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St. Luke's Magic Valley receives $1 million donation

By Ken Dey, News and Community
June 2, 2011

TWIN FALLS, Idaho - The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation has awarded St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center a $1 million grant to further enhance rehabilitation services at the new Gwen Neilsen Anderson Rehabilitation Center.

“This is an incredibly generous donation and is the largest contribution ever given to enhance health care in the Magic Valley.  This gift will truly transform the lives of those in need of rehabilitation,” said Larry Baxter, St. Luke’s Magic Valley Health Foundation’s Executive Director.

Dr. Jonathan Myers, the Medical Director for Rehabilitation Services at St. Luke’s Magic Valley, said the donation will make a critical difference to local patients by allowing them to remain near their home and families when receiving care.

“This donation will support a new state-of-the-art rehabilitation center and will be life-changing for patients recovering from spinal cord injuries, strokes, brain injury and other physical impairments,” Myers said.

One couple who understands and appreciates the value of having rehabilitation services close to home is Noel and Sharon Ruhter. In March 2010, Noel completely lost the ability to move his arms and legs within a 24-hour period following a fever.  MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus)-induced abscess had settled into his spinal column causing complete paralysis of his chest, arms and legs.

After being airlifted to St. Luke’s Boise for surgery to remove the infection, Noel returned home to use the services provided by St. Luke’s Magic Valley and St. Luke’s Idaho Elks Rehabilitation team where he re-learned how to move his limbs again.

“Having Noel recover close to home was a big thing – it was huge,” Sharon said. “It’s so important to be there. Can you imagine people who have to work and can’t take time off to be there for their loved one?”

The donation from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation will further enhance offerings at the new rehabilitation center, which will be formally dedicated in June. The 14-bed center is located on the third floor of the new St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center.

The new Center includes the following features:

  • A large therapeutic gym offering state-of-the-art therapy equipment for patient rehab;
  • A full-scale, “Simulated Apartment” for patients to practice cooking, cleaning and basic hygiene in preparation for their return home;
  • A dining room/multi-purpose area for communal dining, therapeutic recreation, and peer counseling group meetings; and
  • An enclosed, private assisted dining area for speech and swallow therapy patients.
  • 14 private patient rooms that offer either right or left-handed design layouts to  accommodate stroke patients;
  • Two patient rooms equipped with video surveillance capability for continuous remote monitoring of patients with traumatic brain injury, and two patient rooms equipped with state-of-the-art ceiling lifts; and
  • A certified professional nutritionist to devise individual dietary plans that not only ensure compliance with each patient’s unique dietary needs, but also optimize each patient’s nutritional status to promote recovery.
  • Landscaped hospital grounds designed for community re-integration training, wheelchair skill training, family gatherings, pet visitation, and quiet reflection; and
  • A stowable bed for family members who wish to stay periodically to work with the patient and the rehab team.

About the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is a private foundation dedicated to supporting cutting-edge research to find a cure for paralysis due to spinal cord injury (SCI) as well as innovative rehabilitation programs to improve the quality of life for those living with SCI. Mr. Neilsen, himself a quadriplegic for 21 years until his death in 2006, recruited experts in the SCI community to peer review all grant requests for scientific and clinical research, post-doctoral fellowships, quality of life grants and Spinal Cord Injury Medicine (SCIM) Fellowships to train young doctors to specialize in SCI treatment.  The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation currently funds $5 million annually in scientific research grants, $1.5 million annually in quality of life grants and $300,000 annually in SCIM Fellowships which are disbursed throughout the United States and Canada.  For further information on the Neilsen Foundation, visit their website at


About the Neilsen family

Gwen Neilsen Anderson lived in Twin Falls for the majority of her life. She retired in Las Vegas, Nevada to be closer to her son and grandson and lived there until her passing in 1999.  Gwen served on the Board of Directors of the Magic Valley Health Foundation in 1995 and 1996. Craig H. Neilsen and his son, Ray, both formerly lived in Twin Falls and both graduated from Twin Falls High School. Craig Neilsen was the longtime Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ameristar Casinos, Inc.; Ray Neilsen assumed the Chairman of the Board position in 2006 and retired from this position last month.  For more than 30 years, the Neilsen family has invested in the prosperity of the Magic Valley area through well-known businesses such as Canyon Park, a Neilsen & Company Development in Twin Falls; and Cactus Petes Resort Casino in Jackpot, Nevada.

About inpatient rehabilitation services at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center

In 2007, St. Luke’s Magic Valley teamed up with Idaho Elks Rehabilitation Hospital to provide a small inpatient rehabilitation facility at the former St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center. The facility provided inpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy services in a coordinated, team-based approach that allowed individuals from our local communities to rehabilitate closer to home instead of traveling elsewhere for treatment.

About the St. Luke’s Magic Valley Health Foundation

The St. Luke’s Magic Valley Health Foundation, Inc. is a distinct 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization and a registered corporation with the State of Idaho. Its volunteer Board of Directors focuses on the Foundation’s vision of enhancing the community’s health care through philanthropy, primarily by supporting the high quality health care of St. Luke’s Magic Valley serving a population of more than 165,000 in the eight-county area of Magic Valley plus northern Nevada. For more information call (208) 814-0070 or visit

About The Author

Ken Dey served as Public Relations Coordinator at St. Luke's from 2008-2014.

Related Clinic

St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center
801 Pole Line Road W.
Twin Falls, ID 83301
(208) 814-1000