If you’ve ever had to take your child to the hospital — especially in an emergency — you know how scary it can be for you and for them. Novant Health Charlotte Marathon is proud of the fact that proceeds from the annual event help some of the most vulnerable members of our community find comfort at that unsettling time.
The Novant Health Charlotte Marathon has donated nearly $200,000 to the Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital child life program since 2014, including a $37,732 donation in 2019. During the past year, the marathon’s donations supported two big projects aimed at families of children in the hospital’s care.
The Ronald McDonald Family Room at Caroline’s Corner is an extension of the kind of care families receive at Ronald McDonald House during a child’s hospital stay. The 1,100-square-foot space has comfortable seating, work stations, and even showers for family members who don’t want to leave the hospital when their little ones are receiving care.
“The Ronald McDonald Family Room is a place of respite for families, where they can do laundry, shower, or cook a meal if they need to,” says Jessica Osborn, a Hemby Children’s Hospital Ambassador and new mom herself. “We’ve been enjoying watching our families utilizing that space.”
The Family Room is an extension of a quiet place John and Ginny Comly had envisioned for Hemby’s pediatric staff in honor of their daughter Caroline. Caroline had unexpectedly passed away from bacterial meningitis in 2018 when she was just an infant, and her family wanted to create a place where her name would be remembered. The new Ronald McDonald Family Room enlarges the space in Caroline’s Corner for families with children in the unit.
The other project is renovation of an indoor-outdoor playground into a magical place “under the sea.” The new Blume Family Playground recognizes that “play is the work of children” and allows them to learn and grow through fun experiences. It also gives children and their families a chance to take a break from the stress of being in the hospital.
The 3,971-square-foot updated playground, located right at the hospital’s entrance, has a colorful collection of sea creatures as climbing and musical toys, with a pirate ship (everyone’s favorite!) as a centerpiece of the floor. Lights on the ceiling evoke bubbles on the surface of a calming blue sea above. The space honors 5-year-old Sherri Blume, who received care for a brain tumor at the hospital more than 50 years ago, in 1967. Sherri’s family has kept in touch with her care team over the years and enjoys creating a fun legacy in her name. The playground upgrade has been in the works for a while, says Osborne.
“It’s just such a unique space we can offer the patients,” she says. “The opportunity to see your children play when you’re going through a tough time — I think it’s invaluable to parents. It’s helpful for parents to get to watch those moments.” Because the area is an indoor/outdoor space, families can enjoy fresh air on the playground while being protected from the elements.
The “under the sea” theme also extends to another Charlotte Marathon-supported part of Presbyterian Hospital, outside of Hemby — the radiology suite. While children can receive most of their care at Hemby Children’s Hospital, their radiological tests occur in a separate unit over in the main hospital — so the Novant Health Foundation brought a little bit of the fun to them over there.
“We outfitted a room to be an “under the sea” theme — with an MRI cover and mural on the wall,” says Osborn. “We created beautiful places that make this space less scary.” The MRI cover makes the machine look like a pirate ship, and even adults getting MRI’s love it! VR goggles allow patients to slip their minds into a different place, where they can play games, meditate, or do visualization.
More projects are in the works for 2021 and beyond, as pediatric staff work tirelessly under the extreme conditions brought on by COVID-19. The Delta variant of the virus is affecting more children than the initial strain, and staff is working non-stop to care for each little patient.
In 2022, Hemby Children’s Hospital will break ground on expansions of their NICU and clinics for their Hematology and Oncology patients (cancer and blood diseases). The NICU unit will add 12 new patient beds, lactation rooms for moms and babies, family restrooms, and enhanced staff areas. The pediatric cancer center will expand its clinic space, double the number of clinical labs, and give families areas to rest while patients are receiving treatment.
“One of the things that makes Hemby special is the incredible, skilled team members that can provide great care, but it’s also small enough to provide intimate care to our patients,” says Osborn. The clinical team passes along suggestions to let the Child Life Team, administration, and foundation know “what areas need a little love.”
The result is child- and patient-centered areas to ease the stress of a hospital visit like the new and renovated areas above, along with a teen room, indoor play area, and arts and crafts, toys, and movies.
“Watching our team members rise to the occasion is a pretty special thing to witness,” says Osborn. “It shows the true passion they have for their patients.”
After all, caring for children is like a marathon – not a sprint. Your participation in the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon events helps fuel that journey.
To donate to projects at Hemby Children’s Hospital, sign up for the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon! Or go to SupportNovantHealth.org, and choose Hemby Children’s Hospital to determine where your gift will be spent.