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135 Years of the Greatest Care and Love

It was the Spring of 1876 when a group of German Sisters first stepped foot in Peoria, Illinois. They’d been sent to beg money for a fledging orphanage they ran in Iowa City. Little did they know that less than six months later, they’d welcome their first patient to a new hospital in Peoria, planting the seeds for one of today’s premiere children’s medical centers. 

The story behind Children’s Hospital of Illinois is a compelling one. It’s a story of compassion and love; of care and generosity; of hope and determination. Ultimately, it’s a story of miracles. In the 135 years that have unfolded since the Sisters’ arrival in Peoria, generations of families have had sons and daughters restored to them. Tiny bodies have been healed. Huge spirits have been renewed. 

So it seems appropriate that we present our story in the context of their stories.  In this piece you’ll learn about little Drew Slack’s victory over a congenital heart condition. You’ll also see the cherished life that Adam Garey has built with a little help from Children’s Hospital of Illinois. In between these compelling tales of healing, you’ll learn about the Sisters whose Mission continues to inspire. You’ll discover a few pioneers whose scientific contributions have saved hundreds of lives. And you’ll meet some of the generous souls who have so unselfishly given their time and money to make Children’s Hospital of Illinois a world-class place of healing for all children in need of medical services.

Highlights from the last 135 years:

  • History Book

    Pre-30s-All of God's Children Deserve Special Care

    In 1876 a small group of Sisters from Germany came to Peoria, Illinois and began caring for the sick out of a small, two-story home. By the 1920s, they had established St. Francis Hospital, the nursery of which overflowed with newborns. In 1920, 365 births were reported. By 1930 that number had grown to 665.

  • History Book

    30s & 40s-A Regional Center for Pediatric Care and Practice

    By 1934, the new pediatrics floor at St. Francis Hospital was in full operation and many other societal and medical developments had begun, laying the groundwork for the formation of a true Children’s Hospital.

  • History Book

    50s-St. Francis Children’s Hospital

    In 1951, doctors repaired the aorta of a 3-month old infant the first heart surgery of its kind in Peoria. The St. Francis Children’s Hospital opened in 1954 boasting 114 pediatric beds, separate pediatric admitting rooms, playrooms, classrooms and accommodations for medical staff.

  • History Book

    60s-Enterprising Spirit Sustains Innovative Growth

    On January 10, 1967, Sister Andre and Pilot J. Cordrey made history by flying a seven-week-premature, three-pound infant born in Zion, IL 160 miles to receive care at St. Francis. The two-hour flight marked what is believed to be the first airlift used by a hospital in the Midwest, possibly in the entire United States.

  • History Book

    70s-Care for The Weakest Advance Care For All

    Upon arrival in 1973, Dr. Tim Miller founded the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It began as an “intensive care nursery” using respirators in addition to current monitoring devices. Being able to place a baby on a respirator was not only vital to his/her survival, but also made surgery on the newborn a possibility.

  • History Book

    80s-An Identity Rediscovered

    By the 1980s the perception of Saint Francis’ pediatric department as a true Children's Hospital had been lost. Then, in 1986, Dr. William Albers recruited Dr. Stephen Bash, a pediatric cardiologist in practice at Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Bash realized the they had the same equipment and level of expertise at Saint Francis that existed in Texas. Thus, Bash and Albers began the quest to establish Children's Hospital of Illinois.
    On March 2, 1987 the Helms quintuplets were successfully delivered-one of only 13 sets of surviving quints in the U.S., making national headlines.

  • History Book

    90s-Children’s Hospital of Illinois-The Hospital Within a Hospital

    In 1990, a $3.1 million renovation of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) increased space nearly 6,000 square feet, and an Intermediate ICU opened for infants needing continuing care. In 1995, Dr. Jeffery Garst performed a landmark reattachment procedure and saved toddler Callie Anderson’s leg after a riding lawn mower accident.

  • History Book

    2000s-A Milestone for Children’s Hospital of Illinois

    In 2002, a revolutionary expansion project that would centralize Children’s Hospital into a single, highly-recognizable building began. Ground was broken on July 12, 2007. Three years later amidst many tears of joy, the ribbon was cut marking the opening of the new eight-floor Children’s Hospital of Illinois and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. From July 9 to 18, 2010, a series of celebratory open houses were attended by more than 12,000 thousand employees, volunteers and members of the general public. All were awe-struck at the extremely advanced and remarkably beautiful new hospital.

  • History Book

    Looking Ahead-The Next Chapter in The Story of Children’s Hospital

    The last 130+ years have created an amazing story for Children’s Hospital of Illinois. Unlike other stories, this one does not have an ending but rather continues and grows in different directions. The next chapter in this story is being written by our entire community of caregivers as they face new challenges.

Story of Children's Hospital of Illinois

History Book | Story Book

Read about the incredible 135 years of serving with the greatest care and love in the full Story of Children’s Hospital of Illinois. YOU are an essential partner in continuing this story...

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