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Graley's passion paves way for children's hospital

Citizen Awards
Apr. 04, 2013 @ 12:02 AM

HUNTINGTON — After a successful three-decade banking career, David Graley found his life’s mission.

The charge card-department employee turned bank president turned leader of the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation led a successful campaign to raise more than $12 million in just over five years for the Hoops Family Children’s Hospital.

For his behind-the-scenes work, which is becoming more and more visible along the hospital’s Hal Greer Boulevard border as work on the children’s hospital progresses, Graley has been awarded The Herald-Dispatch’s Community Impact Award as part of the newspaper’s 2012 Citizen Awards program.

In a recent interview, the chief operating officer of the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation was focused on the children’s hospital, even though he was unaware at the time that he would be honored for his work to make the hospital a reality.

“We can talk about anything you want,” Graley said, “as long as it’s about the children’s hospital.”

Those who’ve crossed paths with Graley describe him as a tireless champion for the Tri-State’s children, someone with zeal, determination and tenacity, a man who has made a “significant impact on the daily lives of people in our region.”

“You will be moved by his passion,” one nominator said. But, it was only recently Graley himself would say his life moved from success to significance.

Graley’s career in finance began in the 1970s in Tacoma, Wash., after two years of military service. Moving up the ranks, he began focusing on lending to businesses and moved from Washington to Key Centurion Bankshares, the largest bank holding company in West Virginia. He later became regional president of JP Morgan Chase, from where he eventually retired.

He has served on a variety of community boards including the Chamber of Commerce and the Huntington Area Development Council, was a moving force behind the development of KineticPark, and received the Economic Development Volunteer of the Year Award in West Virginia in 2004 as well as being named a Distinguished West Virginian by then Gov. Bob Wise.

“The most important thing to me in my banking career were the customers. I felt like if I did the right thing by them, the  profits would work out,” Graley said. “Big banking forgot that, and I became somewhat disenchanted with the state of the industry and the quality of the service.”

He described the day he got the call from Cabell Huntington Hospital expressing interest in him joining the hospital’s team as “scary.”

“I had been looking for something that could be of some significance, and I really felt led by God to come here, but it was scary. It was also a breath of fresh air,” Graley said. “I really believe I was being reared for 30 years to build relationships with these pockets of wealth, to gain their trust, for this calling. People don’t give to causes; they give to people they trust for good causes. If you treat people right and develop good relationships, good things will follow.”

Good things have followed, but not without challenges. Graley took on the massive fundraising in March 2008, as the Great Recession was hitting at full force.

“David has navigated through exceptionally difficult economic times to meet his fundraising goal, never losing faith in his mission,” said C.R. Neighborgall IV, president of Neighborgall Construction.

“Dave’s ability to raise funds of this magnitude in an adverse economic climate and in the poorest one-half of the second poorest state in the nation is amazing,” said Campbell Woods attorney Howard “Buck” Crews.

“I pledged to myself I would never make an excuse about the economy. If we hadn’t met our goal, I wasn’t going to say it was because of the bad economy,” Graley said. “I didn’t do this myself. I couldn’t have. This was people in this area taking care of their own.

“I knew with the help of the good Lord we could help people who can’t help themselves,” he continued. “It was never in question. Our children deserve this.”

“Given his strong commitment to the community and his long-standing relationships with many of the individuals, corporations, foundations and political leaders that would be needed to support the fundraising project, David was clearly the right man for the job,” said Mary Witten Wiseman, president of the Foundation for the Tri-State Community Inc.

And, what about that children’s hospital Graley is so passionate about? The dedicated entrance is taking shape, doctors in pediatric subspecialties are being hired and a full one-quarter of the hospital’s beds are designated for sick children.

“You can’t build a children’s hospital. You have to be one,” Graley said. “We were facilities-challenged and now we’re taking care of it. We’ve been a children’s hospital for some time. We just hadn’t declared it.”

Graley is already envisioning future projects: a wing for pediatric speech and physical therapy and an advocacy center for child victims of abuse.

“I received a letter from a mother who had never told the story about having lost her son, and her letter was thanking me for leaving the banking industry to help care for sick children,” he said. “This is the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done.”

Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.

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