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Cutting a Ribbon with Tom Brokaw

As you know, the Duke Children's Hospital has more or less become the "official charity" of the DBR. Thanks to you, we've raised over $14,000 from the auctions we've had on this site, and we'll be having more auctions in the near future. Because of that, we were privileged to have been among the invited guests to attend the dedication of the new McGovern-Davison building that will house the Children's Hospital.

It truly is a magnificent building. Adjoining Duke Hospital North, it is a $35 million facility that houses a wide-range of departments such as cardiology, genetics, pulmonary, neonatology, neurology, oncology, and allergy, among others. Because Duke is not publicly funded, all the proceeds had to be raised privately. (We especially want to commend Steve Rum, who as executive director for development, has done an absolutely stellar job in raising the funds.)

The Children's Hospital serves ill children from around the world and from all socioeconomic levels. Indeed, over 60% of the children who go to Duke have no health insurance or are on Medicaid.

The first impression you get when you walk into the hospital and are in the midst of its four-story atrium is how colorful and even joyful it is. A large - make that huge - aquarium greets you. Above your head are colorful feathers arranged in circles. On each floor are lounges and play areas for the kids, such as "Jeff Burton's Race Zone." Water fountains are dressed as people, a Duke basketball jersey on one, a NASCAR uniform on another. The fourth floor houses the Jim Valvano Day Hospital. Outside is a garden and playground that features "K's Court," a small basketball court donated by the Krzyzewski family.

At the dedication ceremonies, Mike and Mickie Krzyzewski spoke first. Coach K was his usual weirdly comedic self. He saw Mike Gminiski in the audience (actually, how could he miss him?) and said, "I never got the chance to coach Mike. He left right before I came. I ended up coaching a Polish midget instead of a Polish giant." Throughout the event, Coach K was absolutely beaming. Looking up at all of the people on the different levels of the hospital who were watching the ceremonies, he reflected on what Jim Valvano, who passed away just a short distance from were Coach K stood, had told him, "You never become whole until you become a part of something bigger than yourself. Today, we've become whole."

Tom Brokaw of the NBC Nightly News was the keynote speaker. He's obviously a huge Duke fan, lavished praise on Coach K and Duke, and spoke of "that magnificent evening in Minneapolis" when he saw Duke win a consecutive national championship. Brokaw, whose daughter, Sarah, went to school with Debbie Krzyzewski, said that he had become very good friends with Michael Jordan over the past few years. When he saw Jordan recently, Jordan said to him, "Tom, I know you're going down to Duke to speak in a few weeks. Why don't you also speak over at Carolina?" Brokaw said he replied, "Michael, if I did that, I'd have to change my speaking style. I've have to speak much more slowly and use smaller words."

In his keynote speech, Brokaw, in his trademark baritone voice, gave a moving, almost lyrical, recitation of how Duke Children's Hospital is answering the most immediate need of our nation. As he said, "The very least that we can do is to take care of our children. And you begin to take care of them by taking care of their health." Speaking of the wondrous advances of technology, he said, "It is not enough to wire the world, if you shortcut the soul. It is not enough to have the miracle of medicine, if you fail to deliver it to all the children."

Brokaw, who like Coach K is the father of three daughters, spoke of how he held his granddaughter in his arms for the first time and said, "Claire, you've just won the lottery. You've been born in a wonderful country full of freedom and opportunity. You are financial secure. You have a whole family who loves you and will care for you." He noted how so many of the children that Duke strives to heal do not have that advantage and how Duke is doing its best to become that family to care for them.

At the end a long red ribbon was stretched throughout the audience. We all received a pair of scissors, and along with Brokaw, the Krzyzewskis, Jeff Burton, Jeff Foxworthy, and many others, we cut the ribbon to symbolize the official opening and dedication of the hospital.

Thanks to each of you who have participated in the auction or in sending a donation to the hospital directly for making it all possible.