Baptist Health friends and family gather for time capsule opening

Baptist Health friends and family gather for time capsule opening
Bronze plaque that covered the Wolfson time capsule for 25 years

On Nov. 5, 2018, when top brass at Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital opened a time capsule that had been buried during the dedication of the pediatric hospital’s patient care tower a quarter of a century ago, it was as much as celebration of Wolfson’s progress as it was a family reunion.

“This has been a great travel down memory lane,” said Baptist Health CEO and President Hugh Greene. “It causes you to really recognize how many people have been supportive as well as all that has taken place at Wolfson to get us to that point, and it is also a reminder of all the incredible things that have happened in the subsequent 25 years as Wolfson has continued to evolve into a regional as well as a statewide center for pediatrics. This has really been an exciting moment.”

T. O’Neal Douglas, who was chairman of the board at Baptist Health when Wolfson Children’s Hospital was built, agreed. “It’s always nice to reminisce and think back about the many occasions we met and talked about building this building and expanding the children’s hospital,” he said. “It started out as a pediatric wing, but through all of the support from the Women’s Board – all those good people working hard – the board decided it was time to do it and support it with the right funds. It’s almost unimaginable how much progress has been made since then. The leadership has done an outstanding job.”

Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital leaders, hospital board members, donors, physicians and nurses, past and present, were on hand to witness the unveiling of items retrieved from the time capsule, which had been buried in the sidewalk in front of the children’s hospital. Due to a threat of bad weather, the unveiling took place in the Wolfson lobby. 

Seen within the crowd were Larry Freeman, retired Wolfson Children’s Hospital President and his wife, Chris; Dr. George Armstrong, retired Wolfson chief medical officer and his wife, Kaye; Carolyn Johnson, retired vice president of Wolfson Patient Care Services; members of the Wolfson family – Jeffrey Wolfson and Karen and Don Wolfson; Linda Wilkinson, an ardent donor and wife of the late Dr. Albert Wilkinson, Jr., one of the founders of Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Nemours Children’s Specialty Care; former Wolfson Board Chairmen Skip Frantz and Ellis Zahra; T. O’Neal Douglas and his wife, Alice; Bill Mason, retired president and CEO of Baptist Health and his wife, Julie, former vice president of the Baptist Health Foundation and leader of the Gift of our Children Capital Campaign; Women’s Board President Beth Langley and President-elect Katherine Forrester; former Women’s Board Presidents Susan Smathers and her husband, Bruce, and Kaye Glover; Past Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary President Margie Kalil; and pediatricians Dr. Warner Webb, Dr. Dennis Lafer, Dr. Ken Horn, and Dr. Gary Soud.

Although Wolfson Children’s Hospital President Michael Aubin was unable to attend, Wolfson’s Chief Medical Officer Jerry Bridgham addressed the crowd and was one of several Baptist Health notables, including Chief Operating Officer John Wilbanks, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Keith Stein, Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Diane Raines, and Chief Financial Officer Scott Wooten.

“I’ve been feeling nostalgic with this event,” said Freeman before the contents of the time capsule were unveiled. “I been feeling really nervous. I’ve been retired for eight years and coming back and seeing all these people is really something.

“It was a historic day in 1993 when we opened the children’s hospital,” Freeman continued. “First Lady Barbara Bush was our guest speaker when we buried that time capsule. I have no recollection of what was put into it, but I know it was a very special day for Wolfson and Baptist Health.”

Unfortunately, once the time capsule was opened, many of the items within it were soggy. During the presentation Greene, Mason, and Freeman highlighted several items including an NICU baby onesie, an “Inside Track,” the employee newsletter, a groundbreaking shovel lapel pin, a “Gift for Our Children” brochure, the book “Goodnight Moon” that had been signed and read to Wolfson patients by Barbara Bush before the time capsule was buried, and a commemorative Boehm plate, donated by Helen Boehm from the first fundraiser held by the Women’s Board.

“I remember when Mrs. Helen Boehm came down to speak with us about the history of her company,” said Freeman. “She was very gracious, very sophisticated, and she donated some of her plates for the first Women’s Board fundraiser. It is my recollection that we raised $50,000 at that time. Now with their Arts and Antique Show, the Women’s Board raises over $1 million.”

During his remarks, Greene said it seemed like yesterday that Baptist Health held the dedication ceremony for the then-new $45 million, 220,000-square-foot, 90-bed patient tower that also included Jacksonville’s first and only pediatric bone marrow transplant unit. During the following 25 years he said Wolfson has expanded greatly to include the University of Florida Pediatric Cardiovascular Program in 1996 and Kids’ Walk, the skyway connecting Wolfson and Nemours, which was dedicated in memory of Mason’s late son, Stephen, in 1997.

Other Wolfson highlights over the past 25 years that he mentioned include the creation by Wolfson and Nemours of the Northeast Florida Pediatric Diabetes Center in 2000; Safe Kids Northeast Florida, a childhood injury prevention program in 2003; the Lucy Gooding Children’s Neurosurgery Center, which was established with the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville in 2005, which was also Wolfson’s 50th anniversary; a new 250,000-square-foot joint patient tower, known as the J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Tower, which opened in 2012; Wolfson’s first pediatric outpatient specialty center in Lake City in 2012; and Wolfson’s state designation as a pediatric trauma center in 2018.

“Twenty-five years ago, we built this new hospital and named it Wolfson after the Wolfson family,” said Mason, noting it was his idea to create the time capsule. “I had one done when we built the Women’s Pavilion, and when we opened it, it was such a success among all the employees that we decided to do it again with the children’s hospital. Here we are, 25 years later, and the whole family that was there is back now. It’s going to be wonderful.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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