Niswonger Children’s Hospital Radiothon raises record $1 million for children’s health, advances Hope Rising campaign goal
Niswonger Children’s Hospital is a regional asset, and on Friday, March 3, the entire Appalachian Highlands region stepped forward to support their children’s hospital.
The 11th annual Niswonger Children’s Hospital Radiothon not only broke a local fundraising record, but it has now been recognized as one of the most successful programs in the nation among the children’s hospitals participating in the national Children’s Miracle Network. This year’s event raised more than $1 million to support the Hope Rising campaign to expand Niswonger Children’s Hospital, nearly doubling the milestone held by last year’s event.
“Every single dollar raised during Radiothon is contributed toward the goals of the campaign, while Ballad Health underwrites the cost of program,” said Ballad Health Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan Levine. “Every bit of the region’s generosity will go toward serving our children, and that’s what makes giving to our foundation so special.
“The 1,700 individual donations made this year, from the 8-month-old who donated $1 in quarters, to a surprise donor who lifted us over the top with a $100,000 gift, all play a role in changing lives and shaping our region for good.
“Sixty-two percent of our donations came from outside Washington County, Tennessee, underscoring the regional nature of the Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network. From providing trauma surgery for children from as far away as Smyth County, Virginia, to caring for a local newborn, Ballad Health is truly a regional asset, and people from all over the region have stepped forward to support us. We could not be more grateful. In fact, the three largest individual contributions Ballad Health has received to this campaign are from Bristol, Greeneville and Kingsport. It is truly special.”
Not only is the achievement notable for the radiothon’s previous records, but it places the Niswonger Children’s Network in elite company. Among all 200 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals radiothons conducted across North America, only six this year have generated $1 million or more from their respective events – and the other five are all in major urban markets, serving globally-recognized health systems such as Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“It is humbling and incredible to see such a result – one that’s comparable to metro hospitals serving millions of people – from a region this size,” said Jack Simpson, president of Ballad Health Foundation. “Joining the ‘million-dollar club’ for our radiothon demonstrates how the people, businesses and organizations in the Appalachian Highlands have chosen to prioritize pediatric care and growth, and that we’re all-in and focused on our future.
“Thousands of people have supported this radiothon for the last 11 years, and they’ve created the foundation and momentum that helped us reach this $1 million threshold. Their commitment and dedication are helping us achieve significant, palpable improvements in local children’s healthcare.”
The $1 million raised will be used for Ballad Health Foundation’s Hope Rising campaign, a $30 million fundraising initiative to expand and enhance facilities and services for children and families. Through the Hope Rising campaign, Ballad Health will add an additional two floors to the hospital, making space for the newest neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Tennessee and Virginia and creating a physical space for the J.D. Nicewonder Family Perinatal and Pediatric Institute.
“It takes a regional effort to ensure the health and well-being of all our kids,” said Chris Jett, CEO of the Niswonger Children’s Network. “What is most special is when we see young children showing up to support other children who need our services. That just shows the compassion these kids have for each other, and it reflects the culture of our region.”
The $1 million was raised during a two-day period as phone bank teams made up of volunteers received and made calls for donations. As it has since the radiothon’s inception, Holston Valley Broadcasting Corporation hosted the event as its media partner, broadcasting live on its radio stations (98.5 WTFM, 95.9 The Hog WRZK, Classic Hits 102.7 WVEK and ESPN Tri-Cities). News Channel 11 also amplified the cause, featuring the stories of Niswonger Children’s Network patients, physicians, team members, leaders and supporters.
Hope Rising campaign update
At the launch of the 2023 Niswonger Children’s Hospital Radiothon, Ballad Health Foundation leaders announced recent significant corporate gifts, chief among them a $150,000 commitment from Baker Donelson, $500,000 from First Horizon Foundation and $100,000 from the law firm of Hunter, Smith & Davis.
The gift from First Horizon Foundation is their largest donation to date in this region, and in total, the three commitments had Hope Rising campaign progress at $23 million of its $30 million goal prior to the radiothon kickoff – and by the end of Friday, that number came to $24 million, 80% of its goal.
“Our annual radiothon is a unique opportunity in that not only are individuals tuning in and turning out in droves, but we also have support from business and organizations all over the region. Their sponsorships, coupled with individuals giving any amount they can, help us reach new heights – just like the heights of our expanded hospital,” Simpson said.
Ballad Health Foundation supporters leaned in to the competitive spirit of the radiothon, with local philanthropists Larry and Kathy Mullins announcing a $100,000 matching challenge on Friday. Their commitments were quickly matched with a second $100,000 challenge from Doug and Judy Lowrie, longtime Ballad Health Foundation supporters – and both challenges were met within hours.
That $400,000 was soon augmented by a $150,000 commitment from a fund provided by Ballad Health and Highlands Physicians, Inc. HPI is an organization representing the interests of independent physician groups in the region. Those totals alone broke all previous radiothon records, but additional community and sponsorship gifts contributed to this year’s triumph, including a surprise, anonymous $100,000 gift that came in during the radiothon’s final minutes.
Gifts to the Niswonger Children’s Network can be made at any time by visiting www.balladhealth.org/foundation.