Sanford is a household name in South Dakota, with a hospital, medical school, events center and underground lab carrying the name.
While most people know that Thomas Denny Sanford is a billionaire, they don't know much about the man behind the money.
The hospital system bearing his name and bronze statues of his likeness are common sites in Sioux Falls. To date, Thomas Denny Sanford has donated more than $800 million to the former Sioux Valley Hospital, which has enabled the now Sanford Health System to grow exponentially, nation--and even world--wide.
"He's really interested and always has been in programming; in the science of it and the delivery through people. Great scientists, doctor and nurses; that's what he wants," Kelby Krabbenhoft, CEO of Sanford Health, said.
"He wants to make as much of an impact as he can, really to make our world better," Miles Beacom of PREMIER Bankcard said.
The majority of Denny Sanford's donations have been to help children. His first big gift was $2 million to the Children's Home Society in 1998. Since then, most of money he's given away has landed in South Dakota.
"When you look at the underground lab, Sanford Health, Children's Home, United Way, Make-A-Wish, everything he does and a lot of times people don't realize what he does because he just wants to help kids," Beacom said.
Already a multi-millionaire when he took over a fledging bank in South Dakota for a friend in 1986, Sanford renamed it to First PREMIER Bank. Three years later, he started the sub-prime credit card company PREMIER Bankcard, which now has three million cardholders nationwide. The organization where he made his billions and the organization he gifted are forking out $13 million for naming rights of the new Sioux Falls Events Center.
"We understand the Sanford Health System carries his name, but there's no facility named after him and for an individual who's done as much as he has across the state, his philanthropic efforts have really touched all across the state. We thought it would be appropriate to name something specifically for him and it will be the only building that carries his complete name," Dana Dykhouse of First PREMIER Bank said.
But according to the three men who know him best in South Dakota that's not exactly what Denny Sanford wanted.
"And he says, 'Every time my name is on a building or something, I get ripped. I'm happy just to help.' I'm like, 'Denny, we all talked. We want your name on this facility,'" Beacom said.
South Dakota isn't only place where Sanford's philanthropic efforts have resulted in buildings with his name. Sanford spends his winters traveling and staying at his homes in Arizona and California. He's also donated millions to assist research in California. Coming up on Eye on KELOLAND, Angela Kennecke will take you to Sanford's San Diego home and talk with the man who is determined to die broke.
"I don't need a foundation staff. I pick and choose those causes that I like. I get personally involved with them. I got out and make sure they are legitimate and get the job done," Sanford said.
Sanford lives up to those words as our cameras follow him around to his causes in San Diego. Hear more about how Sanford grew up, how he became successful and why he's pledged to give away all his wealth. He also tackles his critics head on Monday night at 10.