What used to be unused outdoor space on the third floor of McMaster Children’s Hospital, a site of Hamilton Health Sciences, is in the process of being transformed into three unique, fully accessible rooftop playgrounds expected to open in the spring. This collaborative home-grown project is a result of the hard work and research of a team of dedicated staff at the hospital, and was made possible with donations from the community. The team set out with a vision to create outdoor space that is fully accessible, safe, and durable to give all children in hospital the opportunity to get outside and play.
The spaces have been divided into three unique environments: an interactive playground, a serene space, and an area for organized activities. All three playgrounds are located in the center of the inpatient wards on the third floor, allowing access all year round. The child life specialists working on the project helped ensure the playgrounds are geared towards all age groups as McMaster Children’s Hospital cares for patients 17 and under. Some of the playground features include giant checkerboards, toys, a running track, and accessible musical instruments; all built on padded springboard astroturf that allows for easy rolling of IV poles and wheelchairs. In the warmer months, they plan to organize outdoor yoga, as well as hold movies under the stars.
“The guiding principle while developing the spaces was selecting safe playground equipment that would support the diverse abilities of our patients,” explains Donna LaForce, director, acute pediatric inpatient, critical care and ambulatory services, and one of the project team members. “With this in mind, we’re ensuring patients and parents have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while remaining close to the inpatient units.”
This project was made possible thanks to the kind donations from the Dianne Baboth memorial golf tournament, the Foresters, the Baboth-Toth family, BridgeForce Financial Group inc., Canada Protection Plan, Dennis & Melissa Beraldo & family, and Nadirshah, Shahila, & Jenna Khoja. The passionate hard work of these individuals resulted in over $200 000 raised.
What do these bright and cheery environments mean to the children and their families? One mother explained that “It’s exciting to have an oasis for them to escape to that isn’t so ‘hospital-like.” Donna added that she believes “the playgrounds give the children something to look forward to and work toward.” These groundbreaking outdoor areas allow children the opportunity to escape the hospital environment each day and have some fun just being kids.