At play at the hospital

BY PAUL OSGERBY | JULY 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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Children bounced along the fresh turf, climbed the monkey bars, slid down plastic slides, and blew bubbles under the breezy sunlight.

Sweat lightly beaded across their foreheads, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying the new playground installed at the University of Iowa Chilrdren’s Hospital on Tuesday.

Playground Palooza, as the grand reopening was called, marked the end of nearly two years for the facility without a playground on the premise.

“Children need to play,” said Gwen Senio, a child-life specialist at the UI Children’s Hospital. “Even when they’re sick, they still need to play. We really believe in having healing places for children, whether that’s inside or outside.”

During the reopening celebration, several kids got their first chance at trying out the new play equipment.

The playground was paid for through grants and capital funding, Senio said.

The children gathered around to music ranging from “Wheels on the Bus” to John Mellencamp while blowing bubbles and painting together. There was even a reading time, in which kids enjoyed Curious George.

Kathy Whiteside, a child-life specialist at the Children’s Hospital, said watching the transformation into the new facility and seeing children’s growing interest in it while passing through hospital hallways, gave her great satisfaction.

“Seeing it now, there’s kids outside every day,” she said. “It’s rewarding.”

The original playground for the hospital was torn down when renovations took place on the heating and air conditioning for the pavilion where the recreational facility was situated.

Water was leaking from the units and dripping through the ceiling of a large rehabilitation clinic housed directly beneath the playground.

The old playground lacked numerous features that the new facility has.

Across the new turf ground are animal- and nature-theme slides, as well as other installed activities, such as one handicap accessible swing. The new equipment makes the playground open for any child, Senio said.

For the hourlong Playground Palooza celebration, adults and children got to experience the new recreational facility. Smiles and photographs filled the playground.

A dozen or so children from the Melrose Daycare also visited the Children’s Hospital for the festivities.

For Makenzi Loutsch, a child-life intern at the Children’s Hospital, seeing the structures come into place, especially the handicap-accessible swing, generated the most anticipation in weeks leading up to the reopening.

“[The new facility is] not only for the patients, but it’s for siblings,” Senio said. “It’s for children of adult patients of the hospital. It’s for long clinic appointments when they need to run off some steam.”

Parents were excited for the new playground.

“I am really happy to see it so kids can be outside and enjoy the Sun rather than always being kept up in their rooms,” said Kevin Soibel, a father who attended the event.

Inside the massive concrete and glass structure that is the hospital, the facility serves as a recreational area that will be open 24/7 with parental supervision.

Andrea Playle, a nanny for two sons whose mother works at the hospital, said she thinks that the fencing creates a safe environment.

“I think kids will love it,” she said, noting that the two of them really enjoyed their time.

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