Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and his wife, Jill, announced a $3 million donation to the University of Maryland Children's Hospital Nov. 4.
The gift is the largest ever from a Baltimore sports figure to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The money will allow the hospital to construct a state-of-the-art pediatric hybrid catheterization and operating room. The donation will upgrade the hospital's children's heart program and expand the reach of that program.
"A decision was made 10 years ago that we needed a children's heart program here," said Dr. Steven J. Czinn, professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine. "There were too many kids leaving the state for care with congenital heart disease. We had a dream, we had a vision.
"It's been a long journey. But we now have a nationally-ranked children's heart program. We are saving lives every day. We are saving lives for children in Baltimore, in the state of Maryland, and even beyond. And with this gift, we are going to go to the next level."
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A big motivator behind the donation was Chris and Jill's 1-year-old daughter, Evelyn. Doctors found a heart defect in Evelyn when Jill was 22 weeks pregnant. The issue is now resolved and she's healthy, but that experience provided the Davises important perspective as to what the cardiovascular patients and their families go through.
In Evelyn's honor, Chris and Jill named the space The Evelyn Kay Davis Congenital Hybrid Catheterization Suite.
"She was obviously way too young to know what she was going through at the time," Chris said, "but as she gets older, this is a way for us to kind of show [her], 'Hey, you had this when you were younger, and now this is why we do this.'"
The couple didn't realize going into this process they'd be able to name the space, but they said it was an ideal situation to honor their daughter. Their only reservations about that decision were how their two other daughters, Ella and Dorothy, would react.
"We decided they're going to understand why we did what we did," Jill said, "and we're hoping in the future maybe there will be other opportunities to do stuff in honor of our other daughters, too."
The couple decided to make this donation during the Major League Baseball All-Star break this past summer. They visited the hospital during the break on short notice, and the hospital was accommodating. In touring the facility, they became aware of the need for an upgraded hybrid operating room. They decided in the car ride back from the visit that they would help make it happen.
"We were looking to do something on a little bit bigger scale than we've done in the past," Chris said. "Something to bring a little bit more awareness to the cardiovascular program, and also something that would really impact the community and the people that are coming to the hospital day in and day out. And this kind of fell in our lap."
Chris has three years remaining on the seven-year contract he signed with the Orioles as a free agent ahead of the 2016 season. While he usually takes a break in October before starting his offseason regimen, he said he used the end of the regular season as his break to get a head start on his offseason workouts. He'll progress to the next stage of those workouts soon.
"The next few weeks, he's going to start hitting," Jill said. "He starts working out, and then he starts working out and running, and then he starts working out, running and hitting. And so it's about to be all three, on top of some other things we have planned. So it's going to be busy."
Photo Credit: Seth Tow/PressBox