Kansas City, Mo. - Jan. 11, 2018 - Two of Kansas City's iconic families today transformed the future of pediatric research - as well as the city's downtown skyline - by joining together to donate $150 million to Children's Mercy Kansas City. In today's announcement, which totals the largest one-time gift ever made to a children's hospital for pediatric research, the Hall Family Foundation and the Sunderland Foundation each donated $75 million to kickstart the construction of the future home of the Children's Research Institute and accelerate the recruitment of top researchers from around the globe.
"In addition to exceptional clinical care, Children's Mercy has always placed an emphasis on research and education to transform the future of pediatrics," said Randall L. O'Donnell, PhD, President and CEO of Children's Mercy Kansas City. "Thanks to the unparalleled generosity of the Hall and Sunderland families, our Children's Research Institute will allow us to accelerate even more precise diagnoses and treatments for complex childhood diseases, so we can provide groundbreaking care for the most difficult medical cases right here in Kansas City and around the globe."
Located on the hospital's Adele Hall Campus in the heart of downtown Kansas City, the new research building consists of a nine-story structure making up approximately 375,000 square feet (see more building facts below). As a result, the Children's Research Institute will house nearly six times more space for pediatric research than currently exists at Children's Mercy. When fully staffed, Children's Mercy will grow its research enterprise tenfold as a result of this donation - with everyone striving to find much-needed answers for kids and their families.
"We have an opportunity to change the lives of children by conducting research that will create more understanding and deliver cures or diagnostics that go beyond the individual patient," said Tom Curran, PhD, FRS, Chief Scientific Officer at Children's Mercy Kansas City, Executive Director of the Children's Research Institute and the Donald J. Hall Eminent Scholar in Pediatric Research. "So, in a sense, by treating one child here at Children's Mercy, we may impact thousands elsewhere. By learning from our patients, particularly those whose needs are not being met by the existing standard of care, we will constantly strive to move medicine forward. We owe it to our children to be the best, and to provide access to the latest science and technology."
When Kansas City residents and visitors pass by the Children's Research Institute, they will notice several of the windows are a different color from the rest. Those windows represent the genetic anomalies found in the DNA of children with specific rare diseases - just some of the difficult cases and questions the researchers inside the building are trying to solve.
Today's announcement is just the latest milestone in pediatric research at Children's Mercy:
- When the Food and Drug Administration announced it first U.S.-approved cancer gene therapy in August 2017, Children's Mercy was recognized as one of the first sites to get involved with the multisite clinical trial. The new CAR-T therapy is for children and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia that is resistant to treatment or has relapsed.
- The University of Kansas Cancer Center announced in August that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) renewed its national cancer center designation for five years and that Children's Mercy had been formally approved as a cancer center consortium partner. KU Cancer Center and Children's Mercy initially joined forces in 2015 to identify collaborative ways to explore medical innovations and increase pediatric research efforts that would benefit children with cancer.
- CHAMP is a dedicated, multi-disciplinary team that has been built to meet the needs of some of our most complex patients: babies who are born with single ventricle heart disease and are in the critical inter-stage period between the first and second stages of surgery. In February 2017, Children's Mercy received a Health Innovation Award from Microsoft for this life-saving technology developed at our Ward Family Heart Center.
- The NIH recently awarded a five-year grant worth nearly $3.5 million to Children's Mercy, making it one of four Specialized Centers for Research in Pediatric Developmental Pharmacology. The grant will support continued development of GOLDILOKs, a research program designed to ensure that children receive the precise dose of medicine they need, when they need it.
- The Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at Children's Mercy - the first genome center of its kind in a children's hospital - made national headlines in 2012 (and many times since) by sequencing the DNA of critically ill babies in just 50 hours, drastically reducing the time it takes to solve these medical mysteries.
- Working with the World Health Organization, Children's Mercy researchers introduced the world to Mercy Tape in 2013, creating a remarkably accurate way to estimate kids' weights when scales aren't available or plausible.
"The Hall Family Foundation has believed in and supported the mission and work of Children's Mercy, one of the city's crown jewels, for a long time," said Margaret Hall Pence, Hall Family Foundation Board of Directors. "It is our sincere honor to be able to make this level of commitment to further pediatric medical research, which is too often under-funded. In fact, the continued well-being of all children depends on private investment in scientific discovery, and we are so pleased the Sunderland family has joined us in making this important work possible. It is humbling to imagine how future advances in research made right here in Kansas City, at Children's Mercy, will help and heal children near and far. Our desire is to leave a legacy that will strengthen this community and positively impact the lives of countless children and families for generations to come. The Children's Mercy Research Institute represents that legacy."
In 1943, Joyce and Elizabeth Hall, along with Joyce's brother Rollie B. Hall, created the Hall Family Foundation to nurture and strengthen the city they loved. As outlined in the original bylaws, they intended that the Hall Family Foundation should promote the health, welfare and happiness of school-age children; the advancement and diffusion of knowledge; activities for the improvement of public health; and advancement of social welfare. These purposes were based on a family resolve to help people and enhance quality of life. More than 70 years later, their legacy lives on.
"It means the world to our family to join the Hall family in supporting research at Children's Mercy and helping to establish Kansas City as a premier, global research hub," said Kent Sunderland, President of the Sunderland Foundation and Vice Chairman of Ash Grove Cement. "The Children's Mercy Research Institute building is more than a physical structure that will soon reshape our skyline; it is a place in which renowned scientists will make life-saving, world-changing discoveries that shape our city's future and save children's lives. As a father and grandfather, I cannot think of anything more important than helping to create a healthier future for children and their families. On behalf of my family and The Sunderland Foundation, it is our privilege to join the Halls, who have done so much to grow this city we all love. Together, and with others in the community joining us, we can help positively change the future of children's healthcare."
The Sunderland Foundation (formerly the Lester T. Sunderland Foundation) was established in 1945 by Lester T. Sunderland, who served as president of Ash Grove Cement Company for 33 years. Ash Grove Cement, which the Sunderland Family recently sold to CRH plc in Dublin, Ireland, is considered the largest cement company in the United States, shipping 8.2 million tons of cement last year. Charlie Sunderland currently serves as Chairman; his brother, Kent Sunderland, is Vice Chairman. For more than 60 years, the Sunderland Foundation, which is still managed by Lester T. Sunderland's descendants, has focused on supporting bricks and mortar projects, awarding grants in the Kansas City region and other areas where Ash Grove Cement does business.
A few facts about the new home for the Children's Research Institute:
- 375,000 square feet (the hospital currently has 66,000 square feet of research space)
- 472 doors
- 5,514 panels of glass
- 132,937 square feet of glass, that's more than two football fields of glass
- 3,000+ linear feet of bench space for research
- 140,000 square feet of shell space for future growth
- 400+ seat auditorium
Learn more about the Children's Research Institute and see renderings and a fly-through video at news.childrensmercy.org.
About Children's Mercy Kansas City
Founded in 1897, Children's Mercy is one of the nation's top pediatric medical centers. With not-for-profit hospitals in Missouri and Kansas, and numerous specialty clinics in both states, Children's Mercy provides the highest level of care for children from birth through the age of 21. U.S. News & World Report has repeatedly ranked Children's Mercy as one of "America's Best Children's Hospitals." For the fourth time in a row, Children's Mercy has achieved Magnet nursing designation, awarded to fewer than seven percent of all hospitals nationally, for excellence in quality care. Its faculty of more than 700 pediatric subspecialists and researchers across more than 40 subspecialties are actively involved in clinical care, pediatric research, and educating the next generation of pediatric subspecialists. Thanks to generous philanthropic and volunteer support, Children's Mercy provides medical care to every child who passes through its doors, regardless of a family's ability to pay. For more information about Children's Mercy and its research, visit childrensmercy.org. For breaking news and videos, follow us on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.