The group that hosts the Waste Management Phoenix Open announced Tuesday it would donate more than $10 million to Arizona charities in the next year — the largest charitable contribution in its 80-year history.
The Thunderbirds, as the group is known, raised $10.1 million during its most recent tournament, which drew a record 655,000 attendees in February, according to Waste Management.
Last year's $9.4 million was the previous record.
The Thunderbirds made the announcement at Phoenix Children's Hospital, where past contributions helped the hospital open a new emergency department.
While the tournament dates to 1932, the Thunderbirds weren't founded until 1937. The Thunderbirds have raised more than $122 million since then, said Andy Markham, the organization's president.
"Everything we net goes back to the community," he said, adding that the contributions dramatically increased once Waste Management became the tournament's title sponsor in 2008.
Markham said the Thunderbirds' 12-person charity board will take the next year to review requests for the $10 million and select how much to give to each charity.
The money is given out twice a year. In addition, the Thunderbirds donate money monthly to youth sports leagues around the state, said Markham, a former Montreal Expos player and Scottsdale Community College alumnus.
"The Thunderbirds were founded with the motto, 'Promote the Valley of the Sun through sports,' " he said.
Applicants can visit https://thunderbirdscharities.org/grant-information or call 602-870-0163 to begin the process.
Phoenix Children's Hospital ER expansion
Phoenix Children's Hospital unveiled a new trauma center and emergency department that will open to the public on Sept. 20, 2017. Improvements include five new trauma bays. Physicians and nurses hold a simulation in one on Sept. 8, 2017. (Photo: Marcella Baietto/The Republic)
Tuesday's announcement came in the lobby of Phoenix Children's Hospital's new emergency department building, which will open the state's only American College of Surgeons-verified Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center on Sept. 20.
The Thunderbirds donated $500,000 this year to help build the $40 million facility, said Steve Schnall, PCH Foundation senior vice president and chief development officer.
Schnall said the new resources are important because the hospital is the sixth-largest children's hospital in the U.S.
"We're going to be able to see more kids and treat more kids who need our help," he said. "Every great city has a great children's hospital."
Dr. Toni Gross, associate director of the emergency room, said the new facility will double the hospital's number of resuscitation bays — equipment that she said is in dire need.
Patients who are victims of near drowning, septic shock or other injuries that render them unconscious can be resuscitated in these bays. The hospital currently has four and will open four more on Sept. 20.
"We use these bays every day," she said. "There are times when we have more patients than stations."
Gross said hospital staffs often have to play catch-up with the needs of their communities, but those needs are even more extreme when the hospital offers new services.
"It's anticipated that when you open new resources, you see an increase in volume," she said. "So it'll probably be a blip this year."
She said the "well-oiled" emergency-department staff has gotten used to working with the resources they have, so the new equipment is "just going to make our jobs that much easier."
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