"I, your father, have had a vision that has now developed into an ambition, of erecting a monument to the Wolfson family, in the form of a Children's Clinic, in Jacksonville ... The derivation of this ambition is the deep, heartfelt gratitude that has been mine, in the many hours that I have had to reminisce in recent years, for the many opportunities for health, happiness, success, and the full enjoyment of the freedoms offered by this fine country of ours, since it was my privilege to come over here from Russia at age 17."
Morris David Wolfson letter to his sons, Sam, Louis, Saul, Cecil and Nathan
September 1, 1946 -- For the full letter, click here (PDF).
That 1946 letter and a $500,000 donation from the Wolfson Family Foundation sparked the creation of Wolfson Children's Hospital. Nine years after the letter's writing, in September of 1955, Wolfson Memorial Children's Hospital opened as a 50-bed wing in what was then called Baptist Memorial Hospital. The hospital grew incrementally during its early years, but a picture of what it would eventually become emerged in 1971, when Northeast Florida's pediatric physicians decided that a consolidated center of excellence would be the best way to serve the region's children and families.
Thus began a 20-plus-year period of dynamic growth fueled by Baptist Health’s dedication to developing the region’s center for pediatric health care. The culmination of Mr. Wolfson’s vision and Baptist’s commitment was the 1993 construction of a new building that has become one of Jacksonville's most distinctive architectural pieces. Nearly all of the services that have become hallmarks of Wolfson's guiding philosophy were developed during this time, including its: Pediatric Intensive Care Unit; Children's Emergency Center; and its specialized programs, such as pediatric oncology, radiology, pathology and research.
Many of Wolfson's important community and professional relationships also blossomed during the 20-plus-year era that spanned the 1970s, '80s and early '90s. In 1976, The Women's Board of Wolfson Children's Hospital was established, and the first Christmas Antiques Show and Sale benefiting Wolfson Children's Hospital was held in 1977. Today, known as the Art & Antiques Show, the event has become one of Jacksonville's most eagerly anticipated cultural events.
And in 1987, Wolfson and Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, began their affiliation to better serve the area's children. That partnership may be the hospital's most visible professional partnership today, thanks to the KidsWalk, which spans I-95 and connects the two organizations.
Today, signs of Wolfson's maturity abound: It continues to expand its number of specialized services, which now include a newborn intensive care unit, childhood cancer program, pediatric neurosurgery center, children's heart program, neurodiagnostic center, diabetes and asthma education programs, and a minimally invasive surgery program. In 2007, Child magazine listed it as one of Florida's top three children's hospitals, when Wolfson was also named a MagnetTM hospital.
And to think it all began with one man's letter to his sons.
"It was Morris Wolfson's desire to build a clinic to take care of the children of Jacksonville, and I know he would be thrilled to see how his vision has become a reality," said Karen Wolfson, past president of The Women's Board of Wolfson Children's Hospital and past chair of the Wolfson Board of Directors.
Karen Wolfson has shared her essay on Morris Wolfson, entitled "Pop...A Very Rare Man." Click here to read it (PDF).