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Beverly Hills News – Kirk, Anne Douglas Donate $2.3M To Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

SAVING LIVES—Kirk & Anne Douglas with Dr. Paul Kokorowski, Director of Robotic Surgery in the Division of Urology at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Posted Thursday, March 26 – 6:15 PM

By Laura Coleman

Today, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles announced that longtime Beverly Hills residents Kirk and Anne Douglas have committed $2.3 million in new funding to CHLA to purchase a da Vinci surgical robot for the Division of Pediatric Urology in order to offer a less invasive surgical treatment option for children.

“Because children are our future, we are particularly concerned with their welfare and education,” Kirk Douglas said. “We have supported CHLA over many years, close to two decades if I recall correctly, but the purchase of the Da Vinci robot is our largest single contribution. I am 98, and when I look at photos of this fantastical robot with its many arms, I think of science fiction films I saw as a boy or  the space robot Hal in my friend Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001.”

CHLA president and CEO Richard D. Cordova said the da Vinci robot will create more hope and better treatment outcomes for thousands of children where surgery is an option.

“This generous gift from the Douglas Foundation, which also supports the training of physicians in the use of the equipment, comes at a critical time in advancing the hospital’s pediatric surgical program,” he said.

The Douglas Foundation, which was established by the legendary actor/producer/writer and his wife Anne in 1964 to help those who might not otherwise be able to help themselves has supported a multitude of causes over the past half-century, including rebuilding playgrounds at more than 400 Los Angeles Unified School District schools; the Anne Douglas Center for homeless women at the Los Angeles Mission; and Harry’s Haven, the Alzheimer’s unit at the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s main campus in Woodland Hills.

“Kirk and I established the Douglas Foundation 50 years ago because we both believe that caring is sharing,” Anne Douglas said. “Both of us have experienced hardships in our own lives. Kirk’s family was extremely poor, and he depended on scholarships to attend St. Lawrence University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I experienced war in my early years in Germany, Belgium and France with all of its fears and privations. That drives us to help where we can make a difference in people’s well-being.

Kirk Douglas originally moved to Beverly Hills in 1946 when his movie career started to take off.

“Beverly Hills has been my home since then, and Anne joined me after I convinced her to marry me in 1954,” he said.

Kirk Douglas recalled how they originally met: “In 1953 I went to Paris to star in a movie called Act of Love. It wasn’t my most successful film at the box office, but it was my most successful film in terms of my personal happiness. That’s where I met the beautiful Parisienne, Anne Buydens, who has been my wife for nearly 61 years.”

Anne Douglas recalled: “I had just finished working with John Huston on the film, Moulin Rouge, when I was asked to handle publicity for Act of Love if the star, Kirk Douglas, approved me. I went to the studio to meet him. I was warned in advance that I would be going into the ‘lion’s den.’

“I didn’t want to become a movie star’s fling. I had a full life and a career, but I finally took the job. Kirk and I became friends, but I kept it strictly business until the night he was to attend a charity fundraiser and needed me to go with him. It was black tie. Kirk participated in the show which was at the Cirque d’Hiver, the circus. Kirk’s “act” was to clean up after the elephants with a pooper scooper.  He won me over that night with his ability to laugh at himself. And, of course, he was madly attractive and charismatic.”

Kirk Douglas added: “When she visited me in Beverly Hills after the film, I knew I didn’t want her to go back to Paris.  She embraced her new life with the same kind of energy and intelligence that had marked her old one.  She didn’t just want to be a wife and mother. She wanted to change things for the better. I never appreciated being an American until Anne, a naturalized citizen, told me how much this country meant to her. Together, we traveled the world as ambassadors for the United States Information Agency and we paid for it ourselves. When President Jimmy Carter gave me the Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, I only wished he had given one to Anne as well. She deserved it as much as I did.”

In 1990, the Douglas’s sold their art collection by modern masters like Chagall, Miro, Picasso and Dubuffet to enlarge the scope of The Douglas Foundation, which enabled them to begin their ten-year commitment to rebuild all of the dilapidated and unsafe playgrounds in schools throughout the LAUSD.

In 2012, the Douglas Foundation sent out multi-million dollar pledges totaling $50 million to five of their favorite nonprofit organizations; the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF); the Anne Douglas Center for Women at the Los Angeles Mission, now in its 20th year; the Center Theater Group’s Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City; Sinai Temple in Westwood with its Kirk and Anne Douglas Childhood Center; and St. Lawrence University in New York, which Kirk Douglas attended on a wrestling scholarship.

Established in 2009, CHLA’s Robotic Program was the first pediatric facility on the West Coast and remains one of the busiest in the country. In the past two years, CHLA expanded the scope of its program to include children as young as four months.

CHLA Division of Urology Chief Roger E. De Filippo said: “The new robot will expand the hospital’s capacity to perform major surgery on infants and children using technology that permits faster in-patient and at-home recoveries [by allowing] for smaller incisions, precise levels of accuracy and magnified high-resolution 3D images of the surgical field.”

“We are so happy that this sophisticated instrument will help CHLA’s pediatric surgeons get better results for children with serious urological problems and also help them heal faster.” Anne Douglas said.

 

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