Erlanger Health System officials announced Friday a $5 million donation from the Kennedy Foundation — the single largest gift in the hospital's history — and welcomed the arrival of a 19th century locomotive from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Both donations will go toward the new Children's Outpatient Center that's scheduled to open in December.
Molly Kennedy, a daughter of Jim Kennedy Jr. born at Erlanger, was the inspiration for the Kennedy Foundation's donation. She was supposed to be born in December 1958, but arrived prematurely on Sept. 7, weighing 1 pound, 12 ounces.
"The doctors and nurses saved my life, and I'm so honored that my family chose to give this donation on my behalf," Molly Kennedy said during a speech Friday. "The work that is being done here means so much to my family, and we're so happy to have the opportunity to give back to the hospital that gave so much to us by donating money that will be used to help other children."
Don Mueller, CEO of Children's Hospital at Erlanger, said the train will transform the medical building into one that's inviting for kids, which in turn will help doctors and nurses better treat young patients.
"What we're doing here is trying to decrease the anxiety of children," Mueller said. "This train will bring joy to kids for many years."
At first, officials said bringing a large, expensive and rare steam engine from the late 1800s — which happens to be around the time Erlanger was founded — into the hospital seemed like a farfetched dream. But the museum, along with B & B Crane Rental, Chattanooga Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff's Department, Helton & Associates, Iron Workers Local 704, J & D Specialized Equipment Hauling, McCarthy, Pro-Coat Professional, Environmental Consulting, Southern Advertising & Sign Service, Doug Yates Towing & Recovery and Tennessee Highway Patrol, donated their services to restore and move the locomotive.
Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at email@example.com or 423-757-6673.