OSF marks milestone in project

DeWayne Bartels
A Topping Off ceremony was held this morning at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center for the Milestone Project. 
The highest steel beam was set into place. Before the ceremony Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens announced the company will give the Children's Hospital a $5 million grant and matching gifts that could ad up to another $10 million.

Before a crowd of more than 300 people the last steel beam went into place for the Milestone Project at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center this morning.

 That moment was witnessed as American flags waved in the hands of spectators and construction workers on the ground.

As exciting as that moment might have been for the administration of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center a few moments earlier when Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens spoke also provided a highlight to the day.

Owens announced the Caterpillar Foundation is making a direct grant of $5 million, with up to an additional $5 million match of Cat employees and retirees’ gifts. Overall, the total Caterpillar gift to the Milestone project could reach $15 million.

“Caterpillar is a strong supporter of the Children’s Hospital of Illinois for three primary reasons: It’s a one-of a kind facility, it’s committed to the disadvantaged and under served, and it’s preparing the next generation to address children’s health care needs,” Owens said.

The Milestone Project is a $280 million expansion of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

“This truly is a special day and an historical event for the Medical Center, the Sisters and the Community, not only because we have reached that juncture of placing the last beam on the highest point on the project but also to have Jim Owens here to celebrate with us and share the news of the Caterpillar financial gift to this project,” Keith Steffen, president and CEO of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, said.

Monsignor Michael Bliss blessed the beam before it was hoisted by crane into place eight stories high on the skeleton of the project.

The Milestone Project is the single largest construction project ever in the city of Peoria.

Measuring 440,000 square feet, it will be home to the Children’s Hospital of Illinois and an expanded adult and pediatric emergency department when opened in 2010.

As Sister Judith Ann Duvall, O.S.F., chairperson of the OSF Healthcare System, looked out over the crowd she said, “How can we not be excited about today and what lies ahead in the decades to come?”