John R. Oishei Children's Hospital photo

When the new John R. Oishei Children's Hospital (OCH) opens in November, a room on the sports-themed tenth floor for young medical surgical patients will have a nameplate near the door recognizing the Grand Island community. As a community, Grand Island raised $25,000 for OCH and is the only community to have a room named after them as part of the hospital's "Complete a Room with Care" campaign.

The connection between OCH and Grand Island is Stacey Schroeder Watt, MD, Chief of Service, Anesthesiology, Kaleida Health. Dr. Watt attended Grand Island Central Schools and her daughters attend William Kaegebein Elementary School. When Dr. Watt mentioned the fundraising campaign to one of her daughter's teachers, it quickly made its way to the school's principal, Mary Haggerty, who came up with the idea of a districtwide read-a-thon.

Jumpstarting the campaign with pledges of nearly $10,000 were the 2,890 students in the Grand Island Central School District who dedicated April 7 for the read-a-thon. Students from kindergarten through grade 12 received pledges from family and friends to sponsor their 20-minute reading sessions.

"Every student participated. It was a wonderful way for our students to help others. It was far more successful than we even anticipated," said Haggerty.

Grand Island businesses and residents joined in on the campaign to raise more than $15,000. An online donation site was created ( and physical donation sites were placed at businesses across Grand Island. Donors could also call or mail donations directly to the hospital.

Exemplifying the outpouring of support from the business community, Ann and Jason MacClellan, owners of Island Kids Child Care Center, raised $3,500. Through an ice cream social, the families and employees of Island Kids Child Care Center contributed a significant amount, and Ann and her husband added their personal support.

"The Island Kids ice cream social raised more than we anticipated! One hundred percent of the proceeds were donated to the hospital campaign. We are proud to be a part of such an amazing community and thank the families who attend Island Kids for all of their donations," said Ann MacClellan. “I know firsthand how important it is to have a Children’s Hospital so close to home and for the Grand Island community to be a part of this historic project is something we can all be proud of. When children and families go to the Oishei Children’s Hospital, they’ll know the Grand Island community provided a very special and spacious room designed specifically for their care and comfort."

The Grand Island community celebrated this achievement during a special ceremony August 31 at Grand Island High School where they presented the $25,000 to the leadership of the new OCH.

“What a joyous celebration as we head to the finish line of this $270 million hospital project,” said Amy Habib Rittling, campaign co-chair for OCH. 

The campaign has raised over $50 million in philanthropic support from local businesses, organizations, foundations, medical practices and the community at large. The "Complete a Room with Care" campaign was designed to help raise an additional $1 million for the hospital. So far, over 100 rooms have been completed with another 100 rooms available for those looking for a way to take part in this historic event.

"We are grateful to the people of Grand Island and I am proud to accept their gift on behalf of children and families everywhere," said Habib Rittling. "Without benefactors like the Grand Island community, the children in our community would not be the beneficiaries of such an amazing facility.”

"It isn’t every day a community builds a brand new Children’s Hospital,” said Dr. Watt. “I am proud of my hometown community for taking the challenge. Our room will be a lasting symbol of the generosity and support of our Grand Island community.”