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Arkansas Children’s Gets $25M Gift, Largest in 111-Year History

Little Rock-based pediatric healthcare organization Arkansas Children’s has received $25 million, the largest gift in its history, from Fayetteville nonprofit Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation.

The money, spread over five years, will specifically impact Northwest Arkansas. Half of the donation will support expansion efforts, including building a new Springdale hospital wing. The remaining $12.5 million will create an endowment to benefit Arkansas Children’s Northwest operations in perpetuity.

Mandy Macke, executive director of the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, announced the historic gift during Arkansas Children’s 15th annual Gala of Hope at the Fayetteville Public Library. It’s the foundation’s largest single donation in its 37-year history.

Sam Walton hired Willard Walker to manage what was then Walton’s Five and Dime store in Fayetteville. Walker later became one of the early Walmart Inc. executives. Pat met Willard while working in a department store in Coffeyville, Kan.

In October 1970, when Walmart went public, it offered 300,000 shares for $15 each. Each share sold for $16.50 on the first day, and the company initially had only 800 shareholders. The Walkers were among the 800 and later earned billions from the initial public offering.

They formed their foundation in 1986, which has given millions to numerous charities and organizations in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

That includes Arkansas Children’s. In 2003, the foundation committed $1 million to support ventilators in the ACH neonatal intensive care unit in Little Rock. In 2011, ACH received a $2 million gift toward outpatient clinic and emergency room expansion.

In 2018, the foundation gave $8 million toward the Springdale hospital near Arvest Ballpark, west of Interstate 49. It is the region’s first and only pediatric hospital.

“Pat played such an integral role in making sure the children of Arkansas have every advantage they can have,” Macke said. “That includes quality healthcare close to home. Our involvement in Arkansas Children’s Northwest was a part of Pat’s plan. This next step of where we’re going with Arkansas Children’s Northwest is part of our tribute.”

Macke said the $25 million investment is a domino effect for the region economically.

“Other businesses benefit from having an amazing children’s hospital right here in our backyard,” she said.

Arkansas Children’s officials said the Walker Foundation gift is one piece of a “tremendous investment” required to meet the needs of the region’s children in the years ahead. Northwest Arkansas’ growth trajectory will quickly result in more children needing access to specialized healthcare services.

“Pat Walker’s love of children and northwest Arkansas shines across this region, and Arkansas Children’s is deeply grateful to have a role in continuing her unwavering legacy in the years ahead,” Arkansas Children’s president and CEO Marcy Doderer said. “Her spirit of generosity and compassion will ensure thousands more Arkansas children have access to exceptional care that allows them to reach their fullest potential.”

In May, Arkansas Children’s announced details of a $318 million expansion to increase child healthcare in Arkansas. That includes the expansion of its two hospitals (Little Rock and Springdale) to make its services more accessible, with an eye on Northwest Arkansas’ accelerated growth.

Arkansas Children’s Northwest opened in 2018 with a commitment that the hospital would expand to meet the needs of the rapidly growing region.

Currently, Arkansas Children’s Northwest operates a 24-bed inpatient unit, a surgical unit with five operating rooms, outpatient clinics offering over 20 subspecialties, diagnostic services, imaging capabilities, occupational therapy services and the region’s only pediatric emergency department, equipped with 30 exam rooms.

The expansion’s primary focus areas are orthopedics, urology, gastroenterology and ear, nose and throat. That will expand the acuity of services provided and the complexity of surgeries performed. The four-story addition will connect to the current floors of the hospital, and the project will add inpatient beds, operating rooms and a new endoscopy suite. The plan also calls for additional outpatient clinic space in the adjacent Children’s Center for Health & Wellness, where patients attend primary care appointments.

“Pat Walker was a founding matriarch of northwest Arkansas, and she wanted the very best for our children,” said Fred Scarborough, executive vice president and chief development officer for Arkansas Children’s. “This generous gift from the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation will put children’s best interests at the forefront through transformational changes that improve access to care as we continue to deliver a premium experience to patients and families.”

The annual earnings of the endowed fund established by the Walker Foundation gift will help Arkansas Children’s Northwest recruit more providers and meet critical long-term needs, including purchases such as specialized state-of-the-art equipment.

“Pat was very passionate about helping children, and I know it would have brought her great joy to have seen Arkansas Children’s Northwest come to fruition. To know her name will soon adorn the campus is enough to bring tears to my eyes,” Macke said. “The Walker Foundation is pleased to play a role in the continuous journey of making children better today and healthier tomorrow.”

Source : Talk Business