The Golden Bear has a Midas touch, especially when it comes to children’s healthcare.
So when the foundation created by Hall of Fame golfer Jack Nicklaus, and his wife, Barbara, first proposed the $60 million gift to Miami Children’s Health System announced on Tuesday, the hospital’s leaders asked for something even more valuable: the Nicklaus name.
“They felt the name and a brand would help them have a much bigger reach,” said Jack Nicklaus, nicknamed The Golden Bear, shortly after the announcement that Miami Children’s would change its name to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in March.
“This is beyond our wildest dreams,” he said. “We’re just excited about being involved with Miami on this.”
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Certainly, professional athletes and children’s hospitals are a common duo in South Florida. Two pediatric medical centers in Broward County are named for famous athlete-philanthropists: Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, and Chris Evert Children’s Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.
But Nicklaus will be the first in Miami, and the name change comes at a time when the hospital is expanding beyond its home base near Coral Gables to include eight satellite facilities in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — and soon a ninth in Collier County.
“It will be transformational,’’ Alex Soto, board chairman for Miami Children’s, said of the Nicklaus gift.
Transformation is a word uttered often around Miami Children’s these days. The main campus is in the midst of construction of a 212,000-square-foot advanced care facility that will include three new intensive care units and a renovated emergency room.
“This is going to be significant toward helping us on that end,” Soto said of the Nicklaus gift, “plus a number of our other programs — our heart program, our cancer center program, the brain institute program — just across the board.”
As longtime residents of Palm Beach and parents to five children, Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were all too familiar with the travails of finding pediatric healthcare near their home.
“It was either go to Orlando or to Miami,” he said.
When the opportunity arrived to raise money for children’s charities through the Honda Classic Golf Tournament, Jack Nicklaus said, he turned to Barbara and proposed establishing the Nicklaus Foundation, which launched in 2004 and is now the main beneficiary of the annual golf meet in Palm Beach County.
Among the first endeavors between the Nicklaus Foundation and Miami Children’s was the opening of a pediatric clinic near Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee in 2010 — a collaboration that later blossomed into a 23,000-square-foot outpatient center that opened in Palm Beach Gardens in 2012.
“Our whole goal,” Nicklaus said of the foundation, “is to be able to help kids. ... It’s fun to be able to do that, and have the time to do it and be successful at it.”