It’s not the usual face of philanthropy around here.
Rob Moore isn’t old money, prep school or blue blood.
He wears an LSU ball cap, favors blue jeans over blue blazers and commonly sports a two-day stubble. He and his wife, Kristi, live on a big-sky plot in Lockport. A cornfield is their closest neighbor. There’s a Ford pick-up in the driveway and a basketball backboard next to the garage. Inside the spacious stone house, there is no Gucci in sight and no Pierre Cardin in the closet. They don’t put on airs or put their noses in the air. Upscale but down-home, they are the kind of middle-aged folks with new money that are as common as cacti in Texas, but an exotic bloom in Buffalo. Maybe, someday, they will proliferate.
Until then, count Moore as a welcome transplant.
It didn’t get much notice, but last week Rob and Kristi Moore gave $1.8 million to Women & Children’s Hospital. It is among the largest single gifts in the hospital’s history. It ensures the survival of a respite center for emotionally frayed families of sick kids, as the hospital prepares for its move to the High Street medical corridor. It puts the couple’s two-person foundation, Moore for Kids, on the big-picture philanthropic map and blasts a wave of good news across a landscape recently beset by blizzards and an iconic NFL owner’s passing.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t even live here until six years ago.
Born in Louisiana, Moore – an LSU graduate – segued from IT work for hospitals into a consulting business. He rode a wave of hard work, innovation and technology to unexpected riches. He and a partner sold maxIT Healthcare, which electronically logged medical records, in 2012 for a reported $473 million.
With more money than they could count, and the rest of their lives ahead of them, the Moores – he’s 51, she’s 40 – needed a next step. They stepped back – luckily for us – to her Western New York roots, wanting to raise their kids, 10 and 5, near her family in Lewiston.
“Being a Southerner, I had heard about New York – people always in a rush, no one looks you in the eye,” he said. “But Buffalo is more like the Midwest. People are friendly, outgoing, looking to get along ... This feels like home.”
They are people of faith. They wanted to do something larger than themselves, to leave a mark when they are gone. There are plenty of worthy causes. But their son’s brush with pneumonia a few years ago brought them to Children’s Hospital. Few causes are more pure, more worthy and more gratifying than easing the pain of chronically sick kids and their families; trying to undo, in some small way, the awful luck that puts a kid in a hospital bed instead of on a playground; that forces them to fight for life when they’ve barely begun to live.
“We just feel that a children’s hospital is a godsend for a community,” he said Friday, sitting behind a computer monitor in his home office. “After we sold the company, we were looking for some way to help.”
The money cements in place Stone’s Buddies, named for former patient Stone Filipovich. It’s a home-away-from-home area, giving families of sick kids a private, emotional oasis.
“We are commanded to love one another,” said Kristi. “We can express our love for people through this.”
Riches for some people mean a beach house or a yacht or designer duds. There is nothing wrong with material things, with a comfortable life. But money cannot buy everything. And the greatest gifts, as Rob and Kristi Moore just reminded us, are given, not received.