Playtime is an important and natural part of development for children. But for many children with compromised immune systems, play time can be dangerous to their health.
Ypsilanti Township will soon be home to the Children’s Healing Center, a unique setting where kids with weakened immune systems can socialize, play, and learn in a safe, clean environment.
The first Children’s Healing Center opened in Grand Rapids in 2015, with year-round recreational opportunities for kids and their families. It provided a worry-free space for families who would typically have to isolate from normal daily social interactions.
“Since opening seven years ago, we’ve had several families from the Ann Arbor area make the drive to visit us in Grand Rapids,” CEO and CHC Founder Amanda Barbour said. “This demonstrates how our philosophy and programming resonate with families who crave the opportunity to break through the isolation that so many medical diagnoses bring with them.”
The new 11,000 square foot facility will begin construction on South Huron St. this spring.
It hopes to provide a nearly germ-free environment for children from birth to age 26 and their families. To ensure cleanliness, the facility uses HEPA air filtration systems, microbial-resistant surfaces, filtered water technology, and frequent disinfection. In addition, there are no carpets or fabric surfaces that could harbor germs.
“We are already actively working to break ground this spring, and hope to open in early 2024,” Director of Growth and Development Melissa Block said. “We’ve received such a warm welcome from the greater Ann Arbor community. We cannot wait to get started on construction and bring our innovative programming to even more families.”
The building will feature different zones for various activities, such as an art room, an outdoor garden space, an indoor fitness facility, and teen and young adult spaces. Educational classrooms will offer programs in science, technology, art, and math. The center will also offer the Little Tots University Preschool, with areas for imaginative play and creativity.
Parents and caregivers can enjoy a lounge, kitchen and café complete with coffee bar, where they can connect with other parents, catch up at a designated work area, or just relax.
Qualifying families are able to take part in the center’s programs at no cost. Participants often have conditions such as autoimmune disorders, cancer, organ transplants, congenital heart defects, or other conditions that would normally impede their ability to socialize with others.
Lorrie Beaumont, formerly the chief learning officer at Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, will lead the new location. Her work with community partnerships and grant writing will help in the next phase of development.
Initial funding for this project was provided by a $2 million state of Michigan grant, along with a matching $1.25 million gift from the Jones Family Foundation. Additional funds have been secured through a capital campaign, bringing the center closer to its funding goals.
“The Ann Arbor area was a natural location for our expansion because, like Grand Rapids, its community embraces and celebrates philanthropy, which is critical to our mission. There are also several children’s hospitals and other health care facilities nearby, including the award-winning University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital,” Barbour said. “We have enjoyed a partnership for years with C.S. Mott and look forward to our continued collaboration with them, as well as expanding partnerships with other area health care providers as we create programming that meets the needs of the community.”