What does it take to offer first class pediatric healthcare in a region that encompasses Northeast Florida, North-Central Florida and Southeast Georgia? Purpose. Commitment. Vision. Leadership. Partnership. For forty-five years, The Women’s Board has partnered with Wolfson Children’s Hospital to help ensure the very best for our community’s children.
The Women’s Board was formed out of compassion for premature babies when, in 1972, Ray and Richard Martin lost a premature twin daughter, Abbie. At that time, Wolfson Children’s did not have the equipment necessary to support one premature infant, let alone two. Surviving twin Annie had to be transported in the back of her parents’ station wagon in an incubator to a hospital in another city, where she stayed for almost five months. That extraordinary loss inspired Ray’s mother, Ellen Cavert, to assemble a group of women, each a community leader, to enhance public relations and fundraising for Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Formed in 1973, The Women’s Board has become the hospital’s largest volunteer-driven, community-supported source of philanthropy. Working with hospital leadership, the group stays abreast of new technologies, treatments and needs in an effort to further enhance the quality of pediatric healthcare in our community.
Recent funding targets have included the Pediatric Surgery Center of Distinction, the Behavioral Health Unit, the Kids Kare Mobile ICU, the Children’s Emergency Center, the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and many others.
The commitment to our founder’s vision has never been stronger as The Women’s Board returns to its past, targeting fundraising efforts toward a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICIU) for the hospital.
In the mid-1980s, The Women’s Board donated $98,000 toward a new NICU in the Women’s Pavilion at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville. Another $261,000 was designated for the NICU in 1991, and in 2004, the NICU was totally refurbished in part due to a $3 million gift.
This year, The Women’s Board embarks on a $4 million, five-year fundraising campaign to help support Wolfson Children’s plans to build a larger, premier NICU. Proceeds from the annual Art & Antiques Show and the Florida Forum speaker series will help fund this important undertaking.
More than 13,000 babies are born in Duval County each year. Over ten percent of those newborns will require critical care in their first moments of life, and many will require a NICU specially designed to meet their medical and surgical needs. Wolfson Children’s is designated in Florida to provide the highest level of intensive care, making it a top destination in the region for premature and critically ill newborns. This service is enhanced by the Kids Kare Mobile ICU service, which brings neonatal nurses and respiratory specialists to babies in the region so they can be safely transported to Wolfson Children’s NICU.
“While the NICU has been renovated over the years and updated with the latest technology, the time has arrived for something completely new,” said Wolfson Children’s President Michael D. Aubin. “The demand for outstanding neonatal care increases every day. As a regional critical care center, we have a responsibility to meet that demand. In order to do that, we must build a new facility. As the needs of infants continue to grow and evolve, so must our technology and the facilities that house them. Our new NICU will be an investment in our community’s children.”
The unit will feature state-of-the-art family suites designed for comfort and privacy while maintaining visibility and easy access for NICU staff; modified lighting and soundproofing to reduce stress on newborns; and critically important medical equipment designed to provide the highest standard of care.
For decades, the most stressful event for parents with a baby in the NICU has been being separated from the baby. The new suites will also include a bed and full bathroom for the parents.
“We have always believed that a family-centered environment provides the best outcomes for these often medically complex babies,” Aubin said. “That includes having a bed for mom or dad right next to the incubator.”
As Wolfson Children’s Hospital treats some 157,000 children annually, it’s inevitable that women who volunteer their time with The Women’s Board have also found their children and grandchildren in need of the NICU.
Carolyn Houston recalls that her daughter, Mary Love, born in 1987, weighed just two pounds, eight ounces. She had joined The Women’s Board in 1981; her husband’s mother, Berrylin Houston, is a founding member and Ellen Cavert’s sister; her own mother, Mary Love Strum, and aunt, Mary Love McArthur, are also members.
“I felt that I was a direct beneficiary of their foresight and all the hard work they had done,” Houston says. “Because of them, the NICU was there and ready for us and for countless others, giving us the best opportunity to have a good outcome.”
At the time, Houston called the NICU “ultra-modern.” She toured the NICU in 2016, when her daughter in-law, Heather, joined The Women’s Board, and says she “did not recognize a thing” because so much has changed. She compares the advances to those in technology since, in 1987, she used a cassette player to record herself reading and gave the tapes to nurses to play for her baby girl in her absence.
Beth Langley, president of The Women’s Board, adds, “Raising money to help support a new NICU is especially meaningful given our history. I raised my children in Jacksonville and now have grandchildren here. We are truly blessed to have Wolfson Children’s Hospital in this community and our region.”
Since its founding, The Women’s Board has raised over $31 million for equipment, programs and facilities at Wolfson. The Board has grown from 40 members to more than 400.
By Janet Reagor
Photos: ©Amy Ploss-Samson, Figure 8 Studio
2018 Art & Antiques Show (Full Schedule)
The 2018 Art & Antiques Show will showcase fine and decorative arts, jewelry, textiles and furnishings from old world to contemporary design periods to enhance the beauty in your life. Along with art and antiques dealers from across the country, the show offers acclaimed lecturers, a black-tie gala, and the beloved Children’s Fashion Show featuring current and former patients of Wolfson Children’s Hospital. This year’s theme, A Place in the Sun, is a nod to the glamour and elegance of old Palm Beach. The show is inspired by South Florida socialite and entrepreneur Lilly Pulitzer who launched an iconic clothing line from a fruit juice stand.
Guest lecturers include Mary Aarons, daughter of photographer Slim Aarons, whose work for high society magazines documented the lives of the rich and famous, including the Pulitzers; fashion expert Keni Valenti who opened the world’s first Museum of Fashion in Miami to showcase his vast vintage clothing collection, including original Lilly dresses; Palm Beach interior designer Leta Austin Foster, who believes any room can be comfortable and beautiful; and Kathryn Livingston, fashion magazine journalist and author of Lilly: Palm Beach, Tropical Glamour, and the Birth of a Fashion Legend. This year’s Art & Antiques Show also includes two special exhibits: Slim Aarons photos and clothing from the Lilly Pulitzer Museum Collection.
The 2018 Art & Antiques Show is presented by The Women’s Board to benefit Wolfson Children’s Hospital.