HERSHEY — A opened building Tuesday marked a physical representation of years of fundraising, building and dreaming.
Partners, families and staff gathered to honor the opening of the new Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital building at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
At 9:30 a.m., Dean of the Penn State College of Medicine Dr. Harold Pazgreeted the crowd that filled the bottom floor of the newly constructed 263,000 square foot five-story children’s hospital.
The hospital has had a goal to raise $65 million dollars to build the hospital, and since the groundbreaking in 2009, the project has received over $75 million dollars in philantrophic donations.
The crowd grew still when the Brobson family, comprised of parents Lauren and Kevin, and their two young children Claire and Will took the stage in front of a group of onlookers excited for the opening of the new facility.
Lauren Brobson began her speech by describing the atmosphere of her family’s life in December of 2007.
“These days we should have been preparing for the holidays and decorating, and they should have been like any other day,” Brobson said. “However, on Dec. 15, Claire was seven years old, in second grade, and we had to take her to the emergency room.”
Brobson said that Claire was in a lot of pain due to a supposed sprained wrist, but the doctors at Penn State Hershey told her otherwise. Seven-year-old Claire was diagnosed with acute leukemia.
“We had the same reaction as any parents would: fear, frustration, and anger. We needed to take action,” Brobson said. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘Is this the right place for our child?’ We were fortunate enough to have had to make the right choice.”
Today, Claire Brobson is 12 years old, and this February she will be three years off of her treatment.
With the conclusion of Brobson’s time speaking, Paz, gathered with all of the donors and cut the ribbon and the crowd roared with applause.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson also spoke at the event and congratulated the hospital’s opening.
“This hospital will bring a new level of care to the children and families,” Erickson said. “Everything has exceeded our expectations, and we are here to celebrate the commitment and give thanks to everyone who donated or supported this project.”
Erickson also said that he is proud to say that since 1977, the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon has raised over $89 million dollars for the Four Diamonds Fund, and now $10 million to the new hospital, making them the second largest donor behind Highmark with $25 million.
“Each year during THON weekend, you may see some children that are frail and that may have lost their hair or their strength, but because of THON, they have never lost their spirit or their enthusiasm,” Erickson said.
Other guest speakers at the event included Lt. Gov. James Cawley, Highmark CEO William Winkenwerder, Congressman Charlie Dent and State Rep. John Payne.
Operations Director for the Children’s Hospital Gil Pak then took attendees on a tour of the hospital, which had a consistent nature theme. The theme was evident through murals, color schemes, animal footprints lining the ground, and the theme of the “Treehouse Café” that patients will receive meals in around the clock.
Other amenities for children include the Jeanne and Edward Arnold Atrium for Performing Arts, several teen lounges and an outside garden maze that is wheelchair-accessible for patients to play around outside in between treatment.
The THON-funded Cancer Pavilion, which includes several panoramic THON photos that line the bright walls, contains several Infusion rooms complete with patient-centered attributes. The rooms include big-screen televisions with on-demand entertainment, adequate space for patients to move in between rooms to undergo treatment with friends, privacy and snacks close by.
The new hospital now features family-centered care amenities within patient rooms. With a full bathroom including a shower, a couch that turns into a sofa bed for two parents to spend the night, adequate space and some containing storage closets, parents have the opportunity to stay with their children while having similar benefits to being at home.
The hospital will officially open to patients on Jan. 13, and Paz said that there is still much to look forward to.
“This is not just about a building, it’s about a vision for how we provide care, and how we see the future of pediatric cancer,” Paz said. “The building is now complete, but the journey has only just begun.”
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