Ranken Jordan Celebrates 80 Years of Play for Healing

A year-long celebration kicked off today recognizing the 80-year anniversary of present-day Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, a unique facility that helps children with complex conditions transition safely to home.

On April 9, 1941, a St. Louis philanthropist, Mary Ranken Jordan, opened the doors to a new health care concept that focused on the essential role of play in healing for the sickest children.

Today, the hospital is known as Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital and it continues to pioneer specialized care approaches so more children with medically complex needs can heal and go home safely, empowered to thrive.

Since Ranken Jordan opened 80 years ago, it has cared for more than 8,000 patients.

“Mary Ranken Jordan was ahead of her time in understanding the importance of letting children play and socialize to help them recover from serious illnesses and injuries,” explains Brett Moorehouse, president and CEO of Ranken Jordan. “This Care Beyond the Bedside model has been our core care philosophy since the beginning. We have continued to expand on this to spark thousands of remarkable stories of recovery, healing and hope.”

Children always held a special place in Mary’s heart. After consulting with leading experts, Mary discovered a gap in care for children with ongoing medical needs such as polio, osteomyelitis and bone tuberculosis, which were scourges in the late 1930s and 1940s.

This sparked her passion for establishing the Ranken Jordan Home for Convalescent Crippled Children in 1941. Mary built the home on five acres of quiet countryside near Ladue and Spoede Road in St. Louis County. Children played outside whether they were in a wheelchair, bed or on crutches and they ate meals together each day in the dining room so they could socialize and further their development. Mary visited the children nearly every day and no patient was billed for care.

Although Mary passed away in 1962, her philanthropic impact is still felt by dozens of organizations, small and large, including the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum and Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis as well as Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.

As time took its toll on the original home and technology needs increased, Ranken Jordan built a modern, larger hospital in Maryland Heights in 2004. The bright, state-of-the art facility was designed to encourage play and activity. Ranken Jordan also converted from a pediatric nursing home to a licensed pediatric hospital.

In 2018, the hospital expanded again to 60 beds to serve even more children from throughout the region.

“As our services and care have advanced to serve increasingly challenging patients, Mary’s spirit continues to guide Ranken Jordan,” says Nick Holekamp, MD, chief medical officer. “The need for our specialized care continues to grow so we’re sharing our knowledge with others so they can duplicate Ranken Jordan’s care model in other cities.”

Ranken Jordan celebrated its official 80th anniversary with a virtual celebration and small gathering at the hospital. The ceremony began with an invocation from Rev. Travis Winckler of the Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis’s Central West End—the same church where Mary Ranken Jordan worshipped.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons virtually presented a proclamation officially recognizing the anniversary and the history and impact Ranken Jordan has had on Missouri children.

Maryland Heights Mayor Mike Moeller also proclaimed April 9 as Ranken Jordan Day in the city. Rep. Doug Clemens of District 72 spoke at the celebration and was moved by a tour of Ranken Jordan. “We are proud to have Ranken Jordan as our neighbor to serve kids from around the country,” he says. “This is how all health care should be. It’s not just a health care facility, it also heals minds and spirits.”

In addition, Rep. Jill Schupp and Jaci Winship, a representative from Rep. Ann Wagner, attended the celebration to recognize Ranken Jordan for its service and care for children.

As the event concluded, Tricia Sievers, Ranken Jordan volunteer manager, announced that vaccinated volunteers will be welcomed back in the building beginning with Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 18-24. The COVID-19 pandemic had restricted volunteer visits at Ranken Jordan.

Volunteers were dearly missed during the pandemic, considering Ranken Jordan volunteers have provided more than 200,000 hours of service over the past 10 years.

The culmination of Ranken Jordan’s year-long celebration of 80 years will be a gala, scheduled for April 9, 2022.

To learn more about Ranken Jordan and The MRJ Way, the 80th anniversary campaign that reconnects the hospital to the passions and purpose of the founder, Mary Ranken Jordan, visit rankenjordan.org.