A couple whose $5 million naming gift highlighted a funding effort for the Dwaine & Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital at Savannah said Thursday their action was sparked by love.
“Our love motivated us to provide a permanent place where children would receive hope and healing from the devoted pediatric caregivers whom we have met here at Memorial,” Dwaine Willett said during a ceremony celebrating the first signage for the hospital on the Memorial University Medical Center campus.
“Our purpose was never to create a monument but to help open a free-standing children’s hospital so that sick and injured children will always know how much we care,” said Willett with his wife, Cynthia, at his side.
Willett was one of several speakers to recall Memorial’s efforts with a children’s hospital on the third floor of the existing hospital 25 years ago. The new facility will now be the region’s only free-standing children’s hospital, which interim CEO Kerry Watson told the gathering was part of the system’s “ongoing commitment to be the leader for children’s hospital care in southeast Georgia.”
The ceremony came a day after the Memorial Health board approved moving forward with the project’s second of four phases in what was the Rehabilitation Institute at Memorial. The new phase will include the continued design and engineering plan development and will begin site development and construction of a two-story, 30,000-square-foot addition to the existing building.
Groundbreaking for the project was April 8, 2016.
The Memorial Health Foundation launched a five-year, $20 million “Kids Only Capital Campaign,” chaired by Jackie Rabinowitz, for the children’s hospital in 2014. The campaign has raised nearly $18 million in gifts and pledges with the Willetts’ contribution the largest single gift in the campaign.
During her remarks on Thursday, Rabinowitz recalled how organizers shared the vision with the community in February 2014, then recalled instances of visiting living rooms throughout the region that garnered donations celebrating positive individual results.
“We are here to celebrate an extraordinary community accomplishment, spearheaded by Dwaine and Cynthia,” she said. “The sign at the hospital is a symbol of their generosity, their love for children and a testament to the power of philanthropy – theirs, yours and thousands of other donors.
“And the children in our community will be forever reminded that the Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah is a beacon of health and hope.”