AJ Donohue would be proud. His name is now connected with a fundraising campaign to renovate the Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick Campus pediatric inpatient unit.
One of the first childhood cancer cases in Glynn County, AJ succumbed to the disease at age 18. During his short life, AJ inspired all who met him. In partnership with the Health System Foundation, the AJ Donohue Foundation is launching a fundraising campaign, Leap For Kids, and will match every dollar donated, up to $100,000.
“AJ was a charismatic young man who always thought of others,” says John Donohue, AJ’s uncle and Foundation treasurer. “He grew up in and loved Glynn County, but over a two year period, he spent more than 200 nights at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville. Unless you’ve experienced pediatric diseases, you don’t fully understand how the family suffers. The pediatric unit renovation is an ideal way for us to support high level care in our community. It was consistent with AJ’s vision.”
According to the Health System’s Foundation Development Director, Krista Robitz, the pediatric inpatient unit needs a major renovation.
“Our Volunteer Services generously donated funds several years ago to enhance the pediatric inpatient floor, adding murals and new furniture and toys,” she explains. “While those improvements certainly helped, this new renovation will emulate the child- and family-friendly design of Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville.”
She added, “Children and their families won’t feel like they’re on a clinical floor.”
Following the Wolfson Children’s Hospital design strengthens a partnership established in 2012. That year saw the opening of the Wolfson Children’s at Southeast Georgia Health System. Every week, pediatric specialists from Jacksonville travel to the Brunswick Campus to treat children with chronic medical conditions. Providing follow-up care in Brunswick alleviates some of the burden on local families who usually seek care in Jacksonville, as AJ’s family once did.
The pediatric inpatient unit redesign is part of the Health System Foundation’s 20-20 Vision Campaign to expand and renovate the Brunswick campus. “The fundamental construction pieces were already in place, but we wanted to create a healing environment that minimizes the disruption of family life. From our family’s experience with AJ and other ill children, we know that the aesthetics of the hospital environment have a huge impact,” Donohue said.
Robitz agreed. “We see it every day at the hospital. A soothing environment is essential to healing the mind and spirit.”
AJ understood this, having watched his parents spend many restless nights at his bedside, sleeping in upright chairs. He raised $50,000 to purchase recliners so families could rest comfortably at their child’s bedside. “He raised $50,000 by selling decals at $2 each,” Donohue recalled. “AJ’s achievement illustrates an important point: every dollar makes a difference. If someone gives $25, the AJ Donohue Foundation will match their donation, bringing it up to $50. We’re hoping the community will step up.”
As Donohue sees it, the Foundation’s challenge to the community supports a broader vision for the future of Glynn County. “If Jacksonville and Savannah can have this type of environment, why can’t Brunswick? This is a step toward our long-term goal of making more treatments for children available locally.”