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Sanford Health gets $100 million donation for name benefactor

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Sioux Falls businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford has given another $100 million to the health system in the Dakotas and Minnesota bearing his name, pushing his total donations in the past four years to more than half a billion dollars.

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Neither Sanford nor Sanford Health officials are saying what the money is for, but the donation is being applauded by everyone from economic development officials to a competing medical giant.

Sanford Health spokesman Brian Mortenson told the Argus Leader newspaper that officials will give details in August on "an extraordinary new initiative." T. Denny Sanford said the money could go to "one of a number of diseases" but that many details need to be ironed out.

"I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be elusive," he said. "This is an unusual type of thing we're doing. We need to document it properly and get it presented properly."

Sanford, 75, earned his wealth in Sioux Falls in the banking industry. The money he has given to what became Sanford Health in 2007 has gone for initiatives that include finding a cure for juvenile diabetes.

The Sioux Falls-based health system in 2009 merged with Fargo, N.D.-based Meritcare, forming what officials say is the nation's largest not-for-profit rural health care provider, serving more than 100 communities in 18 states and employing more than 18,000 people. The Sanford system has annual revenue exceeding $2.2 billion. Another $100 million in cash is an infusion of close to 5 percent for its bottom line and also a boost for the broader economy.

"It's bound to have a ripple effect not only in Sioux Falls, but throughout the state and region," said Shawn Lyons, executive director of the South Dakota Retailers Association.

Charlotte Hofer, spokeswoman in South Dakota for the American Cancer Society, said the health community will be curious to learn the specific goal of the new donation.

"I think it's great. The more people you can bring to the table to fight cancer or any chronic disease, the more success you're going to have," she said.

Officials at Sioux Falls-based Avera Health expressed similar curiosity.

"T. Denny's vision and investment in health care is unprecedented," said Avera spokesman Daryl Thuringer. "I wait with anticipation to learn what their new initiative is."

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