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Grand Island doctor creates GI Challenge, a new fundraiser for Children's Hospital

Fri, Jan 27th 2017 04:00 pm

By Larry Austin

Island Dispatch Editor

Dr. Stacey Watt of Grand Island was walking through the new John R. Oishei Children's Hospital in Buffalo recently, inspecting the new rooms under construction, and saw rooms designated as having been funded by physicians, medical groups or private donors.

There were also a few undesignated rooms in the hospital, slated to open in November to replace the current hospital building on Bryant Street.

"I was standing there for a while, and I thought, you know this is a great opportunity. I said this is something where we really need to see that outline of Grand Island," Watt said.

Watt, an Island native and chief of anesthesiology at the hospital, said the walk through the building has inspired her to create a fundraising drive called the GI Challenge. The fund drive has a goal of $25,000, which would be used to build a room of care dedicated from Islanders. The room would be designated with a plaque, a permanent reminder to patients, who every time they enter that room "will know we cared enough to actually help build the hospital," Watt said. A patient would feel a connection not just with the hospital or doctors, but with an entire community.

The hospital is over 75 percent completed, Watt said, and is one of only 43 freestanding children's hospitals nationwide.

"We have a tremendous opportunity when it comes to having a freestanding hospital to provide specialized children-centered care," Watt said. "It's something that is so valuable it's precious."

The new hospital is built not only through support from corporate and university donors, but from individual donors who "know the value of this hospital and know the value of having a freestanding children's hospital, and they've put forth individual donations to make sure this happens," Watt said. "And there's a lot of wonderful families that have received care at our hospital that appreciate it so much that they've come forth and they want to see this happen. So this has been a dream in the making for especially the physicians of Children's for quite some time now."

Watt said the former Bryant Street location of Children's Hospital is a sentimental one for the staff, but it needed an uplift. The cost of remodeling the Bryant Street location, however, made less fiscal sense than building a new hospital "close to the other hospitals in that new medical corridor, right next to the brand new medical school, right next to all the work at the Jacobs Institute, right next to all the science centers that are being built, next to Roswell Park, so that the physicians from Children's can come over and help Roswell take care of those specialized patients that require cancer care," Watt said. "It's an amazing move for our hospital to be in that new medical corridor and have a brand new facility.

"Children's Hospital impacts everyone, so it's just such a great opportunity for us in Western New York, and especially here on Grand Island," Watt said, noting many providers in the medical corridor have made Grand Island their home, like she has.

Watt hopes a strong Island response in establishing a room of care will light a fire in other communities that will try to do likewise.

"This is a possibility for us to really showcase what the Island can do, and also my hope is that in challenging the Island residents and fellow Islanders, if we go out and we show what we can do, that we will spark a competition or will spark other communities to also pitch in and help complete the build, and help complete the last few rooms that Children's needs to be whole, complete," Watt said.

Watt knows a thing or two about competition and meeting challenges. The former Stacey Schroeder, she graduated from Grand Island High School and won state championships in track and field, and still holds the state high school record in the discus.

"We would be the leaders in that movement and we would sort of throw down that challenge to the other communities," Watt said of the GI Challenge.

Islanders will be able to donate at collection boxes at businesses. Boxes are tentatively planned to be located at:

  • Rocky's Pizza
  • Pizza Amore
  • Say Cheese Pizza
  • deSignet International
  • Soma Cura
  • Flower-a-Day Florist
  • DeGlopper VFW Post No. 9249
  • Fuccillo Chevrolet
  • Kelly's Country Store
  • TC's Lounge
  • Brick Oven Pizza
  • American School of Karate
  • Grand Island Optical

For more information, visit http://areyouinit.org/gichallenge.

To donate, call 716-881-8230, or mail a donation to

GI Challenge

Children's Hospital Foundation

1028 Main St., Fl 4, Buffalo NY 14202.

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