New playroom at Evergreen provides a place for kids to be kids

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Jeff Clark (l), with Kirkland Concours d’Elegance Center and Mike Swensen, Evergreen Hospital Medical Center Emergency Department clinical manager, at the Sarah’s Place dedication Dec. 11. The photo on the wall is a picture of Sarah Chapin. Courtesy photo.
Children who are inpatients at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center now have a special area they can call their own.

Sarah’s Place, a new playroom on the pediatric unit, gives kids the space to be something other than sick.

Named for Sarah Chapin, a 4-year-old who died at Evergreen in 2001, the playroom is a welcoming, kid-friendly place with a colorful, oceanic theme.

"Sarah’s favorite food was goldfish crackers," says Kae Peterson, executive director of the Evergreen Foundation. "So there’s this wonderful sea mural on the walls."

Peterson explains that the young girl spent 99 percent of her short life at the hospital and considered the Evergreen staff her family. She had been born nine weeks premature and battled high fevers, unstable blood sugars and a brain tumor.

"She basically grew up in the hospital and never really knew what it was to be healthy," explains Peterson. "The staff, along with her family celebrated her milestones, such as her birthdays, and helped her learn colors and numbers."

Those who cared for Sarah, described her as a curly-haired cherub with rosy cheeks, a button nose and a big, beautiful smile. Her spirit and energy touched so many people, as she was a very inspiring child.

"Everyone involved with Sarah really bonded with her, from the nurses and doctors to those in dietary and lab services, as well as housekeeping," adds Peterson.

When Sarah was well enough to play, her family or staff members would take her to a quiet area with a library and games. It gave the young girl time to play and be a child. After she died, one of her longtime nurses, Kari Stahl, began a campaign to build and name a pediatric play area, "Sarah’s Place."

Though there already was a playroom in existence, it was "grossly inadequate," as Peterson says, and there was a real need to create a new space, especially once the pediatric unit moved to another floor.

Evergreen staff contributed funds, along with several organizations and members of the community. Of the total $55,000 raised, $30,000 came from Kirkland Concours d’Elegance, a charitable organization that holds a vintage vehicle "contest of elegance" each year.

The event benefits both Evergreen and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

"Normally, the money goes to uncompensated care, but this time they earmarked it for Sarah’s Place," explains Peterson. "We also had the Norcliffe Family Foundation make a sizable contribution. And then there were 96 individual gifts, many from the staff at the hospital."

The completed playroom, which opened on December 11th, serves the hospital’s nine-bed pediatric unit.

"It turned out great," comments Joan Beade, assistant manager for Children’s Services. "It’s a friendly, fun atmosphere – a place for the kids to escape. They know that when they’re in Sarah’s Place they won’t have to deal with medical procedures. They can just be kids and play."

The completion of the project has meant a lot to all those involved. "Having it finally come to fruition provides closure to the journey for the staff," remarks Peterson.

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