Continue Mr. A. H. Blank's Legacy | Be Like Mr. Blank

by -

A.H. Blank | TIME Magazine’s Man of The Century

Philanthropist, theater owner, TIME Magazine’s Man of The Century. Not many people can say that they’ve been named all three of these things. A.H. Blank is the exception. From starting his career as a balloon salesman in Omaha to being named TIME Magazine’s Man of The Century, Mr. Blank’s life has seen it all. With a passion for the entertainment industry, Blank began with the purchase of several local theaters in Iowa, including the Casino Theater and the Garden Theatre. By 1929, Blank had acquired 35 theatres between Iowa and Nebraska.

Beyond mixing with Hollywood’s elite, like Liz Taylor and “The Duke”, Mr. Blank’s philanthropic heart led him on a path of much greater things than show business. After the sudden death of his son Raymond Blank, Mr. Blank and his wife, Anna, gave an unforgettable gift to the city of Des Moines.

In December of 1944, The Raymond Blank Memorial Hospital For Children opened its doors. Of the 6,500 patients treated from 1944-1947, more than 200 of these were polio patients. The news of the local state-of-the-art treatment of this disease spread nationwide. After hearing of the programs at Blank Children’s Hospital, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized Mr. Blank and the hospital for their dedication and work towards the treatment and research behind polio.

His dedication to children also led him to dedicate the Raymond Blank Memorial Lodge to the Boy Scouts of Iowa. After seeing the need for a facility, Mr. Blank designed and outfitted the facility. Throughout his entire life, Mr. Blank took pleasure entertaining and serving others. With your help, Mr. Blank’s legend and philanthropic life will resonate for ages to come. There are many patients and families that could benefit from your donation during their trying times. 

A Theater For The Children

Due to Mr. Blank’s LOVE of motion picture theater, he had a private movie theater installed at Blank Children’s Hospital to entertain patients and their families. This was revolutionary at the time, and no doubt put smiles on each and every child’s face, as they watched their favorite characters come to life.

All of the latest Walt Disney Production releases were shown in the private theater. In addition to the movies, many famous characters, actors and actresses were known to make appearances. Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and the Lone Ranger were a few of the many famous faces that stopped by for a movie viewing, holiday celebration, or the famous Mr. Blank Day birthday party, which was an annual event at the hospital.

The theater is one of many reasons why the hospital was seen as a safe and friendly place in the eyes of children treated there. Advocacy & Outreach works hard to help keep kids out of the hospital through safety education and programming, wellness education and injury prevention. In fact, through their education and programming, Advocacy & Outreach helped touch the life of a child in each of Iowa’s 99 counties last year. Your donation can help continue the generosity of Mr. Blank while providing a voice for Iowa’s children. 

Unforgettable Celebrations

Over the years, A.H. Blank’s presence at Blank Children’s Hospital became a tradition. One of the most talked about and favorite traditions that took place was Mr. Blank’s birthday celebrations. For his birthday, Mr. Blank threw a party for the entire hospital staff and the patients, which became know as Mr. Blank Day.

Even though it was Mr. Blank’s birthday, the celebration was not for his benefit. Staying true to his character, Mr. Blank would GIVE instead of receive for his birthday. Each child currently being treated at Blank Children’s would receive a gift from A.H. himself. Yet, his giving didn’t stop there. Besides the gifts to each child, he would also bring a number of gifts for the play areas at the hospital for every child to play with.

“This year as for many years, A.H. Blank, retired theater man and philanthropist, gave a Christmas party at Raymond Blank Memorial Hospital. He distributed individual gifts to the children and gave others for the hospital’s play room. In return, Mary Jackson, 7, Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cleo Jackson of Corydon, representing the patients, gave the 86-year- old Blank a toy drum filled with cookies.“

Since the beginning of Blank Children’s Hospital, Mr. Blank was dedicated to ensuring kids had the opportunity to still enjoy activities and crafts when going through stressful treatment. Today, Child Life Activity Assistants and Child Life Specialists make it their top priority to create exciting events  throughout the year. These events include the annual Iowa vs. Iowa State Football game tailgate with t-shirts, food and more for all patients. Find out how you can ensure kids still have time to be a ‘kid,’ while helping to carry on Mr. Blank’s legacy with your donation. 

Blank Children’s Hospital | Ahead of Its Time

After the loss of his son Raymond, A.H. Blank and his wife Anna began plans to construct a new children’s hospital in Des Moines. Blank Children’s Hospital was the first of its kind to open during World War II. Because of wartime restrictions, the hospital required federal authorization to begin construction. Mr. Blank’s relationship with the current president made this an easier process than it may have been otherwise. With a subtle hint that A.H. Blank would reach out to the President himself, the go ahead was given.

On December 3, 1944, the Raymond Blank Memorial Hospital for Children with 77 beds was dedicated in remembrance of their son. This day would have been Raymond Blank’s 35th birthday. When finished, Blank Children’s Hospital was outfitted with the following:

First Floor:

  • 17-bed communicable disease unit
  • Children's outpatient clinics
  • Physiotherapy quarters
  • Emergency room
  • Laboratory
  • Nurses’ dressing room

Top Two Floors

  • 4-bed cubicle units on each end of the building
  • Single, double and isolation units located between cubicle units

Blank Children’s Residency Program

Due to large numbers of children being cared for at the hospital, Blank Children’s became a place of residency for future doctors. While most residency institutions are connected to medical schools, Blank Children’s was an exception. In 1946, they were granted a two-year residency program from the American Board of Pediatrics. More than a dozen residency students had graduated from Blank’s program by 1950.

Today, Blank Children's Hospital continues to offer a full pediatric residency program. The Pediatric Residency Program is complete with a strong academic center in a supportive and diverse environment.

A Whimsical Approach To Children's Medicine

With such a strong connection to Hollywood and Disney, Mr. Blank ensured that Blank Children’s would not be like any other hospital. Blank commissioned artists from Disney to come from Hollywood all the way to Des Moines, Iowa. The children's rooms, nurses stations and other portions of the hospital were adorned with Disney’s favorites! Donald Duck, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Three Little Pigs, and many other iconic Disney characters. This decor immediately charmed children and put parents’ fears to rest. In addition to the whimsical murals, the hospital was equipped with a private motion picture viewing room.

Blank Children’s continues to grow and expand, allowing Blank Children’s Hospital to offer the very best treatment for patients and families in Central Iowa. To better serve the needs of our community, Blank Children’s and Iowa Methodist began construction in 2015 on a $55 million project to renovate and improve their emergency departments. Your donation to the emergency department will help children and families when they need it most.

Disney Characters Make The Hospital Come to Life

With strong connections to the motion picture industry and as a personal friend of Mr. Walt Disney, it’s no wonder Mr. Blank brought the characters we know and love straight to the walls of the hospital. Mr. Blank commissioned artists from Hollywood to adorn the walls with paintings of Disney scenes. In doing so, Blank Children’s Hospital became a more cheerful place compared to the traditional hospitals of the past.

Colorful murals were scattered throughout the hospital’s private rooms, recreational areas and nurses stations. Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, The Three Little Pigs and the Wolf, as well as other Disney favorites decorated the inside of the hospital.

Even after two hospital renovations, four of the murals were saved to continue to put smiles on the faces of children and their families for years to come. Designers of the renovated Blank Children’s Hospital were able to carry-over the themes of animals and entertainment to keep the Blank atmosphere alive.

The staff of Blank Children’s Hospital is dedicated to providing family-centered, high-quality care while bringing joy to children through kid-friendly designs throughout the hospital – including the Disney murals. Discover how you can help give back to the families and young children going through difficult times with a small donation that is guaranteed to brighten their day. 

Mr. Blank’s Lasting Impact On Des Moines

If you’ve lived in the greater Des Moines area for any time at all, the name “Blank” is easily recognizable. Their family's generosity is evident in multiple locations around our beautiful city. However, we don’t often stop to think of its origin. Who is “Blank”?

The man behind the name is A.H. Blank. He emigrated from Romania to Des Moines with his parents in 1886. His early life was spent in Des Moines where he attended and graduated from local schools. These years spent in Des Moines were what led to his loyalty and dedication to the growth and accomplishments of this now flourishing city.

In light of his loyalty to Des Moines, Blank founded the Garden Theater as well as other theaters around the Midwest. The theater was Des Moines’ first motion picture house. After the death of A.H. and Anna Blank’s eldest son Raymond, they decided to honor his life by building Iowa’s first children’s hospital. In 1944, the hospital was built and has since grown to have 96 beds, a trauma-verified emergency department, a growing number of pediatric specialists and an extensive outreach program.

Blank Children’s Hospital is arguably the most well known of Mr. Blank’s contributions to Des Moines. However,  other well-known sites in Des Moines include A.H. Blank Golf Course and Blank Park Zoo. These are only a few of the many ways that Mr. Blank generously gave to our great City of Des Moines.

Mr. Blank continues to make a substantial impact on our community by giving Des Moines and Central Iowa the resources it needs most. The Developmental Center at Blank Children’s Hospital helps children with behavioral, learning and development problems. The team of specialists will develop a personalized program unique to the child and their problems. Every child deserves to reach their maximum potential. Like Mr. Blank, you can help these children reach for the stars!

The Foundation of The Compassion Fund

The establishment of the Compassion Fund for patients at Blank Children’s Hospital follows the acts of compassion that the Blank family had for the hospital and their community. Not only did Mr. Blank found Blank Children's, he also cared for it emotionally and financially throughout his lifetime. This well-known generosity laid the foundation of what is now known as The Compassion Fund.

In the first years of operation at Blank Children’s Hospital, Mr. Blank was known to help pay some or all of a patient's care, as they were treated. The Compassion Fund was brought about to mirror what Mr. Blank had already began. The fund now provides additional support for both patients and their families - in addition to what the hospital already provides. This could be in the form of meal cards, transportation or one-time prescriptions to assist towards an in-home recovery. This form of assistance, both in and out of the hospital, gives patients and their families peace of mind in an otherwise stressful time.

You can help make a financial difference for families and patients just like Mr. Blank and many others have. 

A.H. Blank | Hollywood's Golden Boy

A.H. Blank may be known in Des Moines for his contributions to the city, but his career in the motion picture industry is one for the books. His career began in the Midwest with opening The Casino, the largest motion picture theater in Des Moines at the time.

After purchasing or building theaters across the Midwest, his career launched to Hollywood. He helped form the First National Pictures Corporation, which was one of the most successful movie production companies of its time. Stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Theda Bara were just some of the leading actors making up the corporation. This corporation later joined Warner Brothers Picture Corporation, one of the most well known production companies of all time.

He later became a lifelong partner of Paramount Picture Corporation. Yet another well known production company that is still in business today. His involvement with the industry obviously led to rubbing shoulders and working with some of Hollywood’s greatest, including Paulette Goddard, Alvin Barkley, Ilona Massey, and Chief Payem Flatonly. Both the men and women of Hollywood admired, envied and loved his personality.

John Wayne, aka "The Duke", himself gives his straightforward take on Mr. Blank while talking about an upcoming picture,

“This picture is about an American, and will be made in Hollywood, not Rome, Athens, London or Galatz. This guy isn’t Sam Houston (or John either) but in my eyes and a lot of others, he deserves his place in “Who’s Who” and I never heard of Sams Houston (or John either) giving a hospital to anyone. There may be guys getting more out of life than this boy, but I haven’t met them.

There may be guys giving more of themselves in helping other people, but I haven’t run into them.

Believe me this is a great guy, and this is going to be a great picture! What ever it takes to make this epic, I’ll put up, cause my boy is worth it!

So who is it? -Jack Kennedy? Harry? Herbert? Ike? What’s with you guys, are you crazy? Hell no, it isn’t anyone you’ve mentioned, it’s my old buddy A. H. Blank”.

Quotes from Hollywood Royalty

Liz Taylor, “ Leader, ladies man, lover of life, he’s all of those” says Liz Taylor, “and if I knew then what I know now, Eddie would have never had a chance. How could I have been so stupid?”

Ava Gardner says, “He’s the reason I am living in Spain. I couldn’t stand to be in the same country and not be near him.”

Ilona Massey said, “As a native-born Hungarian, I can truthfully say he is the first Romanian I could ever get interested in. I just don’t understand how Theo got ahead of the Gabers and myself.”

Paulette Goddard says, “He’s a human dynamo who makes other men look pallid by comparison. A desert island with this MAN would be a wonderful vacation paradise.”

Jack Warner said, “ I am sure it is not necessary for me to convey to you the great regard and esteem everyone here at Warner Brothers has always held for A.H. and I hope this celebration will be one that will do justice to one of the greatest showmen of the industry.”

We not only have stars at Blank Children’s, we have super heroes as well. Who are they? Our patients! In fact, the entire 4th floor of Blank Children’s Hospital, which cares for our pediatric cancer patients, was built with a “super hero” theme. As one of the only two places in the state to help treat pediatric patients with cancer, over 600 patients are treated each year at the Blank Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. You can help the Cancer and Blood Disorder Center provide assistance to patients and families during their trying times. 

Popcorn Makes It’s Opening Night In Theaters Across America

This day in age, popcorn is a staple when it comes to movies and movie theaters alike. Any theater goer wouldn’t imagine walking into the space without the buttery-filled aroma that popcorn exudes. Believe it or not, this wasn’t always the case. Like any tried and true tradition, there is a moment in time where it all began. That moment is partly due to Myron Blank, the son of A.H. Blank. After taking over his father's theater business, Myron Blank wanted to introduce a snack that would entice theater goers by appealing to more than just their appetite.

Myron understood that movie theater popcorn was going to be something that would last a lifetime. The problems that he faced making it happen were simple by today’s standards, but were difficult at the time. The issue of scent was almost the demise of popcorn in theaters. While the perfect kernel has the best buttery-filled scent, the smell of a burnt batch of popped corn is one that lingers far too long. This was partly due to the lack of ventilation in theaters at the time. If you burnt a batch of popcorn, it wouldn’t go without notice. Not to mention, the mess that would appear on the beautifully adorned rugs that covered theaters across America. Once these issues were resolved, Myron led the forefront of popcorn’s mainstay in the theater industry.

Much like a theater being a place to relax, our Child Life Specialists help children cope with their worries and fears as well as aid in the healing process. There are countless ways that Child Life touches the lives of patients and their families each and every day, but none of this is covered by insurance. These costs are covered by the generous donations of people like you! Help improve the stay of a child and their family with your donation today.

Polio Epidemic | Parents Visit Through The Windows

The polio epidemic of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s catapulted Blank Children’s Hospital into both state and national recognition. In 1948 alone, there were 1,236 cases of polio reported in Iowa. Of these cases, 81 did not survive. Polio treatment for Iowa in the late 1940’s and 1950’s centered around Blank Children's Hospital. The highest number of polio patients in a single year met it’s peak in 1952; 605 patients were admitted to Blank in this year and among these patients only 10 deaths occurred.

During this time, the isolation of the children was critical care of of polio. Children were dropped off at the front door of the hospital while parents were left to only view from the windows. Parents would visit their children every day through the windows on all levels of the hospital. Parents of children on upper levels, could only reach their child's window by ladder.

“The Polio epidemic was the event I recall most vividly. Cars would line up in that circular driveway in the back. Sometimes five or six cars were in line. We would go out and do triage. When we admitted patients, we had no help. We did the spinal tap, blood count, the whole works, with the diagnoses. Sometimes we were really swamped. One day, we had 28 kids come in.”
- Dr. Alberts, pediatric staff member at Iowa Methodist.

Look Magazine, a Des Moines publication, featured photos of the hospital’s work with polio. This led the desire to be treated at Blank to be even more of a priority for Iowans and beyond. Due to the advancements in treatment - including those made possible at Blank Children’s Hospital - America was declared polio free by 1944.

Like children diagnosed with Polio in the 40’s, children today require therapy to reach their full potential. You can help Blank Children’s offer comprehensive Pediatric Therapy services, including physical, occupational, audiology and speech therapies. The medical experts at Blank Children’s Hospital are helping kids in Des Moines through more than 36,000 visits per year!