Our History

Valley Children’s history is a patchwork of stories built on pioneering firsts, clinical breakthroughs and unfailing compassion, woven together over seven decades.

From being the first in the Valley to perform open-heart surgery to being the first children’s hospital west of the Rockies to receive Magnet Nursing designation, the highest nursing benchmark in the world, to being recognized by US News & World Report as a best children’s hospital eight years in a row, we are proud to stand on a legacy started in 1952 by our five founding mothers.

Their vision – and the dedication of those who have shared, struggled and celebrated with us ever since – has made us the nationally recognized children’s hospital we are today.

Explore our history decade by decade below.

1949: Valley Children’s founding mothers – Carolyn Peck, Gail Goodwin, Helen Maupin, Agnes Crocket and Patty Randall – announce their vision to establish a dedicated pediatric hospital in the Central Valley. They launch the first Valley Children’s Guild to begin raising financial and community support.

Valley Children's five founding mothers


1952: Through fundraising efforts by the original Guild, Valley Children's Hospital officially opens at the corner of Shields and Millbrook avenues in Fresno.

Front entrance of original Valley Children's Hospital location

Front entrance of Valley Children's Hospital, c. 1952


1953: An iron lung and electromyography are added for polio patients.

1955: Valley Children’s pediatric cardiac surgery program begins with closed-heart procedures. By 1958, Valley Children’s performs its first open-heart atrial septal defect closure.


1961: The Hospital acquires a heart defibrillator. The Intensive Newborn Service Center opens to care for premature infants. In order to calm patients' fears and help them feel comfortable, the Hospital starts a program to take patients on pre-operative tours. The first adult heart surgery is performed at Valley Children's.

Valley Children's nurse points to display board of foreign objects removed from lung and esophagus

A Valley Children's nurse points to a display board of foreign objects removed from children's lungs and esophagi.


1971: Our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) opens with eight beds. A "preemie transport system” begins soon after, allowing transport of premature infants to the Hospital from across the Valley. More than four decades later, with 88 beds, it is the only Regional Level IV NICU in Central California.

1975: Our fully equipped emergency room opens. To this day, Valley Children’s remains the only designated pediatric trauma center in the region.

Physician examines X-ray of wrist

A Valley Children's physician examines an X-ray.

1978: In a first for the area, Valley Children’s surgeons separate conjoined twins.

1978: “AM admissions” or Day Surgery unit opens. This gives children the opportunity to check in for surgery in the morning and be home that night.

1979: Valley Children’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) opens.


1980: A newly remodeled intensive care unit opens. The adult cardiac unit closed to accommodate more pediatric programs.

1983: The first telethon to benefit Valley Children’s airs.

Historical photo of Valley Children's Hospital entrance sign

Valley Children's Hospital entrance sign, c. 1980

1985: Valley Children’s NICU opens at Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno.

1986: Valley Children’s rehabilitation center opens. For more than 30 years, we continue to offer the only pediatric rehab center in the Central Valley and one of only two on the West Coast.

1989: Valley Children’s Olivewood Specialty Care Center in Merced opens.


1995: Valley Children’s NICU opens at Mercy Medical Center in Merced.

1996: Valley Children’s NICU opens at Adventist Health in Hanford.

1997: Our first primary care physician practice, Charlie Mitchell Children’s Center, opens in Madera.

1998: Valley Children’s Hospital moves a few miles north to its new location in Madera.

Aerial photo of Valley Children's Hospital main campus in Madera

Aerial photo of Valley Children's Hospital campus in Madera


2002: Valley Children’s Olivewood Specialty Care Center in Modesto opens.

2004: Valley Children’s becomes the first designated Magnet Nursing hospital west of the Rockies. This prestigious designation recognizes the highest levels of excellence in nursing and is awarded to less than three percent of all hospitals in the U.S.

2006: The Hospital receives a $4 million donation from the Wonderful Company that allows us to expand 60,000-square feet with additional surgical suites, imaging department, PICU and Emergency Department (ED).

Photo of Valley Children's Emergency Department

Photo of Valley Children's Emergency Department

2008: Valley Children’s becomes a Magnet Nursing hospital for a second time (hospitals may apply for redesignation every four years). Valley Children’s Hospital becomes the first hospital in the state to offer private rooms in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).


2010: Our PICU receives the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence for the first time. This award is given by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) to fewer than 10 PICUs in the nation.

2014: Valley Children’s Healthcare officially forms, a network focused on providing comprehensive, high-quality pediatric care to more families across our vast service area. Our first inpatient clinical partnership with Sierra View Medical Center launches.

2015: Valley Children’s 34th Street Specialty Care Center in Bakersfield opens.

2016: Valley Children’s Hospital ranks for the first time as one of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” – in Neonatology. Our PICU again receives the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence. Valley Children’s Akers Specialty Care Center in Visalia opens.

2017: The inaugural class of the Valley Children’s Pediatric Residency Program, affiliated with Stanford University School of Medicine, arrives. 

2018: Valley Children's transitions its 34th Street Specialty Care Center services to the newly built, 52,000-square-foot Eagle Oaks Specialty Care Center in Bakersfield.

Exterior photo of Valley Children's Eagle Oaks Specialty Care Center in Bakersfield

Exterior photo of Valley Children's Eagle Oaks Specialty Care Center in Bakersfield

2019: To meet the growing need for pediatric specialty care services in the North Valley, Valley Children’s transitions services at its Olivewood Specialty Care Center to the new Pelandale Specialty Care Center, a 40,000-square-foot building that sits on six acres in north Modesto.


2023: Valley Children's Hospital is ranked for the eighth year in a row as one of the country's best children's hospitals in seven pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report: Neonatology, Pediatric Diabetes & Endocrinology, Pediatric Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Pediatric Neurology & Neurosurgery, Pediatric Orthopaedics, Pediatric Pulmonology & Lung Surgery and Pediatric Urology.