by Max Brantley
Sharon and John Hardin Bale Jr. will give $1 million to support the fetal heart program at Arkansas Children's Hospital and it will be named in their honor.
Sharon and John “Johnny” Hardin Bale, Jr, owners of Bale Automotive Group in Little Rock, announced today they are committing $1 million to support the fetal heart program at Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH), which will be named in their honor.
The Bale Family Fetal Heart Center, a collaboration between pediatric cardiologists at ACH and the obstetrics/gynecology department at UAMS, diagnoses and cares for fetuses with cardiac conditions. The goal of the Fetal Heart Center is to directly and positively impact the morbidity and mortality of infants with heart disease in Arkansas.
Four generations of Bale family members have served ACH, carrying on a legacy of civic responsibility and philanthropic generosity. However, it was not until the first fifth generation Bale was born that the family transitioned “from the road of duty to the highway of passion” as Johnny describes it. The Bale’s first grandson, John Hardin Bale IV, received treatment at ACH for a congenital heart defect and other health issues.
“Because of the Bale family's four generations of service since 1927 to Arkansas Children's Hospital and now our personal experiences at ACH, we know first-hand the miraculous work of all the physicians and caregivers,” said Johnny Bale. “One program that would certainly have benefited our grandson was organized by Dr. Renee Bornemeier. It is a fetal heart program that will enable the diagnosis of heart conditions before children are born. With this knowledge, the doctors and clinical teams will be in place to treat these conditions immediately upon birth. This program also moves our knowledge and science forward and gives the possibility to intervene in-utero, to avoid life-threatening heart defects. The fetal heart program will prevent another parent or grandparent from walking in our shoes and that will be glorious! We believe in Dr. Renee Bornemeier and all the physicians and caregivers of Arkansas Children's Hospital.”
The $1 million gift from the Bales will support the Century of Possibility Centennial Campaign to benefit ACH, which Sharon announced at the hospital’s Centennial Celebration on March 5. Through the fundraising campaign, the hospital has set a goal to raise $160 million to support pediatric care, research, education and prevention, and has already raised $100 million.
“We are deeply grateful to the Bales for making this wonderful gift,” said Dr. Jon Bates, president and CEO of ACH. “Being able to diagnose congenital heart problems before birth means families are prepared for the challenges and actions needed when their child is born and we are prepared to have the right medical care at hand.”
In addition to diagnosing cardiac conditions while in-utero, the Bale Family Fetal Heart Center provides families with resources to educate them and help them be more knowledgeable advocates for their child. The Center also provides education and training about fetal sonography and associated activities to local obstetricians and family practice physicians to improve their ability to scan and identify abnormal appearing fetal hearts. In addition, the Center offers in-office physician-to-physician assistance with fetal cardiac scanning as requested.
“Heart defects are some of the most common birth defects we encounter,” said Dr. Renee Bornemeier, director of the Bale Fetal Heart Center. “Being able to identify heart defects before birth and plan for the delivery and care of that unborn baby, offers those children and their families the best chance for a positive outcome. We are truly blessed to have families in this state, like the Bales. They have shown their dedication and devotion to helping us improve the detection and care of these unborn patients. They are people who are making possibilities become realities for our future children. Words cannot express the deep gratitude I have for the entire Bale family and the opportunity this gift brings.”
The first member of the Bale family to support ACH was Hardin Bale, who started the family car business in 1912. Since that time, each generation of the Bale family has served ACH through board service and community leadership.
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Johnny began serving on the ACH board in 1974 and continues his service today. He was chairman of the board from 2000-2003, served a year on the ACH Research Institute board and six on the ACH Foundation board. Hardin Bale served on the board from 1927-1948; John Hardin Bale, Sr. served from 1948-1972.
Sharon has been active in the ACH Auxiliary for years and in 2009 was elected to serve on the ACH Foundation board. The Bales’ sons, Hardin and Hunter, are ACH volunteers and members of Children’s Circle of Care. Hunter also serves on the ACH Building and Grounds Committee.