January 21, 2013
From The Orange County Register
Published January 20, 2013
CHOC announces largest gift ever — $27 million – from a living donor.
By GREG HARDESTY - ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
And last night that boy – now 84 – reluctantly strapped on a necktie ("I went into business so I wouldn't have to (wear this)") and stepped into the spotlight.
Holmes is giving $27 million to CHOC Children's. The hospital says Holmes' gift is the biggest its ever received from a living donor, and a key step in a long-term fundraising effort.
The announcement – made at CHOC's annual gala in front of about 500 people – also marks an unofficial arrival for Holmes, who previously has not been a high-profile figure on Orange County's philanthropic scene.
Asked why he's giving so much to CHOC Holmes, still a modest Midwesterner at heart, turned to his right and gestured to Brian Panique, the major gift officer for CHOC Children's Foundation.
"He twisted my arm," Holmes said.
Then, grinning, Holmes added:
"My arm is now healed."
The road for Holmes' gift started about 2.5 years ago over lunch at a Mimi's Cafe, and included at least a year of specific negotiations.
The money is expected to push the hospital beyond its current $125-million fundraising campaign, "Change CHOC, Change the World," which ends June 30.
"This is transformational giving at its best," said Graig Eastin, vice president of CHOC Children's Foundation.
Holmes, who made his fortune in the pool and spa business, hopes his gift inspires others to step forward. The divorced Newport Beach resident has had no personal experiences at CHOC and neither have his two children or their children.
"My goal (of this gift) is to try to raise more money for children," said Holmes, who says that for several years he's donated to 18 charities nationwide, including seven children's homes.
"Children can't ... take care of themselves," Holmes said.
Before pledging the $27-million, Holmes' other gift to CHOC was $200,000, half of which went to a private patient room on the oncology floor of a soon-to-open, seven-story tower. The tower will open in spring (a public celebration is slated for Feb. 2 from 1 to 4 p.m.)
Because he's coughing up so much dough, CHOC is putting Holmes' name on the new addition – The Bill Holmes Tower.
"It (the $27-million gift) gives me some satisfaction knowing that this may help some kids grow up and have better lives."
Holmes' story is classic Americana, an entrepreneur who succeeded from a combination of hard work and high risk.
After he hitchhiked from Iowa to Sacramento in 1945, Holmes' goal was to earn a living and save $50,000, a figure he thought would set him up for life.
One of his first jobs was working with two German prisoners of war assembling parts at a railroad signal depot. The job wasn't the best, but Holmes preferred it to the work he'd done while still in high school in Iowa — sandblasting the courthouse in Hampton, the seat of Franklin County.
Soon after the end of World War II, Holmes, who graduated from Sheffield High School in Sheffield, Iowa (a town of about 1,200), enlisted in the Army. He spent 18 months on guard duty in Korea, returning home in 1950, just before the Korean War broke out.
Holmes spent a year in college before going back to work, this time in the ready mix concrete business. About five years later, using $500 in startup money, he launched a swimming pool business, making the concrete caps that form the top edge of many swimming pools. He eventually expanded into pool equipment distribution.
But in 1959, a year after a worldwide recession, Holmes says a cluster of 15 builder clients couldn't pay him what he was owed, forcing him out of business. Holmes moved to Southern California and started over.
During the next 20 years Holmes sold pools and related items. In 1979, he invested in Spa Shells, a small maker of hot tub coverings, and within six months more than doubled the company's profits. Shortly after that Holmes started his own spa manufacturing business, L.A. Spas (based in Anaheim, despite the name), and that business helped make Holmes wealthy. In 2004 he sold L.A. Spas and retired.
These days, Holmes spends most of his time playing the stock market and donating to his favorite charities, or visiting the Elks Lodge.
He plays the stock market the old-fashioned way - picking up the telephone to speak to his broker. He doesn't engage in online trading, although he does have a cellphone.
Holmes' $27-million donation is a combination of cash and estate gifts. It is, in the parlance of charitable giving, "unrestricted," meaning the money can be used for whatever use CHOC officials see fit.
"The mission of CHOC is what drew Bill to (make the $27-million gift)," said Douglas J. Corbin, a planned giving consultant for CHOC Children's Foundation. "If you don't have a great mission, you're not going to be very successful."
Though it was planned before Holmes made his big gift, the new 425,000-square-foot tower with Holmes' name on it will house a dedicated pediatric emergency department. It also will include advanced operating rooms, a clinical laboratory, and pathology and imaging services.
Posing for a photo outside the tower, Holmes pointed to the large white letters at the very top of the seven-story building, well above his own name. The letters, set off against a bright-red background, read "CHOC Children's Hospital."
"You see that sign up there?" asked Holmes, grinning.
"I tried to negotiate to have my name put there, but they wouldn't go for it."
For more information about the Feb. 2 event, visit www.choc.org
Contact the writer: 714-796-6704 or firstname.lastname@example.org