Children’s Healing Center Will Open its Doors in September

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PRLogJune 25, 2015 In September, the Children’s Healing Center will open its doors in Grand Rapids to provide a place for children with weak immune systems to come play, stay fit and have fun in a germ-free environment – but West Michigan media can get a sneak peak today.

The first year-round recreational center in the nation is hosting an open house and media tour today, June 25, from 10-11:30 a.m. at its new 7,000-square- foot facility at 1530 Fulton St. SE.  The Children’s Healing Center provides a safe, clean, interactive place for children coping with cancer, autoimmune disorders, organ transplants and other medical conditions that leave them at greater risk for infection than their peers.

Backed by broad support and community involvement, the Center is in the public phase of a $ 1.8 million  campaign for start-up, capital and operational costs, including an extensive renovation of the existing facility where it will offer scheduled classes, free play and user-driven programming designed to appeal to children ages 3-18.  Similar to a gym membership, the Center will charge a modest monthly fee that covers about half the cost of operations, encouraging children and their families to drop in and use the facility frequently.

More than four years in the making, Children’s Healing Center is the vision of Grand Rapids resident and cancer survivor Amanda Winn. She was just shy of her 22nd birthday when she was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a life-threatening blood cancer that forced her to trade her career as an architectural designer for doctor appointments, chemotherapy treatments and surgeries.

“The idea of the Children’s Healing Center emerged from my cancer journey,” said Winn, who serves as executive director of the new Center. “During that time, I was isolated – not only from public activities to guard against infection, but from friends and colleagues who couldn’t relate to what I was going through.  I desperately wanted to get back to normal so I could return to being Amanda, not Amanda-who-has- cancer.

“I saw that same sense of isolation and longing for normalcy in the children and their families who were being treated at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.  From there was born the idea of the Center as a place where kids, their siblings and parents could connect with others, be active and have fun – where they could get back to just being kids.”

Full of bright colors and intriguing shapes, the Center has four zones:

·       Exploratory play:  Winn said this area will focus on exploration and play-based learning, featuring tables to develop fine motor-skill activities as well as intimate reading nooks.  This area will feature an adaptable mini town, transforming into whatever the kids create – a hospital, bank, restaurant, etc. It will encourage dramatic play and allow children to work through their emotions.

·       Active fitness: Winn noted that children with weak immune systems often spend a fair amount of time in bed or on the couch.  The active fitness area is a large space to move, run and play as kids release energy.  It will also feature flexible configurations that will allow for group games, fitness classes, yoga, sports, dance and other activities.

·       Technology:  Featuring camp-style lounge seating, the high-tech space is equipped with a large screen for motion-sensor fitness games, movie nights and more.  It also has a stage, theatrical area and photo screen that will allow kids to express their emotions through film and photography.

·       Art and learning:  This hands-on area will allow children to be messy and creative as they work on individual and group art and educational projects.  Winn noted that the environment is designed to encourage exploration, ideation and learning.

“The West Michigan community is fortunate to have world-class health care facilities right in our backyard,” said John Kennedy, president and CEO of Autocam Medical who is co-chair of the Center’s capital campaign committee along with his wife, Nancy.  “The addition of the Children’s Healing Center fills a gap in our offerings by providing children and their families a place to take a much-needed break from their treatment regimens to relax and have fun as a family.

“We have been gratified at the tremendous outpouring of support we have received throughout our capital campaign, from gifts-in-kind and donated materials to donations from West Michigan community leaders. The Center is a true complement to other children’s services in Grand Rapids, and we look forward to collaborating with area businesses, universities, hospitals and other nonprofits to provide meaningful programming.”

The Children’s Health Center features a clean environment designed to provide as close to a germ-free space as possible.  Members and their families go through a rigorous screening process by a medically knowledgeable CHC team before entry to prevent inadvertent exposure to colds, infections and related ailments that could be harmful to children with weak immune systems.

More than one-quarter of the Center’s operating budget will be dedicated to maintaining a super-clean space, which features:

·       Total absence of carpet, fabric or other materials that harbor germs; vinyl and other easily cleanable materials are used through the center

·       Use of microbial resistant surfaces amenable to frequent disinfection

·       A designated HEPA air filtration system and positive pressurization to maintain air quality

·       Use of filtered tap water along with state-of-the- art technology to ensure there is no standing water

“Children facing cancer, autoimmune disorders and other illnesses often undergo treatment for a year or even more,” explained Dr. Beth Kurt, CHC board member and pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.  “During this time, families need to be hyper-vigilant to ensure their already sick child doesn’t contract something that will make their health situation even worse.

“That’s where the Children’s Healing Center comes in. By providing a super-clean environment, we minimize the risk of going out as family.  Our goal is to make the Center as comfortable as being right in your own living room, encouraging families to play together and forge connections with other families who are also coping with serious illness.”

Programming is slated to start in September and a special grand opening community event will be held Sept. 16.

More information, including sign-up opportunities, is available at www.childrenshealingcenter.org. You can find the Center on Facebook and Twitter.

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