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Island community completes GI Challenge for room at new Oishei Children's Hospital

Sat, Sep 2nd 2017 07:00 am
Dr. Stacey Watt, right, presents a check for $25,225 to Amy Habib-Rittling, chair of the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital Capital Campaign, to fund a Grand Island room at the new Children's Hospital. Watt made the presentation during a celebration event Thursday at Grand Island High School. (Photo by Larry Austin)
Dr. Stacey Watt, right, presents a check for $25,225 to Amy Habib-Rittling, chair of the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital Capital Campaign, to fund a Grand Island room at the new Children's Hospital. Watt made the presentation during a celebration event Thursday at Grand Island High School. (Photo by Larry Austin)
A cross-section of Grand Island came together Thursday to celebrate the Viking spirit that helped the community meet a fundraising challenge for the new Children's Hospital in Buffalo.
Leaders from Grand Island schools, government, businesses, civic groups, and medicine met at Grand Island High School to celebrate completion of the GI Challenge, an effort to raise $25,000 to establish a room of care at the new John R. Oishei Children's Hospital in Buffalo.
Dr. Stacey Watt, a lifelong Island resident and Kaleida Health's chief of service for anesthesia, challenged the community earlier in the year to raise $25,000 to fund establishment of the room. During the ceremony held at Watt's alma mater, in the Grand Viking Theater of Grand Island High School, Watt presented a check for $25,225 to Amy Habib-Rittling, chair of the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital Capital Campaign.
Watt said in meeting the fundraising challenge, the community showed "Grand Island pride and Viking spirit."
Dr. Brian Graham, superintendent, Grand Island Central School District, said the Island community was the first in Western New York to accept and succeed with the challenge. Thousands of dollars in the drive came from school district-wide fundraisers.
"If there are other superintendents listening, please consider trying to match what Grand Island and this community has done," Graham said. Graham praised Watt for her leadership and called the event Thursday "a celebration of that Viking spirit."
Mary Haggerty, principal of Kaegebein Elementary School, where a read-a-thon was one of the district-wide events that raised over $10,000, called the celebration "truly inspiring," and asked how many districts, how many communities, can say that they were able to come together "to provide something for their most vulnerable citizens, a room at Children's Hospital."
The opening of the new, state-of-the-art John R. Oishei Children's Hospital in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is slated for November. Stephen Turkovich, M.D., chief medical officer of Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, said patients and families were included in the planning for the new hospital "right from the beginning."
"We wanted to make sure that we were building an environment that would decrease anxiety, that would speed healing, and that would help keep the family together through some very difficult times," Turkovich said.
He called the new hospital "a historic opportunity." Its connection to Buffalo General Medical Center and the Gates Vascular Institute will enhance the care that is given to mothers, "especially those moms that have challenges when they're pregnant."
"So today, I want to say thank you to each of you. The nurses, the doctors, the technicians, housekeepers, everyone there is there because of your generosity," Turkovich told the Islanders in the audience. "We could not do this without you, and I'm so humbled that your community has come together to do something like this for the children and the women of Western New York."
He presented a rendering of what the room, which will be located on the hospital's 10th floor, will look like upon completion. The rooms on that floor will have a Buffalo sports theme, and a plaque outside the room will identify it as the Grand Island room for "generations to come, hopefully for the next 100 years."
"This is your room," Turkovich said.
In accepting the donation during the celebration event, Habib-Rittling noted Watt, a Grand Island High School alumna and one of the greatest female athletes in Grand Island history,  is a leader in the community and a teacher in her profession.
"But among all of her accomplishments, her most important one is that she's a mother, the most powerful word. And she set out on a mission she knew she would achieve, without a doubt," Habib-Rittling said. "And we're here today because of Dr. Watt and her effort and her leadership."
Among the community donors presenting checks at the event were: 
Grand Island resident Kristin Kreutz Slaiman
Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island, represented by Valerie Gaydosh
Golden Age Club, represented by Kathy Lechner, president
Women's Club of Grand Island
Aceti's Wine & Spirits, represented by Sam Aceti
Island Kids Child Care Center, represented by Ann MacClellan
Zonta Club of Grand Island
Island restaurants, represented by Dan Drexelius
The Grand Island community celebrated success in achieving completion of a challenge to raise $25,000 for the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital. The money will fund a room of care at the hospital dedicated to Islanders. Dr. Stacey Watt, who spearheaded the fundraiser, and Dr. Stephen Turkovich, chief medical officer of Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, presented a rendering of the room during a celebration at Grand Island High School Thursday. (Photos by Larry Austin)

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