Advancing Healthcare Through Philanthropy For More Than Four Decades

In the 1970s, with Sarasota’s population expanding and Sarasota Memorial Hospital struggling to keep pace with rapid developments in technology to support the advances in patient care nationwide, the need for a separate organization to solicit the support of citizens for the hospital was apparent.

As one of the Foundation’s founders, Ted Watson, said, “We were all of the same mind—that the hospital was an important institution and healthcare was close to everyone’s heart. It was only natural to create the Foundation and focus the community on the hospital.”

February 25, 1976 — Sarasota Memorial Hospital Foundation, Inc. is established as an independent, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. Its charter is broad; it may receive gifts, grants and bequests for restricted or unrestricted purposes. It may aid any not-for-profit healthcare organization in the county and it may expend funds for equipment, clinical studies, research, training, community education programs, and capital improvements.

As the Foundation’s mission became known, support from the community demonstrated that the people of Sarasota truly valued the community’s overall healthcare and understood the importance of the outstanding public hospital that would make its services available to all of its residents. And that those services would be among the nation’s finest.


Making an Impact
1976 — Charles R. (Chick) Estill is hired as the first Foundation president and chief executive officer.

1977 — the financial base of the Foundation is secured with the bequest of $1,125,000 by Herbert G. Wile, a long time Sarasota resident who was concerned with the quality of healthcare in the community and equally impressed with the services provided by Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

1977 — the first grant from the Foundation purchases an $11,000 advanced system of bedside cardiac monitoring equipment, enabling physicians and staff to see the on-going actions of a patient’s heart and vascular system first hand, at the bedside.

1980 — the first major grant funds the purchase of a $180,000 CAT body scanner, a powerful tool for quick, safe and painless diagnosis of internal problems. It represents a major technical advance in comprehensive patient diagnosis and care and helps unlock a whole new spectrum of medical benefits.

1983 — a grant of $500,000 funds the opening of the Harry and Roberta Sudakoff Open Heart Surgery Center, answering a critical need and resulting in saving the lives of thousands of Sarasota residents.

1985 — a bequest of $3.7 million from Henry Cape, Jr., as a memorial to his wife, Helen S. Cape, results in the construction of the Cape Ambulatory Surgery Center. The Center answers the urgent need for a facility where surgical procedures are performed on a single day basis, using the newest medical equipment and techniques.

1986 — the Foundation funds the creation of the Acute Hemodialysis Unit at the cost of $410,775.

1987 — a bequest of $2.8 million from the estate of Harry O. and Alwena H. Mayer, enables the Foundation to fund Sarasota’s first MRI for $1.5 million. This technology provides radiologists images of unprecedented clarity, allowing radiologists to look into soft tissues of the inner body by producing images of the anatomy that could never be seen before.

1988 — a grant of$372,000 funds the Professional Staff Development Program to provide scholarships to employees for continuing their education toward degrees in healthcare fields. (Since this grant, the Foundation has granted more than $2.6 million for education.)

1989 — Ron Royal becomes the new president and chief executive officer when Chick Estill retires after 13 years at the helm.

1992 — a grant of$266,000 funds the hospital’s Hyperbaric Chamber, which is used for divers recovering from the bends and for wound care.

1993 — the $600,000 single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) Camera is funded. The dual-headed camera cuts procedure time in half.

1994 — The Century Club (formed in 1964 to help purchase unbudgeted equipment for Sarasota Memorial Hospital) and Sarasota Memorial Hospital Foundation, Inc. merge into one unified organization—Sarasota Memorial Hospital Century Foundation, Inc.

1994 — Alexandra Quarles, CFRE, joins the Foundation as its third president and chief executive officer when Ron Royal retires after a 5 ½ year tenure. Foundation assets are $7 million.

1994 — a gift of $49,500 allows Foundation to fund the Steigerwaldt Cardiac Waiting Room.

1996 — Foundation provides $190,250 funding for the hospital’s first Maternal-Neonatal Intensive Care Transport Unit, to transport at-risk mothers and infants.

1997 — $577,250 grant makes possible the purchase of specialized Radionics brain-surgery equipment for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. This helps lead to the future establishment of Sarasota Memorial’s Neuroscience Center of Excellence.

1998 — Foundation receives $1 million gift to aid in building and endowing the Jo Mills Reis Care Center, for adult and pediatric minor care.

2000 — the Meckler Admission Center opens due to a $1 million gift from grateful patients. The specialized admission center is the first of its kind in the U.S. (Since, it has been replicated throughout the country.)  

2001 — The Foundation celebrates its 25th Anniversary and changes its name to Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, Inc. to better represent its mission.  

2001 — Sarasota Memorial Heart Institute’s Mobile Intensive Care Unit, funded by a $150,000 Foundation grant, is introduced to the community.  

2002 and 2004 — two grants totaling $1,430,000 fund the area’s first Digital Mammography equipment, which outdates former mammogram testing and provides significant clinical benefits by a more accurate breast cancer diagnosis.  

2004 —the second Maternal-Neonatal Intensive Care Transport Unit (to replace the first one) is funded by a $299,000 grant.  

2005 — the Foundation provides $7.5 million in funding for the expanded and renovated state-of-the-art Emergency Care Center (ECC).  

2005 — a Vector-Vision surgical navigation system for knee and hip replacement is funded by a $678,538 grant. It combines new global positioning equipment with precision computer-assisted implant sizing for the most advanced surgery.  

2006 — donations to the Foundation totaling $400,000 help fund the world’s most advanced da Vinci robotically assisted surgical system for minimally invasive surgery for prostate and uterine cancer and alternative surgical procedures for open heart surgery.  

2006 — Foundation grant of $240,000 provides a new state-of-the-art surgical microscope for spinal and neurosurgery. It is designed to advance performance and effectiveness.  

2007 — the Foundation grants $79,000 to purchase two new state-of-the-art combination isolettes (beds) in Sarasota Memorial’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for premature babies weighing less than three pounds or those born with major health problems.  

2008 — $105,000 grant funds Cardiovascular Assessment Center at SMHCS’s Institute for Advanced Medicine.  

2009 — An ambulance for SMHCS’s North Port Emergency Center is funded by a grant of $422,218.  

2010 — $1 million grant funds the hospital’s Electrophysiology Lab.  

2011 — $2.5 million granted for the new Cardiac Hybrid Operating Room. Fiscal year grants reach nearly $7 million.  

2012 — More than $364,000 is granted to support women’s cancer care and research.

2013 — New Courtyard Tower open featuring the Foundation’s beautiful donor wall in the main lobby. Total grants surpass $50 million.

2014— Intensive Care Unit (ICU) equipment/upgrades for $2,232,840

2015— Received National Humanitarian Award for decades of dedication in the area of healthcare excellence.

2016-  Implementation on program expansion for $5.2 million dollars grant received in the area of cancer care research program began.

Meeting Community Needs
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System has evolved into one of the premiere healthcare centers in the United States, recognized in study after study as a leader in cardiac care, cancer, digestive disorders, gynecology, orthopedics and respiratory disorders. Today, no hospital in the region offers this range of services, technology and equipment. It is eloquent testimony to the wisdom, foresight and hard work of the Foundation’s founders and its subsequent leaders who have made this and much more possible.

Furthering the Mission
As Sarasota Memorial Health Care System strives to continue providing nationally recognized healthcare services in the face of increased competition, declining reimbursements and rapidly changing technology, the Healthcare Foundation is similarly presented with great challenges—and great opportunities—in its efforts to continue to support the hospital’s mission and the community’s healthcare.

The Sum of its People
Grants totaling more than $65,000,000 have been provided to the residents of Sarasota County since the Foundation’s establishment in 1976. Today the Foundation stands ready to assure the community that not only will Sarasota Memorial Health Care System continue to be one of the best healthcare centers in the country—other local not-for-profit healthcare organizations will benefit also.

Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, Inc. has never lost sight of the fact that it is the sum of its people—of the dedicated, caring individuals who have gone before and those who continue to believe in quality healthcare for all in our community. It has been a remarkable story of caring individuals who have humanized a county hospital through private philanthropy—an extraordinary journey of VOLUNTARY ACTION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

Support Tomorrow's Healthcare Today DONATE NOW