Institute nears funding target

Kennedy Krieger's campaign is close to $50 million goal

September 13, 2001|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,SUN STAFF

Just short of two years after it was formally launched, a $50 million "Realizing Potential" Kennedy Krieger Institute capital campaign is on the brink of achieving its goal.

Much of the money raised has been spent or allocated for projects, including operating a high school on the former Children's Hospital grounds off Greenspring Avenue and building an 80,000-square-foot building at Madison Street and Broadway, where a groundbreaking had been planned for today, but was postponed because of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The $11 million building eventually will house a children's behavioral health center.

Dr. Gary W. Goldstein, Kennedy Krieger's president, and institute fund-raiser Lainy LeBow-Sachs said that reaching the $50 million goal was never in doubt. As is the case for most efforts by high-profile institutions, the figure was set with the help of consultants who examined who might give and how much.

And the consultants, they say, were chosen by some of the biggest benefactors.

But there were surprises along the way, including an unsolicited $2 million grant from the New Jersey-based F.M. Kirby Foundation, and as the drive closed in on the goal, an unexpected million-dollar gift from campaign chairman Robert J. Lawless, chief executive officer of McCormick & Co., and his wife, Cathy.

Although the couple preferred that the gift not be publicized, it was announced in a public way this summer - in a newsletter for the institute's "friends" - by another member of the million-dollar circle, Henry Rosenberg, retired chairman of Crown Central Petroleum, who is hoping Lawless will succeed him as Kennedy Krieger chairman.

It was President John F. Kennedy who, having a sister with retardation, sought and then signed into law federal legislation to support development of "mental retardation facilities" nationwide - which would include the institute in Baltimore.

The institute's fund-raising campaign began with a substantial donation from Baltimore philanthropist Zanvyl Krieger, whose generosity long ago linked his name with President Kennedy's in the big letters atop the main building overlooking East Baltimore and who in his last years gave away much of his fortune.

Krieger was interested in matters relating to the brain, "but children and their needs got him," Goldstein said of the philanthropist's interest in the institute.

"And he liked small projects he can have an impact on. `You give us $10 million, it's yours - you made the place happen,'" Goldstein said. " I think he was looking for that kind of investment to make."

Low-key donor

McCormick's Lawless was more low key, Goldstein said, specifying when asked "that he didn't want his name put on a building, or a floor, or anything we are going to do because of his gift."

Rosenberg said that giving of money and time has its own rewards: "It's just a matter of fact, it's something that gets into your blood. You look around and talk to people and see the kind of work they do, and it's fascinating and wonderful."

It was Crown Central and institute Chairman Rosenberg who first reached out to Lawless.

"I said to come on down and see what we do," he said, praising Lawless for his increasing dedication to the institute's cause. "He wanted to be a substantial supporter not only personally, but financially."

Rosenberg said his retirement from some of his roles at Crown Central has given him time to be "somewhat more involved" with Kennedy Krieger affairs. He described his work with the institute as payback of sorts for his corporate success.

"If you get something out of the community, you're obligated to put something back," he said.

A surprise in the mail

The Kirby Foundation grant began with a letter it sent to the institute, offering a gift as large as $2 million to support work in childhood developmental disabilities and asking if that was what Kennedy Krieger might be doing.

"We said, "This is us - this is our life, this is what we do," Goldstein recalled of the institute's quick reply, adding that Kennedy Krieger proposed using the money to equip and open a state-of-the-art imaging center that enables doctors and researchers to track the workings of the brain.

"The next communication from them, without a [cover] letter, was a check for $2 million," Goldstein said, adding that it carried the notation "For research."

Goldstein said he was on vacation when the check arrived. He said his secretary called him - stunned to find so large a sum in the mail without so much as a letter of explanation.

"That's our most unusual gift," he said, adding that the F.M. Kirby Imaging Center is up and running - "open to any researcher in Maryland, anybody who has a protocol that is accepted."

While the institute did not target small donations with the campaign, institute employees' combined donations in the $100 range added about $150,000 that has enabled it to purchase several vans.

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