Champion Backer: A Donor and Fundraiser's Long Commitment to a Children's Hospital

Columbus, Ohio, lost one of its titans in June of this year. John F. Wolfe started publishing The Columbus Dispatch in 1975. He and his wife, Ann I Wolfe, gave broadly and generously to Ohio State University, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Franklin Park Conservatory, and to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. And, to be clear, his recent death doesn’t mean the death of that generosity.

Ann Wolfe has been a member of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Board since 1982. In 1990, she became the first woman to chair the board, and she served a second term from 2001-02. She also chaired the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board from 1987-1990. She also has a long history of chairing capital campaigns for the hospital. During the For Our Children Campaign, she raised $107 million, and during the Change Their Tomorrow Campaign she raised over $300 million. In 2006, the Nationwide Insurance Foundation announced a $50 million gift to the hospital: the second-largest children’s hospital gift of all time. Wolfe was hugely instrumental to this give, as well.

All this is to say, Nationwide Children’s has as big an ally in Ann as it did in her late husband, and the future’s looking bright.

Wolfe is back in the saddle, chairing the Nationwide Children’s board yet again as they launch their ambitious Be the Reason campaign, seeking to fund a $730 million expansion. In August, Wolfe kicked things off in fine fashion by supporting the campaign with a $15 million contribution.

Central to the expansion will be a $158 million Behavioral Health Pavilion, an impressive nod to the importance of taking children’s mental health needs seriously. The building, which is set to open in 2020 with 48 in-patient beds, will be located right at the main campus of Nationwide Children’s, “as opposed to everything out in the hinterlands, if you will,” says Alex Fischer, hospital board co-chair.

"It's unique for a children's hospital to commit to a comprehensive behavioral health facility with all of these components," said Dr. David Axelson, chief of behavioral health at Nationwide Children's. "I think that the community at large has recognized that mental and behavioral health is an incredibly important problem."

While we’re unsure what impact, if any, the Wolfes had or continue to have on Nationwide Children’s mental health ambitions, Ann I. Wolfe seems to be comfortably steering the organization through another successful capital campaign.