Gayle & Tom Benson Charitable Foundation donates $1M to Batson Children’s Hospital

Updated: Sep. 26, 2019 at 2:39 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation has donated $1 million to the Campaign for Children of Mississippi to build a playground for patients at the hospital.

“This gift is just phenomenal,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair, professor and chair of pediatrics at UMMC. “Children’s of Mississippi cares about the health and welfare of all of the children in the state, and a big part of children’s health is play. This new playground will give the children who come to our hospital and clinics a space where they can have fun.”

The gift will help the $180 million Children’s of Mississippi pediatric expansion move toward completion. The expanded area should open its doors in the fall of 2020. This donation, made in honor of Sanderson Farms, will give patients a playground where they can just be kids.

Gayle Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, said joining Children’s of Mississippi in the organization’s goal of helping all of the state’s children reach their full potential was a choice she was happy to make, noting the “tremendous support from our teams’ fans in Mississippi.”

Benson chose to honor Sanderson Farms in the naming of the playground because of the dedication of its CEO and board chairman Joe Sanderson Jr. “His dedication to the community and especially its children is truly inspiring,” she said.

“It’s a phenomenal gift to the children of Mississippi and to our patients and Children’s of Mississippi,” said Mary Taylor, Chair of the Pediatrics Department at UMMC.

Children’s of Mississippi patients, many of them wearing New Orleans Saints jerseys, and their parents were in attendance at Thursday’s announcement, which included unveiling an architect’s rendering of the playground to be located between the expansion’s outpatient clinic and a new 517-space parking garage.

“A playground is everything to a child,” said Megan Bell of Pearl, whose daughter, Avery, is a Children’s of Mississippi patient. “This incredible gift will make our hospital more enjoyable for patients and families and will make us feel more at home. We are so grateful for the generosity shown to our children today.”

Avery was born with the chromosomal condition Turner’s syndrome, and shortly after her birth in 2009, a congenital heart defect was detected. She had corrective surgery through Children’s of Mississippi when she was a week old, and since then, Children’s specialists have been keeping her healthy.

“Avery is super excited to visit the playground when she comes to the new specialty clinic,” Bell said.

The expansion will include a clinic area for specialists and the Children’s Heart Center, a pediatric imaging center, additional surgical suites and more intensive care rooms. Two floors of the tower will be dedicated to private neonatal intensive care space so families will be able to stay with their babies.

Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi, the arm of UMMC that includes the children’s hospital as well as clinics around the state, said the $180 million expansion is within budget and on schedule to open in fall 2020.

The seven-story children’s hospital expansion will more than double space for pediatric care at UMMC.

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