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Billionaire Jennifer Pritzker Helps Fund Clinic For Trans Kids At Lurie

By David Matthews | June 23, 2016 2:56pm | Updated on June 23, 2016 4:32pm
 Jennifer Pritzker's Tawani Foundation made a $1 million commitment to Lurie Children's Hospital's gender program.
Jennifer Pritzker's Tawani Foundation made a $1 million commitment to Lurie Children's Hospital's gender program.
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Getty Images/Daniel Boczarski / DNAinfo

CHICAGO — The world's wealthiest transgender person is backing a big fundraising campaign for nonconforming patients at Lurie Children's Hospital. 

The Streeterville hospital, 225 E. Chicago Ave., said Thursday it was launching a $500,000 campaign for gender nonconforming patients in its Gender & Sex Development Program launched in 2013. It was the first such clinic in the Midwest upon its opening.

And Pritzker, a Chicago-based billionaire investor and philanthropist, will match every dollar raised. 

“The team at Lurie Children’s has done an excellent job of initiating and developing a program of local and national significance," Pritzker said in a statement. "Yet, there remains a compelling need for expanding access and developing comprehensive services for gender-nonconforming children and transgender youth. It is my hope that the community will join me in investing in the health and well-being of these young people.”

The program provides medical and psychological care to about 400 children. Hospital officials said Thursday the campaign is more relevant than ever given the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. earlier this month, a tragedy that deeply troubled LGBTQ people everywhere.

"This gift is so important for the families we serve,” Dr. Robert Garofalo director of the program and head of the hospital's division of adolescent medicine, and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University, said in a statement. “The recent tragedy in Orlando underscores the great need for advocacy and community education in support of LGBTQ youth.”

In an interview, Garofalo said the money raised will help cover gaps in patients' insurance coverage, fund medical research and outreach at Chicago schools. He said the program hosts 15 new patients a month, but has a four-to-five month wait list. Patients range in age from 4 to about 22 years old, he said. 

The younger patients mostly receive therapy revolving around their nascent gender identities, while older patients who have reached puberty can receive treatments assisting in transitions, Garofalo said.

The campaign "will allow us to offer services to families who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to receive care," he said. 

Pritzker, a retired Army colonel and heiress to the Pritzker family fortune, became the world's first transgender billionaire after going through a public transition in 2013. She is head of Tawani Enterprises, an investment firm active in real estate development, and also heads the Pritzker Military Library in the Loop. She is worth about $1.8 billion according to Forbes. 

Through her foundation, Pritzker donated seed money to launch the program three years ago. Garofalo was unsure of the clinic's annual budget. 

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