Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Racer wants to help children

By Joanie Morris

Kannapolis Citizen

CONCORD — For Jeff Gordon, donating $1 million to NorthEast Medical Center to help build a children’s hospital is money well spent.

After being initially approached by NorthEast Medical Center about the project, Gordon and his staff did their homework.

“NorthEast Medical Center has just been doing an amazing job,” Gordon said. “To me, there was never even a second thought.”

Because of his generous donation, NorthEast Medical Center named the new children’s hospital the Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital, and Gordon has been involved in many aspects of the hospital.

Gordon made his donation in May 2005 and since then, has only seen the children’s hospital in various phases of construction. He said he deliberately stayed away late in the game so he would get to absorb the completed hospital with everyone else.

He said he chose NorthEast Medical Center to benefit from the Jeff Gordon Foundation because he’s always had a soft spot for children. He got interested in sick children after meeting Ray Evernham’s son, Ray J, who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 1.

“When I meet a sick boy or girl, I want to be able to help them live out that dream,” Gordon said. “Ray J was my first introduction to leukemia and cancer. I started learning and meeting kids.”

Soon, it wasn’t such a stretch to start the Jeff Gordon Foundation to help sick children.

Gordon said one reason for the foundation was to help children live out their dreams.

“I didn’t dream that any of the things that happened would happen,” said Gordon, who dreamed of being a race car driver when he was a child. Now that the dream has come true, “When I meet a sick boy or girl, I want to be able to help them live out their dreams …

“This, to me, is for us to be able to take the foundation to a whole other level,” said Gordon. “I’m very serious about how we want to provide help to our children and families in need.”

Gordon, who along with his wife, Ingrid Vandebosch, announced that they are expecting their first child in July, earlier in the week.

“You can’t plan that,” Gordon said, adding that they wanted a family and were excited about the news. “I think that it really is ironic we were able to make that announcement this week. It really does speak volumes about where my attention is.”

Gordon said since his wife was living in New York, and that is where her doctors are, it is likely their baby will be born there, but they are planning on living in the Cabarrus County area.

On retirement, Gordon said, “Who knows?”

Racing has provided him an opportunity — his contract with Hendrick Motorsports does not expire until 2010.

“The gift I’ve been able to see … is what racing has brought to me,” said Gordon. “It’s opened up this whole other window of opportunity to be able to give back.”

The first patients at Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital were moved first thing Monday morning — but it wasn’t the first time anyone had seen the hospital.

Visitors to the new hospital got a sneak peek at the new facility at NorthEast Medical Center on Saturday. Gordon also got his first look at the new unit bearing his name.

“They just did a top notch job,” said Gordon. “It really is like a race team. (They have) the best equipment and performance for treatment of these kids …

“At the end of the day, their reward is seeing them go home healthy,” Gordon added.

In several pediatric rooms, teddy bears rested on the beds and crayons and coloring books adorned snack trays.

Each hallway of the hospital is identifiable by a different animal — elephant, gazelle, lion and giraffe. The animals represent strength (elephant), determination (gazelle), courage (lion) and perseverance (giraffe). They are represented throughout the new hospital, with likenesses of the animals and the words inscribed on the columns.

The animals were incorporated into the d & eacute;cor on a suggestion from Gordon, who took a safari with his wife and thought it would be a good idea and work well with the nature theme throughout the hospital.

There are other aspects of the new hospital that are different. In the pediatric intensive care unit, rather than wall-mounted equipment, all the equipment can hang from the ceiling, allowing doctors to rearrange the room any way they see fit.

Also in the pediatric intensive care unit, there are sleep rooms available for family members, a shower and kitchenettes. All the features are designed to make sure parents don’t feel they need to leave their children at the hospital.

In each room, there are trundle beds for parents and a continued nature theme. In each wing, the d & eacute;cor uses cool, soothing colors and waves with a fiber optic ceiling to give the feeling of being outdoors.

There is a teen Internet caf & eacute;, a saltwater fish tank in the family waiting room, a child’s play room and adult Internet caf & eacute;.

In the lobby, when visitors get off a dedicated elevator leading only to the children’s hospital, there is a student art gallery and a floor with 753 decorated tiles. The tiles were purchased by NorthEast Medical Center employees and decorated by their children. Artwork in the gallery will be rotated quarterly, officials said.

Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@kannapoliscitizen.com.

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