Published: Dec 10, 2013 8:56 PM EST

The Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida held a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday night, moving one step closer to the 128-bed state-of-the-art facility.

Kids, including former patients, shoveled sand to mark the ceremonial groundbreaking years in the making.

Hundreds of donors, elected officials, and Lee Memorial Health System staff gathered for the big moment. Health System President Jim Nathan called it "the little hospital that could" and spoke about what it took to get to this point.

The hospital namesake, Tom Golisano, said "the only wealth you keep is what you give away." He pledged a $20 million match donation to the hospital. The hospital has raised that, and then some, totaling $80 million so far.

Actual construction is expected to begin next year, with the hospital fully operational in 2017. It will be built on the campus of Healthpark Medical Center.