March 15, 2019

In May 2019, the Texas Children’s family will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening of Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower, one of the greatest achievements in the hospital’s history. We will also pause to remember the life, memory and faithful generosity of the man whose name the tower bears.

Lester Smith, legendary Houston philanthropist and ardent Texas Children’s supporter, has passed. He was 76.

“I was honored to call Lester Smith my friend and I am deeply saddened by the news of his passing,” said Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark Wallace. “He lived his life honorably, and among his greatest joys was his dedication to the service of others. Texas Children’s was lucky enough to be a beneficiary of his unwavering generosity over the years and his commitment to our patients and their families, notably our Cancer Center, was unmatched.”

A native of Wharton, Texas, Smith was a second-generation oil man – a wildcatter who made his mark on the industry, and his fortune, by taking chances others wouldn’t when it came to oil drilling exploration. In 1986, he started Houston-based Smith Energy Company, a provider of oil and gas exploration and production of oil and gas reserves, which he built into a successful multi-state operation. In the 90s, while on a scuba trip to Venezuela, he met the love his life, Sue. The two shared many passions, including competitive ballroom dancing, for which they won two U.S. championships

But following a series of health-related issues, Smith found his highest calling. Drawing from a place of gratitude for the life-saving care he received during battles with cancer, Smith and Sue dedicated more than $150 million to support research at numerous institutions, including Texas Children’s, Baylor College of Medicine and Harris Health System.

A statement from the Lester and Sue Smith Foundation released after his passing said, “his core philosophy, ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’ drove his life-long passion for giving, touching millions of lives, leaving an indelible mark on our city and world.”

But nowhere will Smith’s legacy and passion for giving be felt more than here at Texas Children’s.

In two fundraising events in 2011 and 2012, Smith and wife, Sue, helped generate more than $41 million in donations to Texas Children’s Cancer Center, with more than $21 million directly donated by The Lester and Sue Smith Foundation.

The 2011 “Evening with a Legend” event honored actor Robert Duvall and showcased a live, on-stage interview by CBS veteran news anchor Bob Schieffer. In February 2012, the “Evening with Disco Legends” event featured performances by disco greats Gloria Gaynor, The Pointer Sisters and Nile Rodgers, and drew over 1,100 supporters – the largest single-evening fundraiser in Houston’s history at the time. By underwriting the event, the Smiths enabled 100 percent of the proceeds to directly fund research at Cancer Center.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Lester Smith, whose efforts have helped advance research and care for children with cancer and blood disorders,” said Director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Dr. Susan Blaney. “Few have had such a transformational impact on our efforts at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers to lead the way in research and care of childhood cancer.”

In honor of their unparalleled dedication to help find cures for pediatric cancers, Texas Children’s in 2012 named the Cancer Center outpatient clinic the Lester and Sue Smith Clinic at Texas Children’s Cancer Center.

But it seemed Smith, who was fiercely competitive, wanted an opportunity to outdo himself.

In September 2018, the Smiths chaired the “Legacy of Motown” gala in support of Legacy Tower – Texas Children’s new home for heart, intensive care and surgery – and to support patient care and research at the Cancer Center. The event, underwritten by the Lester and Sue Smith Foundation, raised a record $83,373,119, making it one of the largest single-night fundraisers in the state’s history. The Smith’s personal contribution was an astonishing $50 million.

In honor of that transformational give, Texas Children’s renamed the state-of-the-art, 640,000-square-foot expansion Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower.

“Giving to others is our guiding philosophy,” said Smith at the time of the event. “There is nothing more precious than a child, and we hope this gift will help support the incomparable patient care for which the hospital is known. It is truly our honor to leave a legacy of support for generations to come at Texas Children’s.”

The entire Texas Children’s family will forever be grateful for that selflessness and unfailing support.

“Lester’s incredible legacy will live on in the medical advancements, state-of-the-art care and infinite hope for our patients in the tower which now bears his name – Texas Children’s Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower,” said Wallace. “My thoughts and heartfelt condolences are with his biggest fan, Sue, as well as his children, Stuart and his wife, Limor, and Shelly and her husband, Brian.”

February 25, 2019

Texas Children’s promise to provide the highest quality care to all those who come to us hasn’t changed. But Houston and the surrounding area, and the complex medical needs of our patients, are ever-changing.

To meet those needs, Promise: The Campaign for Texas Children’s Hospital was launched, with a goal of raising $475 million by 2020. The monumental fundraising effort focused on several crucial initiatives that would allow us to expand our reach in Greater Houston and beyond and to offer our world-class care to even more children who need it.

The response from the philanthropic community has defied all belief. Not only did we meet our goal, we shattered it. More than 183,000 donors raised $578.4 million – $103.4 million over the original goal – and two years ahead of schedule.

“Our plan for the largest expansion in Texas Children’s history was ambitious, but the response was extraordinary, far exceeding our wildest dreams,” said Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark Wallace. “From the very beginning, we had the support of generous philanthropists in the community, and that support remained constant – and is still absolutely vital to our success.”

Keeping our promises
  • To ensure that children who require complex care always have a place to go for treatment

Every year, more and more families come to Texas Children’s for life-saving care – care they can’t receive elsewhere. At one point, in November 2013, Texas Children’s was full and on drive-by status. Other hospitals were calling, wanting to transport their most critically ill patients, but we couldn’t accept the transports. We had to say “no.”

Texas Children’s Board of Trustees quickly approved a measure to build a new facility that would enable us to care for more children with complex conditions who require treatment that only Texas Children’s can provide.

The result – the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower. The cutting-edge, 640-square-foot expansion is Texas Children’s new home for heart, intensive care and surgery, and was named for Lester and Sue Smith in honor of their transformational gift.

Before the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened, our ICU was almost always at or over 100 percent capacity. Now the average is in the low 90 percent levels, giving us room to accept transfers of critically ill patients and to move our own patients into critical care if they need it.

  • To bring a dedicated pediatric hospital to a growing community

Just a short time ago, families from north of Houston were regularly traveling 40 miles or more to our Texas Medical Center campus with children who had chronic conditions and required ongoing treatment and management. It was too far. These families deserved the highest-quality, dedicated pediatric care close to home.

Through the overwhelming generosity of donations to the Promise Campaign, we were able to build Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, which opened in May 2017. Now families living north of Houston have access to the area’s first dedicated pediatric emergency center, state-of-the-art operating rooms, world-class critical care services and an accredited motion analysis lab.

The effect in the community was felt immediately. Our first-year numbers for admissions, outpatient visits, emergency center visits, surgeries and special procedures doubled projected estimates. Moreover, expanded access in The Woodlands has freed up services at our Texas Medical Center campus for children with even more complex conditions.

  • To advance the practice and science of pediatric medicine

From its world-class neurology and cardiology departments to a comprehensive Fetal Center that is one of only a few in the world, Texas Children’s offers specialty services for children who require complex care. Philanthropic support for these programs helps bring comfort and healing to children from this community and from across the world.

The Promise Campaign raised vital funds for several of our world-class divisions and centers of excellence, such as the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (NRI) and Texas Children’s Trauma and Grief Center (TAG).

Promise Campaign support for the NRI has already led to some remarkable advances, such as the identification of a likely culprit gene responsible for mild-to-severe regression of previously acquired motor and language skills. A potential link between a group of genes responsible for cellular waste-disposal disorders in children and Parkinson’s disease has also been discovered.

Texas Children’s TAG is committed to raising the standard of care and increasing access to best-practice care for traumatized and bereaved children, adolescents and their families. Generous funding through the Promise Campaign has enabled the TAG Center to expand care beyond our main campus clinic into the community to help children and families in schools, community clinics, mobile clinics and primary care pediatric offices.

  • To recruit and retain world-class physicians and scientists

Not a day goes by when one of Texas Children’s most notable experts isn’t being recruited by another leading children’s hospital. To recruit and retain world-class physicians and scientists, endowed chairs are our most powerful too.

Through the Promise Campaign, generous donors have helped Texas Children’s bring the best and brightest from across the country, including our Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier, the S. Baron Hardy Chair in Plastic Surgery, and Dr. Michael Belfort, our Gynecologist-in-Chief and F.B. McGuyer Family Endowed Chair in Fetal Surgery.

Once an endowed chair is in place, the chair holder has access to significant funds that may be used to provide support for innovative research projects or to launch new programs.

  • To offer quality care to children in our community regardless of their family’s ability to pay

When Texas Children’s Hospital began in 1954, its founders made a promise that it would be a place where all children would receive the very best care, regardless of their families’ ability to pay.

That’s a promise we’re still keeping today. More than half of our patients are on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan. It is Texas Children’s responsibility to serve our community. Every child deserves the very best health care.

During the Promise Campaign, Texas Children’s Hospital provided an average of $13 million in charity care each year.

November 13, 2018

On November 8, Texas Children’s friends and supporters attended The Forum Luncheon highlighting the amazing work of Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. Held at The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston, the program shined a bright light on the many successes the Pavilion for Women has had since opening its doors in 2012.

In just six short years, more than 37,000 babies have been delivered at the hospital, including 1,200 sets of multiples, one of which was a set of sextuplets. Almost 8,000 babies have been treated in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and many lives have been saved or greatly altered by the talented clinical staff that works tirelessly to improve the lives of women and children.

“I can’t imagine Texas Children’s without the Pavilion for Women and am thrilled we had the vision, aspiration and courage to build it,” said President and CEO Mark Wallace during his opening remarks at the forum. “In just five years, we translated our vision for this new paradigm of care into a reality that has helped countless mothers and their children.”

Hired to lead Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women shortly after it opened, Dr. Michael Belfort, fetal surgeon and Ob-Gyn-in-chief, headlined the forum’s program taking the almost 400 people in the audience on a journey through the organization’s wide variety of services offered to women and children.

Some of those services areas include:

  • Pediatric and adolescent gynecology
  • Fertility
  • High-risk pregnancy
  • Fetal surgery and prenatal care
  • Global women’s health
  • Menopause and urogynecology
  • Mental health

“I was drawn to Texas Children’s from the very beginning because of the vision they had for women and children,” Belfort said. “We have come a long way in a short time, and while I’m proud of our accomplishments, I don’t think we should ever stop trying to be even better.”

The forum’s program ended with an emotional story told by Emma Tramuto, who at 17 weeks pregnant was told her baby, Ella Rose, was diagnosed with gastroschisis, which is failure of the abdomen to close completely, resulting in the baby having her intestines outside of her body.

Emma and her husband James visited many physicians and surgeons, and were told multiple times their only choice was to terminate the pregnancy – that is until they came to Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women where a team of clinicians cared for Emma and Ella Rose, who is now a vibrant 6-year-old little girl.

“Miracles happen every day at Texas Children’s Hospital and perhaps the biggest miracles are the ones for the tiniest patients,” Emma said. “Our daughter is one of these incredible miracles. Had it not been for Texas Children’s Hospital Ella Rose would not be here today. The doctors and nurses who cared for Ella gave her a chance at life she would not have had one otherwise.”

October 16, 2018

On October 12, hundreds of guests attended the 11th annual Celebration of Champions fashion show and luncheon at River Oaks Country Club to honor event participants and to raise money for Texas Children’s Cancer Center.

During the event, pediatric cancer patients and survivors from Texas Children’s Cancer Center were escorted down the runway by local philanthropists or “Community Champions.” One patient, Max Boatwright, walked with our very own therapy dog, Elsa, who was guided by Animal Assisted Therapy Coordinator Sarah Herbek.

“This event really demonstrates the progress we’ve made in the treatment of childhood cancer, and it celebrates our patients, who are our champions,” said Dr. Susan Blaney, director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers. “We’re also so grateful for the community of Houston, which so strongly supports our mission, and we’re celebrating those champions today as well.”

The event was chaired by Sidney Faust, Judi McGee, Elsie Eckert and Scott Basinger, who have overseen the luncheon each year since its inception. Thanks to underwriting by Faust Distributing Company and Mach Industrial Group, Inc., each patient was able to keep his or her hand-picked outfit – much to the delight of the models.

All funds raised during the luncheon will benefit Texas Children’s Cancer Center’s Long-Term Survivor Program, one of the nation’s only long-term childhood cancer survivor programs that sees survivors through adulthood. Today, more than 30,000 long-term pediatric cancer survivors nationwide are enrolled in Texas Children’s Passport for Care, an online resource developed at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine that provides individualized health care information to guide care for effects from childhood cancer treatment.

Golfers wore their baddest pants, played their best golf and raised more than $500,000 for Texas Children’s Newborn Center at the Clubs of Kingwood last week. The Bad Pants Open, an annual golf tournament now in its 21st year, has raised more than $6.5 million in the past two decades to support continued innovation and excellence in the research, treatment and care of critically ill and premature infants as well as helping to fund support services for families with babies in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Presented by RBC Wealth Management/Capital Markets and chaired by Rob Cooksey, vice president of Texas Aromatics, golfers enjoyed breakfast provided by Chick-Fil-A, a long drive exhibition by Dan Boever and lunch on the course provided by Beck’s Prime. Players also enjoyed complimentary pre-golf stretching provided by Reach Stretch Studios and live on-site broadcasting by ESPN 97.5 Houston, the tournament’s media partner.

The event featured a post-play awards ceremony and dinner catered by Swift Events, where players were awarded plates painted by Texas Children’s patients for both the best golf scores and baddest pants. Monique Landor, a NICU nurse at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, was presented with the NICU Nurse of the Year award, a special recognition awarded at each tournament.

More than 2,500 critically-ill and premature infants receive essential care in Texas Children’s NICU each year, many of whom are born at nearby Houston-area hospitals. Texas Children’s is the nation’s largest NICU and one of only two Level IV NICUs in the greater Houston area. The next Bad Pants Open golf tournament is scheduled for Wednesday, October 2, 2019. More information is available at www.badpantsopen.com.

October 8, 2018

Come join over 300 walkers for the Torch Relay on Friday, October 19 at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel in The Woodlands. The relay consists of a 3-mile walk around The Woodlands Waterway, followed by an after party with food, a band, DJ, carnival games, face painting, and a balloon and caricature artist.

All proceeds benefit the Children’s Miracle Network program at Texas Children’s Hospital and help children like Grace Anto, who was diagnosed with coronal suture craniosynostosis.

Resilience in children means being able to adapt well to adversity, trauma or even significant sources of stress. Grace Anto, a patient at Texas Children’s, is just that – resilient.

“When Grace was born in August 2007, it was obvious that she had some facial deformities,” said her mom, Lynn Anto.

After months of testing, Grace was given a list of diagnoses, which included coronal suture craniosynostosis, a premature fusing of bones in the skull, resulting in restricted skull growth.

Because of her condition, Grace has had – and will continue to have – multiple stays at Texas Children’s. She has had surgery to correct the misalignment of her eyes, and multiple visits to a craniofacial orthodontist who placed an expander in her mouth. There are also future plans for jaw surgery and braces.

Grace admits the surgeries are tough, “but you just have to get through it,” she said. Both she and her mom understand that surgeries are a fact of life for her and that they must remain strong for each other.

Despite her medical challenges, Grace lives life to the fullest. She is quick to answer questions about her condition and doesn’t let much stop her. She is involved in competitive dance, choir, piano and theatre. Her favorite subjects in school are math and science. Wise beyond her years, Grace makes an effort to live each day by the motto she coined, “Don’t let fear take over happiness!”

As a Torch Relay participant, you can choose to join the Texas Children’s team, create your team or be an individual walker. Participants who raise $40 or more will receive a 2018 Torch Relay T-shirt, medal and drawstring bag as a thank you for participating. Participants who raise $5,000 or more will be invited to join the Torchbearer Club and attend the Torchbearer Weekend, which annually honors our top fundraisers.

For additional information, visit Torch-Relay.org or email Camille Landry lclandry@texaschildrens.org.

October 2, 2018

The Legacy of Motown Gala on September 29 at Revention Music Center topped the philanthropy charts, raising more than $83 million and making it the highest-grossing fundraising gala in Texas. The event was underwritten by The Lester & Sue Smith Foundation, whose commitment to match funds raised inspired others to generously give.

But the biggest hit of the night was the announcement of the naming of Texas Children’s latest expansion project – the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower. The Smiths, who have dedicated their private wealth for public good, generously pledged $50 million to Texas Children’s to support Legacy Tower, the hospital’s new home for heart, intensive care and surgery, as well as to support patient care and research at Texas Children’s Cancer Center.

“I am incredibly grateful to Lester and Sue for this transformational gift,” said Mark Wallace, president and CEO of Texas Children’s. “Their unwavering commitment to our patients and families over the years is unmatched, and this is another shining example of their extraordinary generosity and compassionate care for others.”

Drawing from a place of gratitude for the life-saving care Lester received during his battles with cancer, the dynamic couple has dedicated more than $150 million to support research at numerous institutions including Texas Children’s, Baylor College of Medicine and Harris Health System. Following the Disco Legends event in 2012, which benefitted Texas Children’s Cancer Center, the clinic was named in their honor as the Lester and Sue Smith Clinic.

“Giving to others is our guiding philosophy,” said Lester and Sue Smith. “There is nothing more precious than a child, and we hope this gift will help support the incomparable patient care for which the hospital is known. It is truly our honor to leave a legacy of support for generations to come at Texas Children’s.”

Legacy Tower adds 640,000 square feet to Texas Children’s sprawling Texas Medical Center campus. In May, the first phase of the tower opened with six technologically advanced operating rooms for neurosurgery, orthopedics, plastic surgery, transplant and pediatric surgery – one with intraoperative MRI – and 84 ICU beds, including dedicated surgical, neurological and transitional ICU rooms. The second phase of Legacy Tower opened last week and serves as the new home for Texas Children’s Heart Center®, ranked No. 1 nationally in pediatric cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. This milestone will help Texas Children’s continue to provide the highest-quality care possible to patients and families, particularly those children who are critically ill.

To learn more visit legacytower.org.

Texas Children’s Cancer Center is consistently ranked as one of the best cancer programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. It is the largest pediatric cancer center in the nation and the destination for children from more than 35 states and 26 countries to receive individualized, state-of-the-art cancer care. Additionally, more than 91,000 outpatient visits occur in the Lester and Sue Smith Clinic each year.

To learn more visit texaschildrens.org/cancer.