By Anne Polta, West Central Tribune — An anonymous local couple is pledging half a million dollars in matching funds toward a capital campaign for the Rice Rehabilitation Center.
If donors collectively give $500,000 toward the Rice Health Foundation’s “Restoring health. Restoring hope.” capital campaign by Nov. 30, the couple has agreed to match the funds in support of the new Rice Rehabilitation Center at Rice Memorial Hospital.
The match will bring the total to $1 million, which is two-thirds of the $1.5 million goal, according to Shirley Carter, executive director of the Rice Health Foundation.
“The matching gift challenge came about when we approached this couple for a gift to help Rice bring all rehabilitation and therapy services under one roof,” Carter said. “They agreed to make this significant contribution and have challenged the community to step forward and help the Rice Health Foundation make this happen.”
The anonymous couple was inspired by the story of Willmar elementary school teacher Amanda Pehrson, who, in 2011, relied on Rice Rehabilitation Center for assistance in recovering from a stroke at the age of 31. Her stroke resulted in brain swelling that required removal of part of her skull (since replaced) and left her without the ability to speak, read or write.
“It was touch and go for a while,” Pehrson said at a Rice Health Foundation gathering earlier this year. Through two years of significant speech and occupational therapy at Rice, Pehrson was able to redevelop her communication skills.
“It was a very difficult struggle,” Pehrson said, who has since returned to teaching kindergarten. “Now I’m back teaching full time, working with those kids that I love so much.”
Carter said that the anonymous donors see that health care services offered at Rice Memorial Hospital benefit the entire region.
Even though Rice is a city-owned hospital, and the largest city-owned hospital in the state, it does not receive tax revenue from the city of Willmar, Carter said. That’s why philanthropy has an important role in the hospital’s growth and success, she said. “People want to keep health care services local.”
Construction of the new 10,800-square-foot Rice Rehabilitation Center began in September by Marcus Construction of Willmar. The facility is on Trott Avenue, across the street from the hospital and connected by subway tunnel to the hospital complex.
The project began in part to meet the growing regional demand for pediatric and adult rehabilitation services. The new facility will include gymnasium spaces, locker rooms, showers and a variable-depth therapy pool.
As of Oct. 1, Rice Health Foundation has raised $157,500 toward the Nov. 30 matching gift deadline. Proceeds from this year’s “Disco Ball” – the Foundation’s annual gala and auction – will also go toward the matching gift challenge, Carter added.
Rice Rehabilitation Center serves clients from 38 counties in Minnesota, with a primary service area of Kandiyohi, Chippewa, Renville and Swift counties. Other patients hail from Big Stone, Pope, Lac qui Parle, Redwood, Meeker, Stearns, Lyon and Yellow Medicine counties.
The center opened in 1999 and has grown to offer a variety of outpatient therapy and rehabilitation services.
Rice Health Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization that raises philanthropic support for the Rice organization to address community health needs, enhance patient care, and provide health education opportunities. In 2014, Rice Health Foundation provided $1,050,400 to Rice Memorial Hospital for a variety of programs, services, technology and equipment.
For more information or to make a donation, visit RiceHealthFoundation.org.