The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on Tuesday announced a $25 million gift from Wawa’s founding Wood family for its center that treats children with birth defects before they are born, sometimes even performing surgery in the womb.
The 25-year-old Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, best known for operating on children with the birth defect spina bifida, will be named in honor of Richard D. Wood Jr., who was on the CHOP board for 16 years through 2005 and whose family has been involved in CHOP since its founding in 1855.
“It’s an extraordinary, historic gift,” said N. Scott Adzick, a pediatric surgeon who started the center in 1995. “This is going to fuel innovation, it’s going to fuel program development, it’s going to fuel research, it’s going to fuel recruitment. We couldn’t be more excited about it.”
The center has performed 2,000 surgeries on unborn children, Adzick said. Families from all 50 states and 70 countries have sought help at the center.
Specific efforts that the Wood family’s gift will support include adding space to the Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit for healthy mothers carrying babies with birth defects, creating a birth defects biorepository, and establishing new endowments for a Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Surgical Science and for Fellowships in Pediatric Surgical Science.
The surgical chair, named for a Wood family member, David W. Wood, who was a pediatric pulmonologist at CHOP from 1953 to 1988, will be endowed with $5 million that will provide $250,000 a year to pay for research and program development, Adzick said.
An additional $4.5 million of the $25 million gift will support the three research fellowships for doctors still in training to become pediatric surgical scientists, Adzick said. They will be named in honor of George Bacon Wood, a prominent 19th-century physician who was among the signers of CHOP’s articles of incorporation.
CHOP’s close ties to Wawa remain. The hospital’s chairman is Christopher Gheysens, Wawa’s chief executive.
The Wood donation will also speed research in cellular and gene therapy to treat disorders before birth. “That’s not ready for prime time clinically, but that is going to be dazzling because it can affect hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of families and patients,” Adzick said.
The money will also help pay for a birth defects biorepository, which in connection with the Garbose delivery unit will do complete genomes on mothers, fathers, and babies “so that we can unravel the genetic basis of the various defects that we treat,” Adzick said.
As a top children’s hospital, CHOP has a history of receiving large gifts that help build its already large $2.6 billion endowment and pay for new buildings and programs.
Between 2013 and 2016, CHOP announced a trio of large gifts: A $50 million donation spearheaded by board member Reid Buerger helped pay for the Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care, an outpatient center on CHOP’s University City campus that opened in 2015.
That same year, CHOP announced a $50 million gift from the late Philadelphia philanthropist Raymond G. Perelman to support a Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics, Perelman Scholars, a Fund for Research Innovation, the Perelman Endowed Chair in Pediatric Ophthalmology, and general research. CHOP also renamed an eight-acre portion of its campus in his honor.
That was followed in 2016 by a $25 million gift from the Robertses, the founding family of Comcast Corp., part of a $50 million effort to help CHOP become a leader in pediatric genetics research and development.