Leaving a Family Legacy Close to Home

It used to be the family home of Elsie and John McElrath and their 11 children. Now it’s a place that seriously ill and injured kids call home when they receive care for life-threatening conditions.

In 1912, nurse Bertha Wright and social worker Mabel Weed, along with a group of charitable Bay Area women, raised $12,500 to purchase the acre-plus grounds of the McElrath family estate at 51st and Dover streets in Oakland.

“Those women did a remarkable thing not just in starting the hospital but also in keeping it going.”

The mansion’s stables were cleaned out, and on September 6, 1914, the building officially opened as the Baby Hospital, today known as UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. As the only pediatric hospital in the Bay Area at the time, the hospital’s growth coincided with growing awareness that children required specialized care. In 1948, as the Baby Boom swept the country, the hospital added a new wing to increase patient capacity. Today, the Oakland campus continues to grow with the addition of our new Outpatient Center, scheduled to open in fall 2017.

Though the family estate was sold before he was born, Alden “Mac” McElrath Jr. maintained a special connection to this historical locale where his father had grown up. He went on to serve as chair of the hospital’s facilities planning committee, a leadership role that complemented his historical ties to the organization.

“Those women did a remarkable thing,” Mac said while serving on the committee, “not just in starting the hospital but also in keeping it going.”

From 1988 to 2006, Mac served on the hospital’s board of directors. During this time he saw the hospital’s research arm, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), grow from a core of five researchers in 1958 to a staff of more than 200. He was a visionary friend of CHORI, providing generous support for the Center for Immunobiology and Vaccine Development.

Mac McElrath passed away in 2011, but his family’s legacy will remain strong at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland for generations to come. His wife, Barbara, has included a bequest to the hospital in her estate plan. Her support will help ensure that the hospital her late husband was so passionate about will continue to provide top-quality pediatric health care to Bay Area children well into the future.

A planned gift to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals can provide hope and healing for the area’s most vulnerable children. For more information, please contact Tina Hurley at (510) 428-3834 or Tina.Hurley@ucsf.edu.