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Benefis Health System Foundation: 20 Years of Generosity

On April 1, 1998, the Columbus Gift of Life Foundation and the Montana Deaconess Medical Center Foundation boards merged, becoming the Benefis Health System Foundation.

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Benefis Foundation and your generosity over the past two decades, we look back proudly on these remarkable accomplishments:

  • When Benefis Foundation was established in 1998, it had assets totaling $5.9 million.
  • In 2018, the Foundation’s assets reached over $35 million.
  • Between 1998-2018, we raised more than $45 million and allocated more than $39 million.
  • In that same time period, more than 20,000 different donors made contributions to support the programs, projects, and funds that address the greatest healthcare needs at Benefis and in our community.

Your gifts have made an extraordinary impact on the health and well-being of countless lives. We are fortunate to have compassionate donors like you, who continually give to Benefis Foundation so that others may heal.

Celebrating Major Milestones

1998 – Williams-Ario Emergency Center 

Two prominent Great Falls couples, Carter and Judy Birch Williams and Keith and Olive Ario, each donated more than $600,000 toward the construction of the Benefis Emergency Center. When it first opened, the Williams-Ario Regional Emergency & Trauma Center served approximately 24,000 patients per year. By 2018, vital emergency care was being provided to nearly 34,000 patients each year.

2000 – Inaugural Mayfaire

Benefis Foundation’s first annual signature fundraiser event, Mayfaire, made its debut in 2000. Over the next 19 years, Mayfaire would go on to raise more than $4 million for improvements and special services that benefit northcentral Montana.

2001 – Benefis Peace Hospice Facilities

The Foundation received an anonymous gift of $7.1 million to build the Benefis Peace Hospice Residential Facility, the nearby Peace Hospice administration building, and to create a permanent endowment to ensure the future of the program. Benefis Peace Hospice offers a compassionate environment for terminal patients and their families. Our generous donors ensure that hospice patients receive devoted, high-quality care during their final days.

2002 – The Healthcare Scholarship Program

Following the generous lead of the Darlene Glantz Skees Memorial Nursing Scholarship established back in 1998, our Healthcare Scholarship Program has awarded $1.18 million in scholarships to over 600 students.

2005 –The Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute (SCI)

In December of 2005, the region’s first free-standing, comprehensive cancer care center opened its doors thanks to $8.8 million of donor-raised construction funds. The Sletten Companies and their employees gave $1.3 million; $2 million came from the Ray & Helen Fretz bequest. Thanks to the thousands of donors, more than 10,000 cancer patients have received care.

2006 – The East Campus Gift of Life Housing Center

Gift of Life Housing has offered free lodging to Benefis patients who live outside Great Falls for decades. In 2006, we were able to build the East Campus Gift of Life Housing Center directly behind Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute. Combined with the West Gift of Life Housing Center, we offer 22 apartments, six short-stay rooms, and 14 RV spaces to Benefis patients year-round, completely free of charge.

2008 – Darcy’s Hope Teen Retreat

In 2008, we held our first retreat for grieving teenagers. Camp Francis – which is offered to grieving children ages 7 to 12 – and Darcy’s Hope are just two services offered by the Benefis Peace Hospice Children’s Bereavement Program to help children learn how to cope with the loss of a loved one, all at no cost to families.

2009 – South Tower

Donors gave $3.5 million toward the construction of the seven-story South Tower on Benefis East Campus. With this expansion, Benefis fulfilled its number one request from patients: spacious, all-private rooms. And all 99 rooms feature spectacular views of Great Falls. The 252,000 square-foot South Tower provides state-of-the-art space for the Benefis Heart and Vascular Institute, Radiology Department, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and Labor and Delivery Department.

2013 – Peace Hospice Residential Facility Expansion

The expansion of the Peace Hospice Residential Facility was completely funded by donations:  $1.57 million. The facility added eight inpatient rooms along with an elevator for basement access.

2015 – Benefis Eastview Memory Care Unit

Donors contributed more than $800,000 to remodel the Benefis Memory Care Unit.  Benefis Eastview was specifically designed for residents suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. It includes 32 private rooms and special features to enhance quality of life for our residents, such as the large activities room and a calming tranquility room.

2018 – Emergency Department Expansion

Generous donors contributed $2.5 million to the $12.5 million expansion of our Emergency Department, helping to ensure the future of world-class, lifesaving care for years to come. When complete, the new Benefis ED will feature high-tech equipment and the flexibility to accommodate future technological advancements. And at more than 38,000 square feet, it will be the largest emergency department in the state of Montana, delivering more efficient, patient-friendly care with shorter wait times.