DAVAO CITY—A new SM Mall on JP Laurel Avenue here attracts droves of people like a magnet. A stone’s throw away, a building is rising while hardly anyone notices.
This structure is a sports hero’s dream quietly turning into a concrete presence in the city’s Lanang District.
That the six-storey hospital for Davao’s children is jutting heavenward without flourish mirrors the character of its main sponsor, Makati City-born American football star Tim Tebow. The New York Jets quarterback is known to do charity work without the benefit of publicity or hype.
Tebow is famously outspoken about his Christian faith. Through his foundation and Cure International, he has almost raised the $3.1 million needed for the world-class orthopedic facility. Almost half of its 30 beds will be free of charge to children of poor Davao residents.
Construction of the Tebow Cure Hospital started in May of last year. It is scheduled for a soft opening in the first quarter of 2014, with 17 beds, eight in the charity ward ready for patients, says Leron Lehman who will serve as its executive director.
The 40-year-old Lehman, a Pennsylvania native just opened a Cure Hospital in the Niger Republic in Africa. He has moved his family here while he attends to the new medical center’s business until it is completely running by 2016.
Why Davao? I asked Lehman, as he led me on a hard hat tour of the hospital in progress. He said this city was chosen because of the strong commitment by a group of local orthopedic surgeons and the availability of funding sources in the Mindanao region.
“The doctors’ concern for the poor of Davao and an excellent local health system sealed the deal,” Lehman said.
He said revenue from the private wards will bolster services for indigent children. At the start, the hospital will employ up to 45 local medical and support professionals trained in modern health-care techniques.
Pennsylvania-based, Cure International focuses on providing medical care for the world’s children with orthopedic challenges, like cleft lip and palate, clubfoot and other crippling deformities.
The Tebow Cure hospital will be its first in the Philippines and 11th worldwide. The top floor of the Davao facility will house a Timmy’s Playroom “to enable children to be children,” says Lehman. It will also provide the youngsters religious and spiritual nourishment before and after they go under the knife.
The hospital extends Tebow’s devotion to his country of birth. Born to missionary parents in Makati in 1987, Tim was raised in Jacksonville, Florida, where he grew up to be a football star who led the University of Florida Gators to two national championships.
He won the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in America in 2007 before he was picked by the Denver Broncos in the 2010 National Football League draft.
After becoming Denver’s starting quarterback in the sixth game of the NFL season in 2011, he led his team to miraculous last-quarter victories that culminated in its first divisional title and first playoff game since 2005.
“Tebowing,” Tim’s football and faith ritual of dropping on one knee after scoring a touchdown and praying while oblivious of his surroundings, is now part of the American lexicon.