When Fritz Filz was discharged as a patient from St. Francis Medical Center last year, all he could think about was how he could repay the hospital for saving his life. He came in to St. Francis with a life-threatening illness and did not know if he would survive. He left feeling more alive than ever and wanting to share his gratitude and appreciation of life with others.
“I was always a little afraid of hospitals,” said Filz, “but at St. Francis I was treated with such dignity and respect.” He continued, “I witnessed how the staff made care personal for every patient, dignified, and even a little fun to ease our anxiety. I wanted to give something back to the hospital -- something that had meaning.”
What Filz gave was a part of himself. He donated his personal contemporary collection of first edition Hot Wheel cars and presented them in a 4’x8’, custom-made shadow box that he designed himself and had constructed by his friend and acclaimed art framer Rolando Rodriguez.
“I wanted to give St. Francis something that had the utmost class,” asserted Filz. “It had to be worthy of the hospital.”
Filz’ display of nearly 500 first edition Hot Wheel cars from the period of 2007-2012 represents numerous years of researching and searching for these specialized miniature autos, hundreds of hours of compiling and organizing his collection, and thousands of miles of travel. The Hot Wheels were purchased from stores in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and New Hampshire, to name a few, and in cities where Filz worked, studied, and vacationed over his lifetime.
In recognition of Filz’ inestimable donation, St. Francis Medical Center is holding a Blessing Ceremony of the Hot Wheels display 11 a.m. today in the Pediatrics Unit, where Filz’ collection now resides.
“We decided that our Pediatrics Unit was the perfect home for such a special gift,” said Mary Eileen Drees, CEO of the St. Francis Medical Center Foundation. “Here it will bring joy to hundreds of children, adults, families, and staff, which is Fritz’ wish – to share with others the pleasure this collection has brought him for so many years.”
As part of his gift, Filz also donated a car-engine-shaped carrying case filled with an additional 25 Hot Wheels, all waiting to be played with in the Little Angels Playroom of the Pediatrics Unit. Filz explained, “From personal experience I knew that, after seeing the Hot Wheels display, children would want to touch, feel, roll, and race the cars.”
Building a bit of fun into the display itself, Filz also added a special “Treasure Hunt” component into the shadow box. Working carefully on the layout, Filz strategically placed three rare edition Hot Wheels among the hundreds of miniatures. These extremely limited models were specially designated as “Treasure Hunt” cars by the manufacture. The challenge is to find all three.
Gretchen Hellgren, Pediatrics Unit Manager, is delighted by the display. “We have received such a wonderful response to Filz’ gift,” she stated. “Our patients and their parents think we’re a pretty cool hospital when they see this awesome collection.” She also interjects, “And our staff is hoping Fritz will drop a few hints about the hidden Treasure Hunt cars at the Blessing Ceremony!”
With this donation, Filz feels his Hot Wheel collecting days are complete. Although he no longer travels the country in search of new toy models, he does travel the city in his custom painted Scion with the signature Hot Wheels logo and flames, which he will drive to the Blessing Ceremony.
Filz believes that the purpose behind his lifetime affection for and collection of Hot Wheels is now realized. “It’s about giving back and giving joy to the next generation,” said Filz. “It is an absolute honor to be affiliated with St. Francis Medical Center, and I hope this gift reflects my gratitude and brings happiness to everyone here in the hospital and to the community for many years to come.”