By Scott Robertson
The annual concert and celebrity golf tournament benefitting Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City grossed around $940,000, the largest total raised in the six-year history of the event.
The Mountain States Health Alliance hospital, which opened in 2009, allows children to receive treatment locally for conditions that previously would have forced their families to seek treatment for them outside the region.
“One of the mothers who was here this morning told me that if Niswonger weren’t here, she and her family would have had to move,” Alan Levine, CEO of Mountain States Health Alliance, said.
For the second year running, the celebrities and local businesspeople who took part in the event met patients and their families in order to fully understand the benefits the hospital brings to the region. From Trae Wampler, a two year old thrombocytopenia patient to Maddy King, a four year old neurofibromatosis patient to Devin Wilkinson, a 16-year-old who had what surgeons called the worst brain abcess they had ever seen, the stories of young survivors and their families’ ability to continue living in the region while receiving care reinforced the desire of benefactors to continue to give.
“When there are 200,000 children in a region, there are bound to be kids born with special needs,” Levine said. “There are going to be children, young kids and teenagers who experience life-altering health challenges. A big part of that is being able to keep the family together to deal with the challenge because the resources are available locally.”
“Last year when we had this event, we shared that we were going to use the proceeds to invest in pediatric neurosciences,” Levine said. “A few months after the tournament, we hired the region’s first pediatric neurosurgeon. Devin, the 16-year-old young man we met today, was one of his patients. We have pediatric neurosurgery and neurosciences in part because of the philanthropy from the community.”
By the time summer ends, NCH will have added 11 new specialists to its staff, Levine said. “We have two pediatric neurologists. For the first time we have a pediatric endocrinologist coming. We have really been trying to round out the sub-specialties locally, because in each case, when the treatment is not available locally, these families have to go a great distance to get it.”
The annual fund-raiser is co-chaired by Scott Niswonger, who, along with his wife Nikki, are the hospital’s namesake. “I cannot find the words to express the sincerity of my gratitude to Scott and Nikki,” Levine said. “Many philanthropists write a check, and we appreciate that. But Scott and Nikki continue to make it their priority. It’s a passion they have invested in both financially and emotionally. Other people see that and it makes a difference. I have had a number of people today tell me that they knew when they got involved that this was important, but now it has become a passion. People want to know how to get more involved. That’s great for the hospital, but most importantly, it’s great for these children and their families.”