Operation Smile will use a $1 million gift from the late Anthony L. Burgess to create the Anthony L. and Hideko S. Burgess Interactive Learning Center (ILC) at its global headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“This bequest from Mr. Burgess is a full-circle love story,” said Kathy Magee, cofounder and president of the nonprofit organization, which supports cleft surgery for children around the world.
“Mr. Burgess came into the organization as a monthly donor and, through our planned giving program, established a living legacy with the Interactive Learning Center,” said Magee.
“He made a generous decision to complete the project in honor of his wife and their 55-year marriage, knowing that the ILC will foster learning, education, and cultural understanding for generations to come,” Magee said.
Anthony “Tony” Burgess was a hardworking man who endeavored to give back to others and preserve the memory of his wife Hideko with bequest at his passing, Operation Smile said.
Burgess researched charities in which education and children’s development were a priority. Upon meeting the team at Operation Smile and learning about the plans for the ILC, the nonprofit said, he decided to make it his charitable beneficiary.
The ILC will serve as a “Window to the World,” Operation Smile said, allowing visitors to take a journey through the medical mission process and learn about the patients and families that the organization serves.
The ILC seeks to educate students, the community, and visitors to Virginia Beach about culture, medicine, geography, and leadership, Operation Smile said.
With empathy and compassion at the heart of the exhibit, the nonprofit continued, participants will better understand the challenges that patients and their families overcome on their paths toward brighter futures through cleft surgery and comprehensive care.
The donation will help to build an immersive experience in which visitors will experience the realities of living in a country with limited access to food, water, and medical care, Operation Smile said.
As a military veteran with time spent abroad and a wife from Japan, Operation Smile’s international medical missions resonated with Burgess, the organization said.
“I think in the big picture, he came to know he could trust us and have confidence in us,” said Fred Facka, director of planned giving for Operation Smile. “His realization was, I believe, that he found the vehicle he was looking for.”
After returning home from his time in the military to Chesapeake, Virginia, Burgess spent most of his career working in rail transportation, supporting his family, and saving his money where he could.
“I think we are all privileged to be a witness to a man who transcended himself to the highest level of human fulfillment, becoming a humanitarian,” said Facka. “And, in his case, from living a humble life.”
The ILC will offer interactive exhibits that tell compelling stories of the lives of children living with cleft conditions and the providers who provide medical care, Operation Smile said.
The organization aims to provide an experience that is optimistic and encourages both reflection and action through the center, which is expected to safely open to the public later in the year in accordance with local COVID-19 regulations.
Operation Smile also said that the ILC will honor Burgess and his wife, and it hopes the exhibit will inspire future volunteers and humanitarians.
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