Children’s Healing Center Opens in Ypsilanti Township in July

The Children’s Healing Center will open its doors in Ypsilanti Township on July 8, offering children with weakened immune systems and their families a safe and clean place to play.
The Children’s Healing Center will open its doors in Ypsilanti Township on July 8. // Rendering courtesy of Children’s Healing Center

The Children’s Healing Center will open its doors in Ypsilanti Township on July 8, offering children with weakened immune systems and their families a safe and clean place to play.

Located at 7400 Kalitta Court off Huron Street in Ypsilanti Township, the facility is the Children’s Healing Center’s second location after first opening its doors in Grand Rapids in 2015.

The new state-of-the-art 11,000-square-foot facility features a hospital-grade environment where families can engage in a diverse range of innovative programming free of charge.

“It has always been our goal to open a second location of the Children’s Healing Center,” says Amanda Barbour, founder and CEO of Children’s Healing Center. “The kids, young adults, and families who rely on us have very few options for social interaction, so we provide an invaluable outlet to build friendships and fight the effects of isolation and loneliness.

The Children’s Healing Center states it is a first-of-its-kind year-round recreational facility for kids and young adults aged 0-26 with weakened immune systems and their families that provides opportunities for play, programming, education, and socialization.

Qualifying families typically have a child with cancer, an autoimmune disorder, organ transplant, congenital heart defect, sickle cell disease, or other medically complex condition that leaves them at greater risk for infection. Siblings are invited and encouraged to participate in all programming. The center also will operate regular programs designed exclusively for parents and caregivers.

The facility was built from the ground up and made possible by broad backing from the southeast Michigan community, including $4.5 million in private and foundation donations and a $2 million grant from the state of Michigan.

“The support we have received is a testament to the generous spirit of this community, and we are honored these organizations and individuals recognize the value we bring to our members,” Barbour says.

“The families who rely on us as a social outlet are often already burdened with significant medical bills, so it’s critical we remain a free resource to them. It’s the generosity of the community that makes play possible at the Center, and we thank everyone who has contributed to this campaign for supporting not only us but also the families we serve.”

The campaign’s success was spearheaded by a $1.25 million matching gift from The Jones Family Foundation, which supports nonprofits addressing the needs of children in southeast Michigan, among other initiatives.

“The Children’s Healing Center’s focus on the entire family through innovative programming was particularly interesting to us,” says Wayne Jones of the Jones Family Foundation. “We are honored to support the center as it breaks down the barriers of isolation for its members. We look forward to seeing how this unique resource makes longstanding and positive improvements in our community.”

The new location has different areas for children and families to use, including:

  • Exploratory Play: Space that supports exploration and play-based learning, including an educational environment for the center’s Little Tots University Preschool and areas for creativity and imagination.
  • Active Fitness: Space that encourages kids to get moving and release energy, featuring a space to run, jump and play. It will also include flexible configurations for group games, fitness classes, yoga, sports, dance and other activities.
  • Teen & AYA: Space for teens and young adults to call their own, designed to encourage group activities and games, build community and stimulate conversation.
  • Caregiver Lounge: Space for caregivers to connect and share with one another, with flexible seating and a designated work area.
  • Multipurpose Room: A versatile room that offers space for large group programs, talent shows, movie nights, culinary programs, seminars and more.
  • Art Room: A hands-on area that enables children to be messy and creative as they work on individual and group art and educational projects. The environment will be designed to encourage exploration, ideation and learning.

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

  • Total absence of carpet, fabric, or other materials that harbor germs; vinyl and other easily cleanable materials are used throughout 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.

“One crucial aspect of caring for children with serious conditions is how to support their social and emotional healing, which is where the Children’s Healing Center shines,” says Dr. D’Anna Saul, who serves as the center’s southeast Michigan medical advisor and as a hospitalist and pediatric palliative care physician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“The center delivers a key component of holistic healthcare by providing a safe space where children and families coping with serious illness can be vulnerable, ask for and receive support, and find a community of others who understand their experience.”

The Children’s Healing Center is the vision of Barbour, who was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma just shy of turning 22. She immediately began treatment at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, where her career in architecture and post-college social life were replaced with doctor appointments, surgeries, and chemotherapy.

Unable to interact with friends and loved ones, Barbour felt isolated and lonely. During her weeks at the hospital, she met kids fighting for their lives who, like herself, were unable to enjoy the simple things in life. Even as she struggled with her own health issues, Barbour dreamed of a place where these kids could go and just be kids.

After successfully battling her cancer, Barbour continued her career as an architect, but the seeds of the Children’s Healing Center were planted. After five years of gathering community support and maintaining a full-time job, Barbour launched the center and has since led as its executive director and, more recently, CEO.

The new location will be led by Lorrie Beaumont, an accomplished leader in education with a specialty in child development. Most recently, she was chief learning officer at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, where she worked at the intersection of development and education, managing major community partnerships, writing grants, and overseeing the vision and direction of the education programs.

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