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Dr. LouAnn Woodward cheers at the announcement of a $10 million gift to Children's of Mississippi by Joe and Kathy Sanderson, looking on.

$10M Sanderson gift starts $100M drive for children’s health

The CEO of Mississippi’s largest publicly held company is pledging $10 million toward the expansion of pediatric medical facilities at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Joe Sanderson and his wife Cathy made the pledge Monday as the university launched a $100 million fundraising drive for Children’s of Mississippi. That’s the umbrella organization that includes the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital and other pediatric clinics in Jackson and elsewhere.

The announcement signals the public stage for the largest fundraising drive in history for UMMC. Medical center leaders plan to use the money to build a new hospital tower, renovate existing areas, and build an outpatient clinic away from the main medical center to allow people to visit specialists without the traffic congestion and parking hassles of the 10,000-employee campus.

Projects would include an expanded neonatal intensive care unit, because the current unit with 96 beds is often full. UMMC also plans a medical imaging clinic with machines geared for children, instead of the adult-sized machines currently used. It also plans to expand its children’s heart center and add more operating rooms.

“To transform the services we offer, it requires construction and expansion,” said Chief Development Officer Travis Bradburn. “The more money we raise, the more we’re going to be able to do.”

He said officials have been laying the groundwork for the capital campaign for more than two years. Bradburn said the campaign would likely run four to five years, focusing now on large donors but welcoming smaller contributions from the public later.

The Sandersons’ granddaughter, Sophie Creath, was treated at the hospital for pancreatitis, strengthening the family’s bond with the hospital.

“Children’s of Mississippi must grow so Mississippi’s children can keep growing,” Joe Sanderson said in a statement.

It’s the second-largest individual gift ever to UMMC behind $11 million given by John L. Black of Madison and his family in 2014. They donated the Courthouse Racquet and Fitness clubs and cash.

Other Mississippi universities have longer fundraising track records. Mississippi State University has raised more than $500 million toward a $600 million goal in its current capital campaign. MSU officials plan to update the campaign’s progress Thursday. Ole Miss is $161 million into a $200 million campaign for athletic facilities, and raised $200 million in a general-purpose campaign that ended in 2008.

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