LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Children’s Hospital on Friday announced the launch of a public fundraising campaign for its planned Springdale campus and said friends of the hospital have already given $53 million toward the $70 million fundraising goal.

The total cost to build Arkansas Children’s Northwest is estimated at $167 million. Costs above $70 million will be covered by Arkansas Children’s Hospital in cash and new debt, President and CEO Marcy Doderer said in an interview.

Doderer said she is “over-the-top thrilled” with the early gifts the project has received.

“Our original goal as we kicked off conversations with folks about specific gifts and investments in the winter was to be at $45 million by tonight,” she said.

Doderer said Friday afternoon the public fundraising campaign would be launched at the hospital’s Color of Hope Gala in Rogers on Friday evening. The theme of the drive is Care Close to Home.

“Thousands of families actually make the trip to (Arkansas Children’s Hospital in) Little Rock every year. Many of the times it’s for a service that we will be able to now provide in Northwest Arkansas,” Doderer said.

Northwest Arkansas currently has few dedicated pediatric services, she said.

“By us building Arkansas Children’s Northwest, we bring a dedicated pediatric emergency room, we bring an inpatient facility, complete with operating rooms, imaging services, laboratory services and outpatient services that are designed to take care of kids of all ages and sizes, that will be staffed with the clinical experts who did their training specifically to take care of kids and also have the wraparound services that children’s hospitals are really known for, to ensure that you can care for the whole child and the whole family,” she said.

Not only will children in the region be able to receive the care they need close to home, but their parents also will be able to avoid lengthy drives between home and Little Rock, Doderer said.

Such trips are inconvenient for parents at best, but especially so “if their resources make it difficult to arrange travel to Central Arkansas or work makes it difficult to arrange travel,” she said.

Construction is already underway on the new hospital and is expected to be completed in time for it to open in January 2018. Doderer said the fundraising campaign will run for four years, with the hospital underwriting costs while it collects pledges over that time.