La Rabida is a Hyde Park gem

To the Editor:

It was with great pleasure that we read your article about the opening of the rebuilt outpatient center at La Rabida Children’s Hospital. The center has been transformed into a modern, energy efficient (applying for LEED Certification), well-equipped health center. It was attended by scores of caring and concerned public and community officials. Since the 1893 World’s Fair, it is still located on the La Rabida Promenade peninsula in Jackson Park at the southeastern edge of Hyde Park. Its spectacular lakefront vistas provide a beautiful, relaxing setting for sick children to triumph over chronic illnesses, disability or abuse.

La Rabida was built by Spain for the 1893 World’s Fair in Jackson Park, honoring the Franciscan monastery where Christopher Columbus lived and prayed as he planned his voyage to the New World. After the fair, La Rabida stood while other fair buildings were razed by fires. In 1895, the Spanish consul petitioned the Commissioners of the South Park Board to dedicate the building for use as “a free, fresh air sanitarium for the children of the poor living in crowded, unwholesome districts of the city.” Dr. Robert A. Black, from his graduation from medical school in 1904 until the 1950s, directed the treatment, staffing and fundraising and was able to open a modern, better equipped building in 1932. He enlisted the staff from four medical schools to do inpatient and community health care outreach for impoverished urban children. Over the years, it has treated thousands of children with chronic diseases, disabilities and abuse-related injuries. It provides both inpatient and outpatient care, plus training and support for families who care for these chronically ill children at home. Today, with its rebuilt modern outpatient center, it can better serve its young patients needs in its historical, healing, lakefront setting.

La Rabida today is staffed by physicians, nurses, and support staff primarily from the University of Chicago. It provides state-of-the-art care to its young patients. Hundreds of volunteers from Hyde Park and Chicago communities help by rocking babies, playing with children and tutoring the older hospitalized children and their siblings. Hundreds of volunteers from The Jackson Park Advisory Council work with the Chicago Park District, maintaining Jackson Park-La Rabida as a beautiful, safe park where patients and their families mingle with community joggers, bikers, bird watchers, dog walkers, musicians, fishermen and families enjoying the beauty and peace of the lakefront. La Rabida’s 67th Street Beach, once the place where thousands of families and young singles spent their weekends and summer nights, is now being rediscovered by its neighbors. La Rabida Hospital and Park in Jackson Park is a medically vital and historic part of our community that we should all know and support. A hundred years from now people will not remember what kind of car you drove or how big your bank account was, but if you help a child survive and thrive, you will be remembered always.

Louise McCurry
President of the Jackson Park Advisory Council