Special visitor surprises Ava’s House

August 30, 2018

Last month, an impromptu tour of Ava’s House by Sanford inspired a $1 million gift from philanthropist Denny Sanford.

While in Sioux Falls for the grand opening of the Sanford House, Mr. Sanford made a point to visit the new multigenerational hospice facility. Built and supported almost entirely through philanthropy, it has cared for more than 180 patients of all ages and their families since opening last October.

“It doesn’t take long to see how special it is,” Mr. Sanford said. “You can feel the heart that has gone into planning and building this facility.”

From the moment visitors step inside, Ava’s House feels like home. There’s a large kitchen and a gathering room where families can share meals, play games or just spend time together. In each of the 20 patient suites, wide doors open out to a walking path that winds around the building. Brightly colored art and warm wood tones camouflage medical-grade equipment.

But as one of only four in-patient facilities in the nation to include a pediatric hospice program, it’s the details meant for children and teenagers that are most moving.

In each of the four pediatric suites, a bed folds down from the wall so that parents can sleep alongside their child. There is a large playroom for lounging and playing, and children’s artwork hangs on the wall outside.

In one bright purple frame, a pair of tiny handprints is displayed. They were left by a 2-year-old patient and now hang in memory of his young life — a poignant reminder of why Ava’s House is so important.

“It breaks my heart to think of any child needing hospice,” Mr. Sanford said. “At the same time, I’m so proud and grateful to know that someplace like Ava’s House exists.”

“You can put me down for one of these.”

Toward the end of the visit, Mr. Sanford paused by the donor wall listing the names of individuals, families and local businesses who have helped make Ava’s House possible. He modestly tapped his finger next to the $1 million level. “You can put me down for one of these,” he told stunned staff members.

“I couldn’t leave without doing my part,” Mr. Sanford said. “I was moved to see how many people in this community stepped up to make Ava’s House possible. I want to be a part of this and help make sure it continues to bless lives for many years to come.”


Investing in the future today

Mr. Sanford’s gift counts toward the Gift of Time campaign’s goal to raise $5 million in endowed funds to support the future of Ava’s House. It brings the endowment total to $2.1 million.

“We are incredibly grateful to Denny for his support,” said Amy Bruns, lead major gifts officer at the Sanford Health Foundation. “And also to our many donors whose generosity and passion for Ava’s House inspired this beautiful gift.”

Endowment funds will help sustain expert caregiving and services such as spiritual care, Child Life and patient assistance.

To help us reach our endowment goal and extend the gifts of time, compassion and love to generations of patients and families, please contact one of our major giving officers:

An outpouring of community support helped raise $10 million to construct Ava’s House, which opened in October 2017. The facility’s future now depends on you.

Learn more about the Gift of Time campaign.