By B.J. Reyes email@example.com
Shriners Hospitals for Children still aims to raise about $5 million in Hawaii as construction of a new state-of-the-art medical facility on its Punahou campus nears completion.
The new hospital, a 149,000-square-foot, two-story building that is 40 percent larger than the current facility, is expected to open in May, a few months ahead of schedule, officials said this week.
Construction on two other buildings -- an administration complex and a family quarters -- is to be completed after the initial phase opens.
Total cost for the complex is about $73 million. Of that, $59 million has been put up by the national Shriners organization.
Shriners officials in Hawaii launched a capital campaign last year with the goal of raising the additional $14 million by mid-2009.
That fundraising effort is on track, with about $9.1 million raised since the campaign was launched in April 2007.
Gene Bracewell, chairman emeritus of the national Shriners organization, said he was pleased with the fundraising effort, considering that the group had never run a formal capital campaign before.
"The biggest benefit? It's not money," he said in an interview this week. "Money's important, but it's about increasing the public's awareness.
"When you have a capital campaign and they give you $10, $50, $100 or whatever, they take ownership of that hospital. They feel like it's their hospital."
Bracewell and Doug Maxwell, vice chairman of the national Shriners board of directors, are in Honolulu this month to meet with local officials on the progress of the new facilities and thank some of the larger donors to the capital campaign.
One major boost to the campaign was $12,000 from Gail Miyashiro. The 59-year-old city employee won a car through a local radio contest last month but, instead of taking it, collected the monetary value of the car and donated it to Shriners.
Bracewell said the story of her generosity reached U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who called her personally to thank her.
Inouye, honorary co-chairman of the capital campaign along with Gov. Linda Lingle, was on hand last year for the groundbreaking of the new hospital. Both, along with the remaining members of Hawaii's congressional delegation, have said they plan to attend next year's hospital dedication ceremony on Memorial Day weekend.
Maxwell said no patient services have been disrupted during the construction phase, thanks to a 400-square-foot, 10-bed mobile unit that was built to take care of patients during the transition.
"I don't believe we have a waiting list, so it's serving us well -- sometimes doing four to five operations a day," Maxwell said.
Iwalani Obrey Dayton, director of development for Shriners in Hawaii, said fundraising has been challenging because in a small community such as Hawaii, many nonprofit groups seek help from the same big donors.
Usually, as people learn more of Shriners' mission of providing free medical care to children, soliciting donations gets a little easier, she said.
"We had to get out, build relationships and raise awareness. We did that first," Dayton said.
The Shriners hospital opened in Honolulu in 1923, the second in the nation.