GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The country’s first year-round recreation center for children with weak immune systems opened Wednesday in Grand Rapids.
“These families, their week immune systems put them at a really high risk of infection so often times they are isolated from the public. This is a place that is safe and clean that they can come and be with other kids,” said Amanda Winn, the Founder and Executive Director of the Children’s Healing Center.
The Children’s Healing Center gives children with cancer, autoimmune disorders and other medical issues a germ-free place they can play and stay fit.
The center has four zones, a play area complete with reading nooks, a fitness space for games, dance and other classes, a high tech area and an art and learning space.
Because of generous donations for the first six months membership for families will be free, after that families will pay a monthly membership fee of $40 to use the center.
“I’m really grateful to all the community donors and all the community that has come behind us and supported us in order to make this building possible,” Winn said.
The center’s executive director Amanda Winn said she felt isolated during her own cancer treatments and wants to give children with similar health issues a place they can get together and play.
“During that time, I was isolated — not only from public activities to guard against infection, but from friends and colleagues who couldn’t relate to what I was going through,” Winn said. “I desperately wanted to get back to normal so I could return to being Amanda, not Amanda who has cancer.”
Every person who comes through the doors will go through a rigorous screening process by staff before entry to prevent inadvertent exposure to anything that could be harmful to children with weak immune systems
It’s a center Dawn Burgess says would have been great for her family when they were going through a cancer diagnosis.
“Our son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, which is particularly aggressive childhood cancer the day before he turned two,” Burgess said.
Just about two years after his diagnosis, her son passed away just before his fourth birthday.
Burgess says because of his illness there were many things he couldn’t do like play in the PlayPlace at McDonald’s for fear he would get even more sick. Now, she sees the Children’s Healing Center as a place where families going through what her family once did can go and be together and safe.
“They can do crafts together. They can play together. They can watch movies together. They can interact not only with their sibling they miss, but also with other kids that understand what they are going through because their sick too or they have a sibling that is sick too and their life is just like your life,” Burgess said.