Sunderland Foundation Donates $66 Million to KU Health

The Sunderland Foundation announced this afternoon that it was making one of the largest philanthropic donations in the region’s history–and definitely the largest ever to the University of Kansas Health System.

Officials at the hospital made the announcement at a 2 p.m. news conference. The money will be earmarked for an inpatient care unit in the remaining unoccupied three floors of Cambridge Tower A, they said. That will complete Cambridge Tower A.

It was the largest donation to a single organization since Julia Irene Kauffman put up $105 million to build the Kauffman Performing Arts Center, which opened in 2011.

Charlie Sunderland and his family didn’t just complete our capital campaign, they have transformed this health system forever,” said Greg Graves, chairman of the hospital authority’s board of directors. He and his wife Deanna chaired the $100 million campaign for the building, which started in 2014. “We love fundraising that really moves the needle forward, and the hospital always meets that priority for us,” Deanna Graves said. “This gift from Charlie Sunderland and his family epitomizes the generosity and vision we so appreciate from them.”

The Sunderland Foundation helped seed the campaign when it began with a $2 million gift. “We primarily make contributions to non-profit construction projects where people in distress can find hope and healing,” Charlie Sunderland said. “Construction is our vehicle, but we’re really investing in people.” 

But the ability to donate at a far higher level came after last year’s sale of the century-old Ash Grove Cement Co.. Some of the proceeds from that $3.5 billion deal were poured into the foundation, rocketing it up the list of the region’s best-capitalized non-profits, ahead of even the Hall Family and Henry and Marion Bloch foundations.

       Charlie Sunderland has served on the Hospital Authority Board for  and also chairs its Quality and Safety Committee, and his brother Kent is executive director for the foundation. “We feel very comfortable in making this grant which will be used well to help a lot of people and improve the quality of lives for years to come,” Charlie Sunderland said. 

            “It’s hard to find the words to say ‘thank you’,” Bob Page, president and chief executive officer of The University of Kansas Health System said.  “Our medical teams and support staff have built world-class BMT/HMCT programs to treat patients. This enormous gift by the Sunderland Foundation reflects the confidence and faith Charlie, Kent and their family hold for the health system.  It’s a great honor.” 

Page said the new space will further differentiate the health system by expanding inpatient treatment and care facilities along with a family center and patient education center, to create a holistic care experience particularly important in immunotherapy treatments like BMT and HMCT that can require significant inpatient time.

            BMT treats patients with blood cancers and disorders, such as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and sickle cell disease.  In 2018, more than 60,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia in the United States.  In the past 10 years, The University of Kansas Health System program has more than doubled the number of stem cell transplants performed annually, achieving national recognition as one of the largest and most successful BMT and Acute Leukemia programs in the country.  HMCT is at the center of cancer care including the development of a robust Translational Science Research and CAR-T/Cellular Therapy Program. 

            “The Sunderland Foundation grant will help meet a critical need for our patients who currently receive care from multiple locations,” said Joseph McGuirk, the physician who directs HMCT. “This new dedicated space will allow us to treat more than 2,500 patients over the next 10 years in an environment that ultimately will bring our full multi-disciplinary team onto the same campus improving the patient experience and outcomes.”

            “It’s remarkable what the Sunderland Foundation has done for this community with their gift,” Tammy Peterman, president of Kansas City operations and executive vice president, chief operating officer, chief nursing officer for The University of Kansas Health System said.  “They are visionaries.  This gift is transformative because it will impact the lives of the sickest of the sick for generations to come.  We are forever grateful to Charlie Sunderland and his family for this gift, and to Greg and Deanna Graves for their leadership of our Cambridge campaign.”