By Leslie Wyatt, Vice President of Children’s Services andExecutive Director of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCUShhh…we have a fun secret to share. Today Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) is revealing our new Children’s Garden! The open air rooftop space is a unique outdoor environment designed for inpatient children and families. The 4,000 square-foot garden is located on the 7th floor of the MCV Campus and features beautiful landscaping, comfortable sitting areas and, of course, a playground. It’s a relaxing place for parents to escape for some fresh air and natural scenery; and it’s the perfect place for kids to just be kids.The Children’s Garden is open to patients, siblings and families admitted to the acute care pediatric units. The space is designed to accommodate the special needs of all children, including those in wheelchairs and beds. The play deck is close to the inpatient rooms, so even children connected to medical equipment, such as IVs, can enjoy time outside too.I’m so excited for our patients and families to have a special nature sanctuary of their own. We hope the Children’s Garden will provide children with a sense of home and a breath of fresh air during their hospital stay. The opportunity to play outside is something that seems so small; yet it’s so magical to a child. We want kids to have every opportunity to experience as much of a carefree childhood as they can, regardless of their circumstance. While we have many kid-friendly spaces and activities inside the walls of the hospital, the new garden will create a unique outside space, and maybe even a sense of freedom or joy for our patients and their families.I was particularly moved by how Beth Saladino, a parent of a former patient, described exactly why this garden is important for our patients.
“Hospitalizations for kids with Cystic Fibrosis can become lengthy and as the disease progresses, more frequent. The play deck offered Lucy and our family a different perspective, a different environment. If the sun was out and the temperatures agreeable we would gather up her IV pole and go and sometimes simply sit and soak up the vitamin D. We also watched Fourth of July fireworks while eating yummy BBQ items and popsicles from Monica’s kitchen. We bounced a ball as hard and high as we could. We blew bubbles of all shapes and sizes. We played follow the leader on the windy brick wall. We’d wave at anyone who was lurking in the many windows above the play deck. And we might have even thrown water balloons at the newly built Gateway building. You get the idea. Where the halls and rooms of 7C were places to be serious and heal, the play deck gave Lucy, her friends and our family, a place that was safe, warm and not scary. But in fact, fun!”
We are grateful to the many people who made this dream come true. We particularly want to thank the 48th Annual Children’s Hospital Foundation Ball held in November 2011 and organized by the Foundation’s Junior Board, for raising $217,000 to help renovate the play deck into the new Children’s Garden on CHoR’s MCV Campus and VCU Medical Center for their support. Passionate people like you are a true inspiration to all of us, especially children. We’ll be posting pictures of the Children’s Garden on our Facebook page soon, so make sure to check out facebook.com/chrichmond and like us!