Who knew that the medical facility that Beth Heavener helped earn a few dollars to help open would, decades later, give back to her by helping keep her husband alive?
Welcome to the full circle that keeps happening at St. Cloud Regional Medical Center, which is in the midst of an expansion right now.
The new 50,000 square-foot space, fronting Budinger Avenue, will house medical offices, lab and imaging facilities and a primary care clinic.
Funding has been secured and the buildings are being constructed, but it wasn’t as easy more than 50 years ago when the original hospital was built.
Let’s take a trip back in time. St. Cloud was a town of 4,500 people, and it didn’t have a primary care hospital; those who needed hospital services had to travel to Kissimmee or into Orlando to what has become Orlando Regional Medical Center.
But around 1960, plans for St. Cloud’s own hospital began to take shape. The Budinger family donated land for one, and the community began to raise funds for the initial construction.
On a side note, during the summer of 1960, Heavener, then a pre-teen, and her friends were looking for something to do with school out. Her mother suggested they “do something productive”, so they decided to raise money for a cause, which they later chose to be the new hospital.
They sold popcorn and Kool-Aid at a stand for five cents, and took in small donated items and trinkets and sold them, and one of Heavener’s other friends served as a “fortune teller”. By the end of the summer they’d raised $25, which they presented to the city of St. Cloud to go toward the
“This was a big deal to a lot of people. We really needed a hospital here,” Heavener said. “We were very proud of what we’d done. At one time there was a plaque commemorating it.
The hospital eventually opened in 1964, and little by little expanded to the facility the city has today.
And here’s where the “circle of life” circles back. Heavener and her family have come to St. Cloud Regional Medical Center many times for care. The most important trip came two months ago, as the family readied their house for Hurricane Dorian. Her husband Norman began feeling ill, and after hurrying to the St. Cloud Regional emergency room the diagnosis came quickly: he was having a heart attack.
“We were met at the front door, and within five minutes there were doctors and nurses all around him in the cardiac unit,” Beth said. “They were saving his life.
“We got excellent care. It makes you proud to have this hospital in our town.”
Hospital CEO Brent Burish wasn’t around back in the ’60s, but knows that acts like Heavener and her friends did in the past helped make the present possible.
“We’re flattered and overwhelmed that kids took time out of their summer to do what they did,” he said. “We appreciate them taking the time and initiative to do it.”
And now, the future is rising out of the dirt with the new expansion, “We strive to be the right care, the right facility at the right time,” Burish said.