The Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville is a long way from the brink of extinction it faced just six years ago as the nation was plunged into a recession that took many other companies down.
Today, patient volumes are up, its budget is sound, and it’s growing services in and around South Carolina. In fact, officials boast that it’s one of the largest pediatric orthopedic practices in the Carolinas.
But in 2009, its future was anything but certain as the fraternal organization that ran it saw its endowment plummet during the worst economic downturn in modern history.
“We are kind of 180 degrees from where we were,” administrator Randy Romberger said at a recent hospital event marking the milestone.
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“With the support of the community, and our corporate folks too – we were able to get some resources that were cut during the lean times of the demise of the stock market,” he said, “we have really been doing well.”
The Shriners hospital has been a part of the community for more than eight decades, treating children from North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Alabama and South Carolina who have cerebral palsy, club foot, spinal abnormalities and other orthopedic conditions regardless of ability to pay.
But six years ago, the Shriners faced an operating deficit when their endowment tumbled from $8 billion to $5 billion, leaving them searching for ways to cut costs, such as closing six hospitals, including the one in Greenville.
At the time, worried families didn’t know where they would turn for their children’s care if the hospital closed. And Shriners staff thought they’d be looking for new jobs.
But the community came to the rescue. Through yard sales, concerts, car shows, karaoke contests and golf tournaments, they worked to raise money to keep the hospital open.
And in the end, the Shriners decided they were right.
That was welcome news to Logan Hopper, who has been getting care at Shriners for cerebral palsy since she was 2.
Now a bright 18-year-old Blacksburg High School graduate about to start college with sights on a career helping children with special needs, she was in sixth grade when the hospital faced the financial crisis.
“I’d just had surgery done here,” she said, recalling her fears that the hospital might close. “I don’t know what I would do without them.”