By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
The La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Jackson Park hosted the grand opening of its new outpatient center Monday. Past and present patients, community members and elected officials attended the ceremony and shared their memories and gratitude for the hospital.
La Rabida, which was built during the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, is an outpatient hospital that serves children with special healthcare needs. The hospital, 6501 S. Promontory Dr., underwent renovation and expansion in order to become more efficient and less costly.
The new 13,000-square-foot clinic holds 18 exam rooms designed especially for children with special health care needs. The rooms are larger with wider entrances and more specialty areas such as a procedure room and a nutrition area.
Each section of the space, which has broad windows that showcase a dramatic view of Lake Michigan, has bright colors and aquatic themes nicknamed fish, turtle, duck and frog “ponds” for each section of the center. There are also team rooms where all specialists who are working with a patient can meet and discuss the patient’s condition and provide care.
“It may make for one long appointment, but the family won’t have to make several different trips to the hospital to meet with each specialist,” said Pamela Northrop, early intervention manager at La Rabida.
The designers of the new center Project Management Advisors (PMA) and architecture firm VOA, added environmentally friendly features.
The designers, who have applied for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) recognition, added a rooftop garden, a water system that collects rainwater and returns it to Lake Michigan and lights that dim based on the amount of sunlight that fills each room. These features contribute to an 18 percent reduction in energy use, 40 percent reduction in HVAC fan power and 57 percent reduction in space cooling energy.
Andy Roscoe, project manager for PMA, said his favorite feature of the center, which took about three years to complete, is the healing garden.
“It’s a great outdoor space, right off the lake with a soft surface,” Roscoe said.
During the opening celebration some of the hospital’s famous patients and family members — such as actor and CSI Criminal Minds star Joe Mantegna, who was treated at La Rabida for rheumatic fever as a child, and former Chicago Bears player Charlie Brown, whose daughter Sharlene Hobson was treated for asthma — were given special recognition and featured in the hospital’s literature.
“These stories of success are critical to highlight,” said state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) one of several elected officials in attendance. “When kids come in it’s important for them to see the possibilities that lie ahead of them.”
Raoul said supporting institutions like La Rabida is like continuing a legacy for him since his father was a childcare physician.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said she also felt it was her duty to uphold a legacy by supporting La Rabida. She spoke about her first experiences at La Rabida.
“As a child I volunteered here with my grandmother,” Hairston said. “At a young age I saw the different needs of the children and knew that it was a part of my responsibility to take care of them. It’s great to still be here so many years later to see such great work being done.”
La Rabida President and CEO Brenda Wolf thanked Raoul for helping the hospital receive state funding and Hairston for her help with city permits. She also thanked Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who sent a letter of support, and Louise McCurry, president of the Jackson Park Advisory Council.