Couple donates $5 million to Children’s Hospital of Illinois

One week before Christmas, the Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria announced it had received a most generous gift.

Don and Barbara Western, members of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Peoria, have donated $5 million to the new home now under construction for Children’s Hospital, the Milestone building.

In recognition of the gift — announced Dec. 18 — the pediatric floor of the new building will carry the designation “In Loving Memory of Rita Northrup,” recalling Barbara’s mother and the quality end-of-life care she received at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

“The entire staff at St. Francis truly lives the mission at it cares for patients and their families. It was simply incredible to experience,” said Don Western in explaining the couple’s decision to make the gift — among the largest personal gifts in the history of the institution.

“We wanted to help perpetuate such care and love. We found that it wasn’t just words from Sister Judith Ann,” he said, referring to the major superior of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, “it was the actions by the staff.”

DON WESTERN retired from Caterpillar, Inc., in 2006 after 35 years with the company. During his career, he served as vice president of the engine division, tractors division, and specialty industries division.

The Westerns have two adult children. Don has taken leadership roles in several diocesan groups. He is a former president of the board of directors of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Peoria, serves on the diocesan finance council, and is a supporter of Peoria Notre Dame High School.
When a Peoria chapter of Legatus, an international organization for Catholic business leaders and their spouses, was chartered in 2005, he became its first president.

“To whom much is given, much is expected,” he said in an interview with The Catholic Post following the charter of Legatus.

And OSF Saint Francis officials expressed much gratitude for the Westerns’ generosity.

“IT WAS obvious through discussions with Don and Barbara that they wanted to support a mission and a ministry that is so aligned with their personal values,” said Keith Steffen, chief executive officer of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. “They are a quietly philanthropic couple who touch the hearts of so many.”

“Don an Barbara have given of their time, talents and treasure so generously to all corners of this community,” added Tom Hammerton, vice president of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Illinois Foundation. “We are so proud that they are part of the OSF family.”

The Milestone building is slated for completion in the summer of 2010. At $280 million, the 465,000 square foot building is the largest private building project in Peoria’s history.

The gift from the Westerns came less than a month after Children’s Hospital of Illinois announced that the lobby of the new Milestone building would be named for Dr. Theresa S. Falcon-Cullinan, who gave a $1 million gift shortly before her death in August. Dr. Falcon-Cullinan was one of the first female obstetrician/gynecologists in the Peoria area and delivered thousands of central Illinois babies during her 30 years of medical practice.

“Theresa was one of the most incredible women I have ever met,” said Hammerton. “She had a rare combination of brilliance, charisma and an unending work ethic that allowed her to achieve so much in life.”

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