Rapaport Magazine

A Wish Granted

Sterling’s partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital honors founder Danny Thomas’ wish for a hospital with a place where everyone can be together.

By Margo DeAngelo
RAPAPORT... Actor and St. Jude founder Danny Thomas dreamed of having a single cafeteria at his research hospital to foster a sense of family and provide a daily reminder to staff of the importance of their work. This June, Sterling Jewelers, the parent company of Kay Jewelers, Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and other regional stores, opened the Kay Kafe. The new cafeteria, approximately four times larger than the campus’ previous facilities, was built with a commitment of $16 million from Sterling.

The Kay Kafe supports Thomas’ vision while making room for the hospital’s increasing numbers of patients and employees. Designed by the award-winning architecture firm Roger Ferris + Partners, the Kay Kafe’s child-friendly features include low counters and engaging original contemporary artwork by Rob Pruitt and Will Cotton.

A culinary institute-trained executive chef was hired to bring the cuisine to a new level. The Kafe offers a separate preparation area for in-patient meals, more space for individualized meal preparation, a dining room that can serve up to 1,000 people, an outdoor patio and a rotunda with floor-to-ceiling windows for gatherings.

“Our thoughts in designing the rotunda were to have a place to watch movies, have sleepovers and other activities. A prom was held there in June. So it’s more than just a cafeteria to us,” remarks David Bouffard, Sterling’s vice president of marketing.

“We have sushi, pizza, an ice cream bar, you name it; everything to make patients and their families comfortable. Everyone is just universally applauding it. It’s the talk of the campus!” declares John P. Moses, the chief executive officer (CEO) of ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities), the fundraising arm of St. Jude.

Sterling encouraged St. Jude staffers to think big. “Originally, we had planned a moderate remodel that involved two rooms,” says Moses. But there were concerns the layout wasn’t in keeping with Thomas’ intention. “That’s when Sterling stepped forward and said ‘We understand the reason why you want to have the cafeteria all in one room. We understand why it is so important to have doctors, scientists, fundraisers, patients and their families get together once a day.’ That’s when they announced they would fund the entire project,” recalls Moses.

Sterling first partnered with St. Jude in 1999 when it chose the hospital as its “national charity of choice.” Funds are raised via the sale of holiday gift items, such as the plush white bear named Winter,” augmented by employee giving and corporate donations.

Over the past nine years, the company has committed a total of $23 million to four renovations, including the cafeteria project, at the hospital. In 2001, the company contributed $1.5 million toward the renovation of the Solid Tumor Clinic. In 2003, it donated $500,000 to renovate the Patient Registration Area. Two years later, it contributed another $5 million to renovate the entire second floor of the hospital.

With the Kay Kafe now open, Sterling has already raised $9.5 million of its $16 million total commitment for the cafeteria. “In two more years, it should be paid off,” notes Bouffard. “That’s two years ahead of schedule.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - August 2008. To subscribe click here.

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