Esmonde in The Buffalo News earlier this year also helped stimulate conversation about gift giving and naming rights by publicly encouraging a donor to step forward and go "down in history, for the rightest of reasons."
The $200 million building will go up at the corner of Ellicott and High streets, across from and connected by a walkway to the Buffalo General Medical Center. Ground-breaking is expected in the spring of 2013, with an aggressive completion date scheduled for December 2015.
Kaleida Health in 2003 changed the name of Children's Hospital to Women's & Children's Hospital to bring greater attention to its services for adult women. The latest name change does not reflect any change in services.
The children's hospital, after lengthy study by its physicians, decided in 2010 in favor of a move to the downtown medical center rather than an attempt to reconstruct its current campus. Physicians see benefits in a smaller, more efficient and modern facility close to an adult hospital on the medical campus, which has taken off in recent years.
Some pediatric ambulatory services and medical offices will move into part of a large medical office building proposed for Main and High streets by the Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. Complex hospital services will be located next door in a new tower on Ellicott Street.
The medical campus' five-block area has been the center of construction activity in the region in the last few years, with such new buildings as the Gates Vascular Institute, the University at Buffalo's Clinical and Translational Research Center and Kaleida Health's new nursing home, HighPointe on Michigan.
In addition, UB is building a new Educational Opportunity Center, which will connect with UB's Downtown Gateway building, formerly known as the M. Wile building. A large portion of the former Trico building has been transformed into incubator space for fledgling high-tech companies spun off from the medical research campus.
The Hauptman-Woodward Institute is housed in a notable new building designed by Mehrdad Yazdani, who also designed the vascular institute. UB's Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences opened in 2006, and is connected to Roswell Park Cancer Institute's genetics and pharmacology building, which also opened in 2006.
Meanwhile, UB announced last year it will relocate its medical school from the South Campus to the medical campus by 2016.
Kaskie said the changes represent more than new bricks and mortar.
"This also is about a transformation of health care in the region," he said. "We needed to consolidate services, have scale and create centers of excellence. We've needed to create greater value."