A big smile spread across Olivia Reardon’s face last night as she and her parents Kevin Reardon and Christina Meyers presented a $500,000 charitable gift from the OliviaStrong Foundation to Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital at the 24th annual Novant Health Hemby Golf Classic. The funds will be used to support Hemby Children’s Hospital, which serves more than 100,000 children each year, to ensure that the hospital is well-positioned to meet the growing pediatric health care needs of the community.
Olivia has been in and out of the hospital since birth. She was born 10-and-a-half weeks premature with a rare heart condition, called a double aortic arch. While Olivia’s care team was able to help her through those early years, she had to return to the hospital in 2021 after being diagnosed with stage four alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma of the paranasal sinuses, a rare soft tissue cancer. Today, the recently turned 10-year-old is halfway through treatment and looking forward to the next challenge life throws her way. It’s a mindset that ultimately inspired the purpose behind the OliviaStrong Foundation – to bring awareness and a cure to childhood cancer.
“I’m so lucky to be a part of the Novant Health family,” said Olivia. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital. All of the doctors, nurses and staff have always taken good care of me. It’s been a lot of fun giving back through our foundation so far, and I want to use this special birthday donation to help pay it forward.”
“We hope this gift and the ongoing work of our foundation can be used to help other kids and their families as they receive care and treatment right here in Charlotte,” added Kevin.
The OliviaStrong Foundation is committed to ending childhood cancer. The foundation is partnering with Hemby Children's Hospital and the Novant Health Foundation because Olivia’s family believes in the Novant Health team of experts. Hemby Children’s Hospital’s talented physicians, child life specialists, nurses and other team members are improving outcomes for all kids, especially kids battling pediatric cancer, like Olivia.
“Hemby Children’s Hospital is truly a special resource for patients in our community. Families can receive the highest quality care with a personalized approach that is focused on their child’s needs,” said Dr. Jessica Bell, co-medical director of the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital. “We understand that every patient is unique. It’s our goal to give each patient access not just to the best treatments, but to the best treatment for their child.”
Kevin and Christie, Olivia’s parents and co-founders of the OliviaStrong Foundation, have personally experienced every aspect of pediatric care at Hemby Children’s Hospital. Olivia has been cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit, by the pediatric pulmonology team, the pediatric intensive care team and now the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital. The family believes that Hemby Children’s Hospital sets the standard for pediatric care in the community, which is why they wanted to partner in providing support.
“We’re ever so grateful for the generous support of Olivia, Kevin, Christina and the entire Oliva Strong Foundation,” said Katie Spizzirri, chief philanthropy officer Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation. “Simply put, Olivia is the personification of selflessness. While still in the midst of treatment, she is busy, finding new ways to encourage others going through similar challenges. At 10 years old, she’s providing a gift that will help others for years to come.”
In addition to the OliviaStrong Foundation’s generosity to support Hemby Children’s Hospital, the funds raised at the Novant Health Hemby Golf Classic will support the hospital’s multiphase $10.2 million expansion plan. Phase 1 of the hospital’s expansion includes the addition of 12 new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) bays, which will allow team members to care for 25% more babies at one time. The NICU is currently licensed as a level 4 nursery, the highest certification available in North Carolina for neonatal critical-care services. The anticipated completion is November 2022.
Additional expansion plans at Hemby Children’s Hospital between now and late 2024, include:
“Our commitment to deliver world-class care to our patients and families at Hemby Children’s Hospital would not be possible without the generous support from the community,” said Spizzirri, “These funds will benefit the quality care that we provide to our smallest patients at Hemby Children’s Hospital, ensuring that their stay with us is remarkable until they return home!”
Hemby Children’s Hospital opened at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte in 1995 as a specialized facility for children from birth to age 17. It now encompasses a 38-bed general pediatric unit, an eight-bed pediatric intensive care unit, a 38-bed level 4 neonatal intensive care unit, a 15-bed pediatric behavioral health unit and a 14-bed 24/7 pediatric emergency department. In 2015, the hospital also added an all-private eight bed pediatric intensive care (PICU) unit with two dedicated procedure rooms.