When David and Martha Showers' first grandchild, Jeremy, was born in Ohio 17 years ago with serious health problems, he was transferred immediately to Akron Children's Hospital. “We credit Akron Children's Hospital with saving his life,” David Showers says. “We woke up to the fact that this terrific facility was available in our area.”
The family also learned how expensive quality health care is; patient payments often fail to cover the total cost of additional neonatal nurses, keeping doctors on staff 24 hours a day, and offering specialty care. Showers, then president and CEO of Wayne Homes, had long believed in giving time and money to charity, but that experience cemented the hospital as one of his family's top philanthropic priorities.
Their involvement with the hospital grew significantly greater several years ago, after Showers, by then retired from Wayne Homes, successfully battled colon cancer. With the firsthand knowledge of how cancer affects the entire family, Showers approached Akron Children's Hospital with an interest in helping to build a new pediatric oncology ward, just as the hospital was planning a major expansion project.
Showers' $3 million donation enabled the hospital to open the state-of-the-art, family-centered Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders in 2004. The center includes an outpatient clinic, in-patient rooms—with pullout couches for parents to stay overnight—and a number of features that otherwise might not have been included without the Showers' generosity, says Bill Considine, the hospital's CEO. “Had we not had those dollars, I'm not sure we would have been able to include the HEPA filters [to filter germs from the air],” he says, “[as well as] things like art therapy, pet therapy—they're things you don't get reimbursed for.”
The Hearthstone Builder Award will enable the hospital to further upgrade the unit, as Showers is donating his $100,000 award to defray some of the $600,000 cost of building a new suite of outpatient blood infusion rooms.
But more important than the dollars the Showers give “is their visible belief in the mission,” Considine says. “It's beyond words what that means to the staff.”
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Though Akron Children's Hospital receives much of Showers' philanthropic energies—he's also a member of the hospital's board of directors—he and his wife have a long history of giving generously to a number of organizations designed to benefit children, both near and far.
“I believe that you have to give back. It's not just money. It's your time, talent, and treasures,” Showers says. In the early days, as he was growing Wayne Homes, he didn't have a lot of time to devote to charities, so he tried to help in other ways. The company became a sponsor of the Chili Open, an annual golf tournament benefiting the Akron Rotary Camp, which serves primarily as a summer overnight camp for children with disabilities.
In the years since that first sponsorship, Wayne Homes has gone on to become the title sponsor of the Chili Open, and employees frequently join together to volunteer in the community, an ethos Showers left behind at the company, now owned by Centex Homes. “Letting the world know it's important to give where we make our living is something Dave instilled in all of us,” says Dave Logsdon, Wayne Homes' current president and CEO.
It's a sentiment that is echoed by those who have benefited from Wayne Homes' generosity, too. “He created a sense of civic obligation at Wayne,” says Dan Reynolds, the camp's executive director. Adds Jack Harig, a member of the camp's board of directors: “It hasn't mattered whether the money was going to toilets. It's, ‘What does it take this year to make it better for the kids over last year?' ”
Meanwhile, in semi-retirement, Showers has only broadened that legacy. Now president of Strausser Investment, a land development company he founded with his son, he spends about a third of his time on charitable activities.
Many of his good deeds have been centered in the Akron area—both he and his wife grew up in nearby towns—but in 2002, he joined with other local business leaders to support the vision of a visiting priest from Africa with whom he'd become friendly. The priest was returning to Africa and wanted to build a high school in Tanzania, where only 7 percent of children go on to secondary education.
Though he admits that raising money for a school in Africa is difficult—after all, neither he nor other donors may ever actually visit it—Showers signed on as campaign chair to help raise the $2.2 million needed to build the school. “This is a chance to help people to help themselves,” he says. “Sending money to poor people gives them food for a day. Giving them an education gives them a chance to better their whole life situation.”
His fervent belief in education has driven his continued involvement with his own school, Archbishop Hoban High School, where he serves on the board of directors and has chaired two fundraising campaigns that have raised more than $6 million for the school.
Mary Anne Beiting, the school's principal, says Showers' leadership as a member of the board has been crucial to Hoban's ability to provide $1 million a year in need-based scholarships. Says Showers, who paid his way through school with a paper route and a job picking cherries: “Average students need to go as well as smart students.”
Showers has kept up his involvement with the Akron Rotary Camp, too, through the Showers Family Foundation. He and his wife started the foundation as a vehicle for their children to become involved in philanthropy. Though neither he nor his wife is a voting trustee, the family has agreed together to continue to focus on children's causes.
The Showers' grandson, Jeremy, has spent weeks
at the camp, and their son, Jamie, visits often to assess the camp's
needs. After an extremely hot summer two years ago during which campers
with spina bifida struggled, the family offered to pay to air condition
the dining hall. “When they see a need of emergency nature, they
appraise it, review it, and do it. That air conditioning helped a lot of
kids,” says Harig, who adds, “We don't have any monuments to them
because the things they fund aren't monumental. They're just the things
that need to be.”
DAVID SHOWERSAGE: 59
POSITION: President, Strausser Investments, Canal Fulton, Ohio
CHARITABLE WORK: Akron Children's Hospital Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, Akron Rotary Club, Archbishop Hoban High School
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Akron, OH.