Ten years ago, 6-year-old Antonio Salazar arrived at the Davenport home of David and Barbara Aldape.
The youngster had cerebral palsy and an uncontrolled seizure disorder. The Aldapes, who already had raised four children, offered respite care as part of Iowa's foster care system.
But the little boy's initial stay of one month turned into 10 years, and his health has improved greatly with the help of the medical professionals at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital in Iowa City.
This week, Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz and his wife, Mary, will headline an invitation-only program in Davenport on behalf of the Care for Kids program. Funds raised at the Thursday event will help support construction of the $292 million hospital, which is scheduled for completion in March 2016.
A room on one of the upper floors of the new structure will be dedicated in honor of the Care for Kids organization, but details about the room are not yet available.
Sophomore at Central
Antonio is one of the thousands of children from the Quad-Cities who have been treated for a serious illness at the hospital.
In fact, more than 5,261 area children were treated at the Children's Hospital in 2013, according to the hospital's statistics. Those children accounted for more than 727 inpatient admissions and 18,330 outpatient visits.
The Aldape family credits the hospitals, and its specialists, with saving Antonio's life and helping to greatly improve his quality of life. He has had many medical appointments, made numerous visits to the emergency department and been transferred by helicopter to Iowa City. He also has undergone two brain surgeries.
But these days, he is a 16-year-old sophomore at Davenport Central High School. He competes in track and field events for the Special Olympics and is on the school's junior varsity bowling team.
Barbara and David Aldape will speak at the Care for Kids event, and Antonio has agreed to say a few words as well.
Held here every year
The Davenport event is a bit unusual for a University of Iowa Children's Hospital fundraiser in that it's held in the city every year, said Jim Tank, one of the organizers and a table captain this year.
Tank got involved with the Care for Kids fundraiser after his great-niece was treated at the hospital. The little girl died of an inoperable brain tumor, but that experience provided Tank, a longtime sports fan, with his introduction to the children's medical facilities on the Iowa City campus.
"As the years have gone by, we've seen more and more reasons why this event is so important," he said. "Many families in this area are affected by the specialized care offered at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital."
In addition to the care provided in Iowa City, families such as the Aldapes use the Children's Hospital Outreach Clinic, which is located in Bettendorf. That clinic treated 1,019 pediatric patients in 2013. Barbara Aldape said that having the clinic close to home has reduced travel time for Antonio's follow-up care.
The new Children's Hospital will consolidate services that now are spread throughout the hospital complex. It is being built next to the east side of Kinnick Stadium.