September

New Friends of Children's Hospital board chair Sidney Allen is flanked by outgoing chair Sara Ray, left, and the nonprofit's first chair, Suzan Thames.
New Friends of Children's Hospital board chair Sidney Allen is flanked by outgoing chair Sara Ray, left, and the nonprofit's first chair, Suzan Thames.

Tradition of strong Friends leadership continues with new board chair

Published on Monday, September 18, 2017

Media Contact: Annie Oeth

Celebrating past successes and planning for the future, Friends of Children’s Hospital announced a change of leadership, from outgoing board chair Sara Ray to Sidney Allen.

Allen, who brings with him a wealth of financial experience, thanked Ray for her service during Friends’ annual meeting Tuesday at the Norman C. Nelson Student Union at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“We appreciate Sara,” said Allen, “and while she is no longer chair, she will still be involved in Friends of Children’s Hospital.”

Allen is the fourth board chair of the nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for Batson Children’s Hospital, following Ray, Suzan Thames, and Warren Hood Jr. The organization was started in 1989.

“Being involved in this organization has been a gift to me,” said Ray. “I love Friends of Children’s Hospital, and appreciate the opportunity to serve as chair and be associated with such a great group of people.”

The Friends of Children's Hospital Board of Directors includes, front, from left, Scott Overby, Ray, Melanie Morgan; second row, Brenda Hayes Williams, Katie McRae, Thames; third row, Kristin Allen, Allen, John Scarbrough, Dr. Bob Abney, Rob Armour; fourth row, Josh Swain, Fidelis Malembeka, Joey Havens, Bill Hulsey; fifth row, David Spurk, Jill Dale, Natalie Hutto, Lindsay Hamm, Susan Shands Jones and Bruce Leach.
The Friends of Children's Hospital Board of Directors includes, front row from left, Scott Overby, Sara Ray and Melanie Morgan; second row from left, Brenda Hayes Williams, Katie McRae and Suzan Thames; third row from left, Kristin Allen, Sidney Allen, John Scarbrough, Dr. Bob Abney and Rob Armour; fourth row from left, Josh Swain, Fidelis Malembeka, Joey Havens and Bill Hulsey; and fifth row from left, David Spurk, Jill Dale, Natalie Hutto, Lindsay Hamm, Susan Shands Jones and Bruce Leach.

Allen, a Greenwood native and alumnus of the University of Mississippi, is chief financial officer of CLAW Forestry Services, CFO and manager of Southeastern Timber Products and vice president of Van Farms, a developer of apartment and condominium properties.

Ray, a former cardiovascular surgery nurse and graduate of Mississippi University for Women, became involved in Friends in 2004, becoming president the next year, and then chair in 2006. During her tenure, Friends of Children’s Hospital’s philanthropic efforts hit its stride, raising increasing funds for the state’s only children’s hospital.

A July 2004 visit to Batson Children’s Hospital by football greats Archie and Eli Manning was the impetus for a five-year commitment to “An Evening with the Mannings presented by BankPlus.” The events raised $3 million to fund construction of the Eli Manning Children’s Clinics, completed in 2009.

During her years as chair, Friends of Children’s Hospital also raised $1.7 million for the renovation and expansion of the children’s emergency department, contributed nearly $2 million to fund pediatric academic chairs and gave $2 million towards the Children’s Heart Center all while continuing to support Child Life, Children’s Hospital School, HUGS grief support and in-room entertainment systems for the patients. During this period of growth, establishing a Friends office beyond the 120 square feet UMMC had provided became a necessity. Ray led the transition during the organization’s relocation to Flowood in 2014.  

In August 2016, Friends of Children’s Hospital pledged $20 million over the next 10 years to the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, a $100 million fund drive to expand and update pediatric care facilities at the Medical Center.

“We are dedicated to reaching this goal,” said Allen, “because we are devoted to Mississippi’s future, our children, and their health.”

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, thanks Friends of Children’s Hospital board chair Sara Ray for the nonprofit group’s $20 million pledge to the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi in August 2016.
In this August 2016 photo, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs, thanks Sara Ray, then-Friends of Children’s Hospital board chair, for the nonprofit group’s $20 million pledge to the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi.

Children’s of Mississippi is the umbrella organization that includes Batson Children’s Hospital and all UMMC pediatric care, including clinics offering specialty care around the state.

The funds raised in the campaign will help the Medical Center expand and update its space dedicated for pediatric care including an expanded and renovated neonatal intensive care unit, more rooms for the pediatric intensive care unit, more operating rooms and the creation of an imaging clinic especially for pediatric patients. A new pediatric clinic will make care for outpatients more convenient and comfortable for families. Expansion of the Children’s Heart Center is also on the drawing board.

“Friends of Children’s Hospital raised the first $175,000 toward the construction of Batson Children’s Hospital,” said Children’s of Mississippi CEO Guy Giesecke, “and their impact on the health of children in this state has been enormous ever since. We are so grateful for Sara Ray’s efforts as board chair, and we are looking forward to Sidney Allen and the expertise he will bring to this vital leadership position.”