The Bethesda Foundation originated in 1974 to ensure that Bethesda’s hospital operations and related entities had the resources needed to meet health care challenges facing the large, growing community they served. Much of the Foundation's work in its early years was funding capital needs that helped Bethesda expand its hospital-based services. The list of organizations supported by the Foundation grew in the 1990’s, when Hospice of Cincinnati came under the Bethesda umbrella. Hospice care was still a relatively new idea at the time, and when the Bethesda Foundation helped raise $6 million for Hospice of Cincinnati in 1997, the funds were used to construct the Blue Ash Inpatient Care Center, only the second hospice inpatient care unit in the entire nation.
The number of organizations supported by the Foundation grew substantially in the 2000s. First, an independent organization called Fernside: A Center for Grieving Children joined with Hospice of Cincinnati; the Foundation therefore began fundraising for Fernside. Fernside is a nationally recognized resource for children and families who have lost a parent, sibling or loved one. It too was a cutting-edge organization, as it was only the nation’s second center for grieving children when it opened in 1986. In 2005, Bethesda Arrow Springs in Lebanon, Ohio, and in 2013, Bethesda Butler Hospital in Hamilton Ohio joined the Bethesda family.
Today, the Foundation has grown to a team of 17 located on the 2nd floor of Bethesda North Hospital. In recent years, examples of Bethesda North projects completed as a result of Bethesda Foundation fundraising include: the nationally recognized Mary Jo Cropper Family Center for Breast Care; the Harold & Margret Thomas Level II Special Care Nursery, and a first in the region geriatric-friendly Emergency Department , which have all enhanced the reputation of Bethesda North Hospital as a regional leader.
The Foundation also disburses more than $1 million in grant funds annually in support of medical education and research, clinical improvement, patient services, facilities, and community outreach programs provided by Bethesda Hospital and its related entities.