Creating more play space and a permanent home for OZ | By Nick Holekamp, MD

This month we are starting renovations to create a permanent space for our innovative OZ program, as well as additional play space and other updates for our patients.

We’re committing $1.4 million to this project, so it’s an example of our dedication to Care Beyond the Bedside, our unique care model that prioritizes play as a form of healing.

Our renovation plan is big news for us, so I wanted to share more about what we’re doing and why. If you’re interested in getting involved, you can donate or volunteer to support our cause.

A new home for OZ

The biggest part of the renovations is a permanent home for OZ in our South Gym. Short for Optimization Zone, OZ is an innovative in-hospital program, similar to a preschool, for children aged 5 and younger with complex medical conditions created specifically to optimize each child’s neurodevelopmental progress.

We have a temporary area for OZ right now but it is a makeshift space that uses temporary barriers as walls. There is no sound proofing which can be distracting to kids, and there is no easy access to water for washing toys and other water activities.

How we designed the new OZ

Our team worked with Steve Hunsicker, Principal with 527 Architects, to design the space. We took a lot of time to create the perfect preschool classrooms that also comply with hospital regulations which include specific requirements about the width of doors and hallways that keep patients safe in emergency situations.

The new OZ space will consist of two classrooms for OZ where children will have the opportunity to have structured social play and development stimulation, two important factors to help reduce the adverse developmental impacts that often accompany long-term hospitalization. 

As part of the remodel plans, we are also making changes to our art room to enhance our art therapy capabilities, such as turning a window into a wheelchair-friendly door so patients can more easily navigate the art therapy space.

Adding even more space for play

In addition to the updates for OZ and our art area, we are also building play spaces in our West Unit, home to our youngest patients.

Similar to “play pens,” we are creating permanent areas called corrals with waist-high walls to give children under 5 free space to play while keeping them safe. Each space is designed to fit several children and enough adults to supervise, as well as each child’s medical equipment to enhance our patients’ socialization skills through play.

Why we’re grateful for our donors

Funding for this renovation was provided entirely by donations, so we are incredibly grateful to our donors for contributing to Ranken Jordan and for supporting our campaign to raise $2 million for OZ.

It is validating to me that our community sees the clear benefits programs like OZ provide our patients. I am in awe of how our community has stepped up to give patients opportunities they wouldn’t have access to in other settings.

How you can help

If you’d like to support our work with OZ and beyond, I encourage you to visit our donation page or learn more about volunteering.

OZ and opportunities to play have been crucial in many of the lives of our patients, so if you choose to support us, I promise your support will change the lives of some very special kids.

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