Century Club Charities, the host organization of the Sanderson Farms Championship, Mississippi's only PGA TOUR event, donated a record $1.125 million from the 2016 tournament to Friends of Children's Hospital, topping its previous record-setting amounts for four consecutive years.
At a news conference today, Century Club Charities presented a check to Friends, the private fundraising organization dedicated to supporting Batson Children's Hospital.
This year's donation exceeded the $1.109 million raised in 2015, the $1.102 million raised in 2014 and the 2013 tournament, which raised more than $500,000. Since tournament host Century Club Charities announced Sanderson Farms as the tournament's title sponsor in 2013, nearly $4 million has been donated to support Mississippi's only children's hospital.
While the Norman C. Nelson Student Union was filled with business leaders, philanthropists and dignitaries from around the state, sitting on the front row were the real dignitaries of the day: Batson Children's Hospital patients and their families.
“As a parent, this gift means so much,” said Katherine Beck, mother of Jamie Beck, a curly-haired toddler whose life was saved through heart surgery at Batson Children's Hospital. “This means our children can have the best health care. We think care at Batson is already awesome, but with this gift, it's going to be stellar.”
This year's gift is earmarked for Friends of Children's Hospital's $20 million pledge to The Campaign for Children's of Mississippi, which is funding construction to update pediatric care at UMMC.
Smiling with the $1.125 million donation to Friends of Children's Hospital are Batson Children's Hospital patients, front, from left, Felton Walker, De'Nahri Middleton, Blake Stone, K.J. Fields, Tucker Jones (kneeling), and Jamie Beck, held by dad Carson Beck. Looking on are, from left, Marks, Jent, Vitter, Sanderson, and Ray.
Century Club Charities President Peter Marks said the donation is helping build the future through a tradition of philanthropy.
“We at Century Club Charities believe in the future of Mississippi's children,” Marks said. “There is no better way to invest in our state than to invest in the health of our children. This is what we work for all year.”
Since 1994, Century Club Charities has helped more than 66 charities, including Friends of Children's Hospital, as a result of hosting the state's premier PGA TOUR event.
Joe F. Sanderson Jr., CEO and board chairman of tournament sponsor Sanderson Farms, sees the tournament's donation as part of being a good corporate citizen.
Sanderson Farms became a title sponsor of the tournament, Sanderson said, “because of its philanthropy. As a good corporate citizen, Sanderson Farms gives back to others in the communities where we live. Making a contribution of this magnitude to Children's of Mississippi at a time when expansion and updates of pediatric care at Batson Children's Hospital and UMMC are being planned is a heart-warming experience for myself and my wife as well as all Sanderson Farms employees.”
Sanderson and wife Kathy Sanderson are chairing The Campaign for Children's of Mississippi, a drive to raise $100 million, and they personally donated $10 million to the cause.
Sanderson signs the bright green cast of Walker.
The 2016 tournament was the final year of Sanderson Farms' three-year title sponsorship agreement that began with the 2014 tournament. 2017 marks the beginning of a new 10-year title sponsorship commitment from the nation's third largest poultry producer. The tournament has an economic impact of more than $25 million for Hinds, Rankin and Madison counties alone, Marks said.
The 2017 tournament, set for Oct. 23-29 at the Country Club of Jackson, will be the 50th anniversary of the event.
“What a great day this is,” said Sara Ray, board chairman of Friends of Children's Hospital, in thanking Century Club Charities, Sanderson Farms and the Sanderson Farms Championship. “Friends of Children's Hospital has raised more than $17 million since it was founded in 1989, and here we are having pledged $20 million to the Campaign for Children's of Mississippi. This is a great day for the future of the state of Mississippi, because without our children, we have no future. We need this new facility because we want Mississippi to be the best it can be, and with this donation and capital campaign, we are well on our way.”
Ray thanks Century Club Charities for their donation.
University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffery S. Vitter said the Sanderson Farms Championship is a “shining example of the collective power of sporting events, business, and philanthropy. We are so grateful for our long-standing relationship with Sanderson Farms, including the tremendous contributions that come from the success of the tournament. These gifts are making a real difference in improving the lives of Mississippians."
The Campaign for Children's of Mississippi will fund the construction of new buildings and renovations to the existing space within Batson Children's Hospital. Plans include an expanded neonatal intensive care unit, a new Children's Heart Center and PICU, a new pediatric imaging center, state-of-the-art operating suites, and a new, centrally located outpatient clinic. The result will be a physical space that embodies the Children's of Mississippi guiding vision, which is to touch the life of every child in Mississippi and help them reach their full potential.
“Having the support of the Century Club members and Sanderson Farms through this important PGA TOUR event means that Children's of Mississippi is closer to fulfilling its mission of touching the life of every child in Mississippi and helping them reach their full potential,” said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children's of Mississippi. “This gift will help us continue to advance in our goal to provide state-of-the-art care for the children of Mississippi.”
Said Dr. Rick Barr, Suzan B. Thames Professor and chair of pediatrics at UMMC: “Families are the real winners of the Sanderson Farms Championship, and we want what every parent wants - the best, most compassionate care. The continued support of Century Club Charities, Sanderson Farms and Friends of Children's Hospital means that care can be provided, right here in Mississippi.”
Adding to the donation was Sanderson Farms Championship's 2016 winner Cody Gribble, who designated Friends of Children's Hospital as the recipient of a $2,500 gift from the Waste Management Phoenix Open through Thunderbirds Charities, announced Steve Jent, executive director of the Sanderson Farms Championship.
“I can't tell you how excited he was to win the Championship this year,” Jent said, Gribble's donation showing his love for the Mississippi PGA TOUR event.
“PGA TOUR events are known for the philanthropy they generate,” Jent said. “Maximizing our charitable impact and growing a legacy of caring in our community is the focus for the energies of the Sanderson Farms Championship staff all year, and we are amazed with what we've been able to accomplish with the support of Sanderson Farms, Century Club members, our sponsors, donors, volunteers and the community at large. 2016 was a tremendously successful year for the tournament, and we are already looking forward to an even greater year in 2017.”