For Bill, Jeff and Jennifer Gross, giving is a family affair. Together, they founded the William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation, which has dedicated $7 million to elevate care for the smallest and most fragile babies at CHOC.
About seeing his son and daughter build upon his legacy of giving, Bill says: “Oh, it’s everything. My children will continue the journey.”
That journey at CHOC began with a tour of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and its unique small baby unit (SBU). The NICU underwent renovations in 2017 that tripled its size to 36 patient rooms. It features surgical suites, private patient rooms and the latest life support technology. Different from a traditional NICU, the SBU is specially designed for infants born at less than 28 weeks gestation and is the only facility of its kind anywhere. Since its establishment in 2010, the SBU’s growing reputation for excellence has resulted in more referrals than CHOC can accept with the existing facility’s capacity.
On their tour, the family saw the NICU’s ongoing needs as well as how the SBU had outgrown its limited space. Each family member had a visceral reaction to observing the newborns under treatment: “Just seeing them evokes tears,” Bill says. “It elicits the desire to help in many ways.” Jeff’s wife, Jenny, cried in the first three minutes, and Jeff had difficulty seeing the newborns connected to life support machines. They concluded: “After taking that tour, it just seemed natural that we give to CHOC.”
The Gross family’s transformational gift will allow CHOC to create an environment that respects and supports the physiologic needs of the baby to grow and develop after being born prematurely. It will also give parents an opportunity to form strong relationships with other families sharing similar experiences. And perhaps most importantly, it will offer SBU families private patient rooms, which encourage the critically important bonding between mother and baby.
“It was a natural fit for us,” Jenny says, “because we are parents ourselves. To think you can make a donation that could help a child survive and go on to live a long, healthy life is very touching.”
In the end, the gift is about one family’s heart for supporting other families. “CHOC changes many lives every day and is truly a world-class children’s hospital,” Jeff says. “We’re just honored to be a part of it.”