SPRINGFIELD, Mo.—All it took was a quick tour of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Mercy Hospital Springfield, and Bobby Allison was ready to make a $2 million contribution that will improve the lives of Mercy’s tiniest patients for years to come.
“We toured the unit—the tour took maybe 20 minutes,” said Dr. Melinda Slack, medical director for the nursery at Mercy Hospital Springfield. “Within 25 minutes, he had made a decision to generously help our intensive care babies.”
“How can anybody look at these babies, presumably in trouble, and not want to help them?” asked Allison. “I think there should be a big window out there so the people at the bus stop can see in there. Go in there and look at those babies—you’re done. It’s a done deal.”
Mercy announced the $2 million gift at its annual Foundation Donor Dinner on Saturday, Sept. 22. Allison, a self-made local millionaire, has also given to other projects that benefit area children. For example, he sponsored the Betty Allison Junior Golf Course at Rivercut and the Betty and Bobby Allison Miracle Baseball Field, which is specifically designed for disabled children. It’s obvious that children hold a special place in his heart.
Allison had one request in return for his generous donation. “All Bobby wanted was for us to name the NICU after his mother, Betty,” said Sallie Hazelrigg, regional vice president of Philanthropy. “We decided his name should be added as well.”
Mercy’s plans for the NICU focus on the family. Each family will have its own room, with space for the baby or babies and for their family members to watch over them. A sliding glass door and the best technology will mean that trained staff can keep a constant watch over them, but those that love them most will have the space to sit at their bedside. Plans call for nearly doubling the NICU to 53 beds.
“Contributions like Bobby’s make much of our work here at Mercy possible,” said Jon Swope, president and CEO of Mercy Springfield Communities. “We are here to serve the community and meet our neighbors’ needs, and when someone in our community steps up and offers to help in such a generous way, it strengthens our resolve to get health care right.”