Businessman and philanthropist Tom Golisano wasn't inside the big white tent on 10th Street Thursday morning.
But those who were praised his vision and his heart.
"Tom Golisano is widely known as a tough and successful businessman," Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center President and CEO Joseph Ruffolo said. "But inside that tough shell is a huge heart."
A heart huge enough to put up $3.5 million toward the construction of Memorial's new, $7 million Golisano Center for Community Health. The donation, from the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, is the largest in the medical center's history.
"We are transforming from a city hospital to a community center for health," Ruffolo said. “Niagara Falls Memorial and Western New York are blessed to have benefactors such as Tom Golisano, Ann Costello and the Golisano Foundation. Their generosity and their commitment to our community are nothing short of inspirational.”
The two-story, 26,000-square-foot building will provide comprehensive integrated health care services to adults with special needs, and their families, ensuring that people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are not excluded from health care systems within their communities.
"People with intellectual and developmental disabilities shouldn't have to go to Buffalo or Rochester for care," Ruffolo said. “The faith (Golisano and other benefactors) have shown in us will immeasurably improve the health status of many people who have special needs and who will never again have to worry about falling through the cracks.”
The center, which opened in mid-May, was officially dedicated at the Thursday ceremony. Memorial officials called it "the only outpatient center of its kind in Western New York and one of the very few in the United States."
"For years, the Golisano Foundation has been working to bring inclusive healthcare to Niagara Falls and other communities around the world," Ann Costello, the director of the Golisano Foundation, said. "You (Memorial Medical Center) get it and you do it and it's easy for us to support you."
Costello said Golisano, who has a son with intellectual disabilities, was sorry he couldn't attend the dedication of the center that bears his name and said he was "honored that (the medical center) has chosen to name the center for him and his family."
"Joe (Ruffolo) and the board (of the medical center) don't just believe in people with disabilities, they act on behalf of people with disabilities," Costello said. "They are a model for other communities."
The center houses a variety of services and programs including primary care, health home care management and care coordination services, health insurance enrollment, community outreach, housing assistance, social service supports and more.
It also houses Rivershore Inc., an affiliate of People Inc., the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara and a learning hub that will offer internships and other workforce development opportunities in emerging healthcare fields such as care coordination, navigation and care management.
"It is a dream come true for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities," said Memorial Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Sheila Kee. "It is a place that will make you smile."
In addition to the Golisano Foundation gift, the project was also supported by major gifts from the John R. Oishei Foundation and Independent Health.
The new center is located next door to Memorial’s ER1 Emergency Department and the Heart Center of Niagara.
“Twenty-one months ago we outlined a vision for a center unlike any other, anywhere,” Ruffolo said. “A center that would provide integrated health care services including specialized dental and behavioral health care to adults with special needs and their families, one that would break down barriers to care and help people, all people, live with dignity. A center that also would be an economic engine, a research site, a learning hub and a center for workforce development, creating new jobs and teaching care providers specialized skills. At the Golisano Center for Community Health we are living into that vision.”