In a press conference held today at Blair Batson Hospital For Children in Jackson, Fondren Renaissance Foundation presented a gift totaling almost $100,000 to Friends of Children’s HospitalÂ resulting from theÂ proceeds of Fondren’s 2014 Zippity Doo DahÂ® Weekend held this past March.
Part of that gift included a 2014 Ford E350 van, highly customized and specially equipped for the hospital’s palliative care unit’s daily transportation use. Those in palliative care have lent their imagination to the design of the van, inspiring the outside look. The Cirlot Agency incorporated those ideas to include images of fairies, race cars, airplanes, butterflies, musicians and sports.
“Fondren Renaissance is thrilled to be giving this gift on behalf of all ofÂ those who contributed to the success of the weekend, right here where we serve,” said Jim Wilkirson, executive director of Fondren Renaissance. “While it’s a little strange for a non-profit to raise funds for another non-profit,” Wilkirson said, “this is the heart of the neighborhood. Mission begins at home, you have to take care of those at your front door.”
Dr. Rick Boyte, professor of pediatrics and director of the Batson palliative care unit was moved by the presentation today. “For children, palliative care is about finding joy in life and life itself,” he said. “It’s about finding ways to support hope and find meaning within the journey and ultimately, create legacy.”
Introduced at today’s event was a new foundation and mission, begun by writer/director Randall Wallace (Braveheart, Heaven is for Real, Pearl Harbor, We Were Soliders), to be known as Bravehearts for Batsonâ„¢.
“Though I live in California, I grew up with southern roots,” Wallace said, “Over the last couple of years, I’ve really grown to love Batson. This past year, experiencing first hand the children of Batson that attended the parade, I was touched, having just lost my mother. I felt driven to do something meaningful in her honor. You know, I come from the fine Hollywood tradition that says you let someone else take all the risks and you step in at the end and take the credit,” he joked. “Y’all started this and it’s been the most beautiful thing.”
THE Sweet Potato QueenÂ®, Jill Conner Browne, first met Wallace at a joint book signing a decade ago and the two became fast friends. “He began parading with us for fun and has made this a personal passion,” she said of Wallace’s involvement. “I’m very touched that someone from that far outside of Mississippi can be motivated by such a cause as this.”
Joseph Moss, Mid-Mississippi Division President of BancorpSouth, has renewed their commitment with a generous sponsorship of the 2015 Zippity Doo DahÂ® Parade, to be held March 27-28, 2015. During the ceremony, he helped Wilkirson and Browne unveil the theme, Bravehearts for Batsonâ„¢. This coincides with the release of Wallace’s forthcoming book, Living the Braveheart Life and the 20th anniversary and re-release of “Braveheart.” Wallace will serve as the parade’s grand marshal.
Funds raised next year for Friends of Children’s Hospital will benefit Batson’s cardiac wing through the purchase of Giraffe Omnibeds, used as an all-in-one neonatal care station.