After generations in the East Valley, decades on Banner Health hospital boards and 15 babies born at Mesa's Banner Desert Medical Center, the Cardon family is leaving another kind of legacy with a $10 million gift to help expand Banner Children's Hospital.
It's the largest private donation ever received by the nonprofit hospital chain, which has 22 facilities in seven states, including 11 in Arizona.
Wilford Cardon said the gift was a natural extension of his family's life and work in Mesa, and their commitment to the hospital and the community.
"We want to make this hospital one of the premier children's hospitals in the U.S.," he said. "We have a lot of ties to this community and we want to give back."
The children's hospital is in the middle of a two-year, $356 million expansion centered around a seven-story pediatric tower that has lured dozens of specialty physicians and their teams to the East Valley.
When it opens late next year, children will have the state's first-ever hospital built from the ground up just for them, staffed with pediatric specialists from neurosurgeons to psychiatrists. And it will make the 80-acre Banner Desert campus at Dobson Road and Southern Avenue the state's largest medical complex.
"We hope it will attract the very best," Cardon said. "Hospitals are not just bricks and mortar."
Cardon's son, Wilford R. "Wil" Cardon, led the capital campaign for the children's hospital expansion, but said he didn't lobby his father for the donation. The elder Cardon approached Banner Health president and CEO Peter Fine with the idea, and then pitched it to the rest of his family.
Banner Desert CEO Todd Werner said the gift reinforces the hospital's mission.
"It does tend to make one feel good, like you're heading in the right direction, when a family of this stature gives you a vote of confidence like this," Werner said.
Wilford Cardon's father launched the Cardon Group in the 1930s with a line of full-service gas stations. It expanded to include real estate development and investment, wholesale and retail petroleum, lodging, cattle ranching, manufacturing and finance. The Cardon Group, now led by Wil Cardon, manages investments in the United States, Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama.
The $10 million donation, officially from Wilford Allen Cardon and his wife, Phyllis Reneer Cardon, to the Banner Health Foundation, pushes the $15 million capital campaign well beyond its fundraising goal toward a new mark of $30 million.
The children's hospital will be named for the Cardons, with the formal name announced in early 2009.
Werner said the capital donation frees up other funds to accelerate pediatric research and clinical programs, such as neurosurgery and oncology.
"We do this so we can make a difference in people's lives," he said. "The Cardons have really helped us live that mission to its fullest."