By Richard Meek
The Catholic Commentator
Little did John Engquist realize how a request for a simple favor 25 years ago would forever change his life and that of his family, but also benefit thousands of critically ill children.
John Engquist, pictured in the center surrounded by his wife, Marty, and their children and grandchildren, recently made a $1.5 million donation to the new Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. Photo provided by Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center
Engquist, who owns an equipment services company in Baton Rouge, fondly remembers the day a quarter of a century ago when one of his employees asked if he could use the Engquist family farm in Clinton to take a child who was battling cancer and was also a patient at St. Jude’s Research Hospital in Memphis fishing.
“Of course, I said ‘certainly,'” Engquist recalled, not knowing how providential his response would become.
During the weekend when his employee was at the farm, it so happened that Engquist and his wife were also there and able to meet the family. He was struck by the demeanor and positive attitude of a young child battling chemo and who was simply “not feeling well.”
Engquist was also impressed with the child’s parents in the way they were coping, watching their child battle what was essentially a death sentence.
“I was blown away by their admiration of St. Jude and the way they spoke of the hospital and the love and care (the hospital staff) gave their son,” Engquist said. “It was really impressive to me.”
Shortly after that weekend, Engquist said he became aware of how many children in the Baton Rouge area were battling cancer and being treated at St. Jude. His concern ultimately led him to founding the Dream Day Foundation in Baton Rouge to help assist in fundraising for the hospital, and which hosts the annual Fishin’ Galore event in Clinton, in which former and current St. Jude patients and their families from around the world descend on the farm for a day of fishing, children’s activities and networking for the parents.
So it was only natural that his deep concern for young people battling cancer would lead Engquist and his family to donate $1.5 million to the new freestanding Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. OLOL is one of only eight St. Jude affiliates in the country.
According to hospital officials, Engquist’s donation is going toward the hematology and oncology floor of the new facility.
“When Our Lady of the Lake decided to build a children’s hospital and have a hematology and oncology affiliate with St. Jude, it was a no brainer for me to support it,” said Engquist, who is an OLOL board member. “It is very special to me and something I’m very, very proud to be able to support.
“I’m proud to be on the board and the fact they are collaborating to treat children cancer patients made it a pretty simple decision.”
The Engquist family gift brings Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital to more than $46 million of its initial fundraising goal of $50 million for the Let’s Build Amazing Capital Campaign.
“For more than a quarter of a century, John and Marty Engquist have given extraordinary amounts of their time and the gifts they have been blessed with to help some of the most vulnerable children in our society,” said Our Lady of the Lake Foundation Executive Director Kelly Hurtado. “Much like the mission of our Franciscan sisters, their support and love for children facing the arduous battle with cancer is strong and unwavering. We are very fortunate to have the Engquist family in our community and we greatly appreciate their most generous gift to our new children’s hospital.”
The freestanding hospital is set to open in October 2019.
For more information on the project or to view live video feed of the construction process, visit letsbuildamazing.com.