June 5, 2012
A newly opened outdoor playground at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, MO provides a place where children who are facing overwhelming difficulties can “leave it all behind,” says Dan Buck, executive director of the center’s Foundation.
“I had a father come up to me with tears in his eyes,” says Buck. “He told me it was the first time that his daughter’s siblings had gotten to play with her in a long, long time. I thought, ‘Wow, this really matters.’ That little girl had been in the hospital for many weeks and the play area helped her whole family have fun together. It was pretty profound.”
The outdoor play area opened on April 12. Rally Squirrel, the official mascot of SSM Cardinal Glennon, stepped up to the plate to help raise more than $500,000 with sales from his charity apparel, including donations for 31,000 t-shirts and 26,000 Christmas cards from supporters throughout the St. Louis area.
Because Rally Squirrel is the Center’s mascot, Buck says that the play area represents a squirrel’s natural habitat… and several other squirrely elements.
“Kids and squirrels are a lot alike,” quips Buck. “They like to climb and scamper. At the center of the play area is Rally’s home – a big tree – and there are also logs and pup tents and climbers and even picnic tables… all things that squirrels and kids like to play on.”
Several low-profile, soft play log slices were provided by PLAYTIME, LLC, the global provider of unique, interactive play areas and playground equipment for indoor, outdoor and water play.
Buck also says that hospital employees use the play area in the services that they provide.
“Our Child Life Specialists take kids to the play area to take their minds off of upcoming surgeries and treatments,” he says. “They have found the playground to be an incredible place to help the kids truly let go.”
Sherlyn Hailstone, president of SSM Cardinal Glennon, adds, “This is a great space for kids to get out of their rooms, get some fresh air and do fun things within their limitations. It will allow siblings, parents and friends to interact with patients in a non-medical environment and help bring a sense of normalcy to a situation that is often anything but normal to a child.”
The play area is dedicated to the memory of Robert P. Bruns, a longtime friend and donor of the hospital whose wish was to build a playground for patients. Although Mr. Bruns passed away during the construction, his family was on hand at the grand opening.