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TMC to donate $500K to Jan. 8 memorial Downtown

Tucson Medical Center will donate $500,000 to help fund the construction of a planned memorial in downtown Tucson dedicated to the victims and survivors of the January 8, 2011 shootings. 

Judy Rich, the CEO of Tucson Medical Center, said she was "honored" to present the gift to the memorial, and said that the donation fits within the organization's mission as a community hospital. 

"We believe that our role and our responsibility is to serve our community," she said at a press conference Friday, and that the memorial, which will include a series of memorial gardens in the El Presidio Park, will serve as a permanent tribute and "everyday gathering spot" in the community. 

"We build memorials to remember, to honor, to celebrate, to reflect," Rich said. 

The donation from TMC will help the project move into the next phase of construction, planned to begin next in 2017, said Crystal Kasnoff, the executive director of the January 8 Memorial Foundation.

The memorial will be built just west of the old Pima County courthouse in El Presidio Park and will include a monument garden, an artificial hill, and a "living wall" where people can plant seeds in the crevices of a wall called "the embrace" for its shape. 

The memorial is expected to cost up to $5 million, and with TMC's gift, the foundation has raised $1.8 million, said Kasnoff. 

With the support more than 30 U.S. representatives, including Tucson Democrat Raúl Grijalva, and U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, the foundation has asked the federal government to recognize the memorial as a national memorial, which would include some federal support. 

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Ron Barber, a former staff member for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who stepped into her role in the Congress after she was severely wounded that morning, said that the foundation hopes TMC's gift would help "shake loose" other donors, but that the organization was likely to reach its goal and begin construction next year. 

He also said that earlier organizations, including Beyond Tucson, had helped lay the groundwork needed to build this larger memorial.

Barber was among those who was wounded in the assassination attempt on Giffords. Including Barber, who was shot in the face and leg, and the congresswoman, who was shot at point-blank range in the head yet survived, 13 people were wounded in the attack that killed six other people at a meeting with constituents.

"We all remember that day, almost six years ago, when the unthinkable happened, right here in Tucson," said Dot Kret, president of the January 8 Memorial Foundation. 

"We lost so much on that morning," said Kret. 

"But the whole story of what happened is not just happened on that crisp, cold January morning," Kret said. "It includes what happened afterwards when a community came together to support the victims, the survivors, and to all of those who were impacted by those events, and how the community is continuing to come together to build this beautiful permanent memorial." 

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Judy Rich, the president and CEO of Tucson Medical Center, announces that the hospital is donating $500,00 to the January 8 memorial, which will be built in the El Presidio Park in downtown Tucson.