Benson gift makes Children’s Hospital playground a reality

A playground at the Children’s Hospital’s seven-story pediatric expansion will be a reminder of the generosity of two organizations: the Gayle & Tom Benson Charitable Foundation and Sanderson Farms.

The $1 million gift from the foundation to the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, the philanthropic effort to bring the children’s hospital expansion to completion, was made in September. The gift will create the Gayle & Tom Benson Charitable Foundation Playground in honor of Sanderson Farms.

“This gift is just phenomenal,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair of Pediatrics. “Children’s of Mississippi cares about the health and welfare of all of the children in the state, and a big part of children’s health is play. This new playground will give the children who come to our hospital and clinics a space where they can have fun.”

At center, Sanderson Farms CEO and board chairman Joe Sanderson Jr. and Gayle Benson of the Gayle & Tom Benson Charitable Foundation, are surrounded by Children’s of Mississippi patients including, from left, Fred Hood, Deuce Bloodsaw, Blake Stone, Derrick James, Avery Bell, Felton Walker, Tanner Knotts, Tianna Rollins and Anna Benton Coleman.

Gayle Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, said joining Children’s of Mississippi in the organization’s goal of helping all of the state’s children reach their full potential was a choice she was happy to make, noting the “tremendous support from our teams’ fans in Mississippi.”

Benson chose to honor Sanderson Farms in the naming of the playground because of the dedication of its CEO and board chairman Joe Sanderson Jr. “His dedication to the community and especially its children is truly inspiring,” she said.

Friends Board Members gather to celebrate the Benson Foundation gift to Batson. 

She also acknowledged her longtime friends, Sara and Bill Ray, and their impact on Children’s Hospital. Sara served as chairman of the board of Friends of Children’s Hospital for many years.

Sanderson thanked Benson for the gift as well as for her “dedication to the growth and enhancement of the Gulf South region.”

Children’s of Mississippi patients, many of them wearing New Orleans Saints jerseys, were in attendance at the announcement, which included unveiling an architect’s rendering of the playground to be located between the expansion’s outpatient clinic and a new parking garage.

“A playground is everything to a child,” said Megan Bell of Pearl, whose daughter, Avery, is a patient. “This incredible gift will make our hospital more enjoyable for patients and families and will make us feel more at home. We are so grateful for the generosity shown to our children today.”