Mollie Tibbetts' family establishes memorial fund at UI Children's Hospital

Donations to family's fund bolster hospital fundraising efforts

Mollie Tibbetts (Submitted photo)
Mollie Tibbetts (Submitted photo)

IOWA CITY — A memorial fund in the name of slain University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts will bolster an aggressive fundraising campaign to help construct the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and run programs in it.

Tibbetts’ family members established the fund to benefit child and adolescent psychiatry at the hospital. As of Monday, more than 270 people had given more than $29,500 and donations still can be made to the fund.

The fund is earmarked specifically for psychiatric services, and so is kept separate from donations for other hospital services and the facility’s new 14-story building — which have slowed since their peak in 2016.

An $8,500 chunk of the Tibbetts memorial fund was collected over the weekend as part of a 5-mile “Mollie Tibbetts Memorial Run” in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa, where the 20-year-old was jogging the night she disappeared.

Her July 18 disappearance sparked weeks of searching until, authorities said, a 24-year-old suspect led police to her body. Cristhian Bahena Rivera faces a first-degree murder charge in her killing, police announced Aug. 21.

The gift to pediatric psychology is fitting as Tibbetts was “pursuing her dream of becoming a child psychologist at the UI,” according to her mother, Laura Calderwood. In a statement, Calderwood thanked those who have given to the growing fund.

“She was incredibly generous in her life, so it is fitting that her name will live on by benefiting others,” she said.


The $29,500 donation boosts total giving to the Children’s Hospital, which has declined following a heavy fundraising campaign for the new $360-plus million facility.

Total giving since 2010 to the Children’s Hospital, including deferred gifts, peaked in 2012 when it reached $29.2 million, according to hospital annual reports. The Children’s Hospital went for several years reporting “highly successful” giving productivity in the 20s of millions — from 2011 to 2014 and also in 2016 — before slowing to $14.3 million in the 2017 budget, the most recent numbers available.

Giving specifically to the new hospital building also has slowed since the 2016 budget year. The facility was to open that year, but delays pushed it to February 2017.

Fundraising for a new hospital building began with $25,000 in donations in the 2010 budget year, according to the UI Center for Advancement.

It accelerated to $3.6 million in the 2012 budget year, when UI revised its building design and budget, according to the center. In the 2013 budget year, when construction began, it spiked to $6.1 million and then to $6.4 million in 2014 before nearly doubling again to $11.3 million in the 2015 budget year.

Fundraising for the building construction peaked at $14.1 million in the 2016 budget year, when the project originally was slated to finish.

Documents obtained by The Gazette show internal turmoil at that time among contractors, construction managers, and UI Hospital and Clinics executives roiled the project amid a flurry of design changes.

After a delay in its planned opening, the Children’s Hospital welcomed its first patients in February 2017, in a budget year that saw donations drop to $9.4 million.

That arc in giving aligns with the construction schedule. But UI cost commitments on the Children’s Hospital construction show it currently is nearly $10 million over budget at $369.8 million, according to the most recent numbers provided in late June.

The UI is fighting two contractors in court over tens of millions both say they’re still owed.

Despite criticism for management of its construction, the hospital has received widespread attention since its opening for the “wave” — when fans and football players in the adjacent Kinnick Stadium wave the to young patients after the first quarter of home Hawkeye games.

In conjunction with the wave, UI Health Care solicits donations for the hospital on the Kinnick jumbotron. Total Children’s Hospital donations for the 2018 budget year, which ended June 30, were not available.

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