Niswonger Children’s Hospital unveils playground

A young man tests out the new slide on the playground that opened outside Niswonger Children’s Hospital last Friday morning. The playground will allow children of all abilities to enjoy the fresh air and engage in play during their time at the hospital. Photos by Dave Ongie

It was sunny last Friday morning, and thanks to the generosity of those in our region, more youngsters were able to enjoy the warm spring sunshine.

Ballad Health officially opened a new playground just outside the front doors of Niswonger Children’s hospital. This playground is an extension of the hospital’s therapy department and is accessible to the children’s hospital patients and their siblings, regardless of their abilities and development.  

The area includes a saucer swing, roller slide and music center that can also be used to further children’s treatment plans.

Lisa Carter, CEO of Niswonger Children’s Hospital and Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network.

“The hospital can be stressful for children, so we’re glad to be able to bring this playground in to help alleviate some of those worries,” said Lisa Carter, chief executive officer of Niswonger Children’s Hospital and CEO of the Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network. “It’s a haven for our patients and their siblings at what very well might be one of the most overwhelming times of their lives.”

The playground’s equipment makes it possible for all children – regardless of their abilities – to play. The equipment is adaptable to allow children with wheelchairs or other medical assistance devices to play, and its versatility means the playground can be used for therapy sessions.

Support from the Speedway Children’s Charities Jeff Byrd Grant, Children Exceeding Expectations School – a program that helps bring a sense of normalcy and structure to children in treatment for cancer – and donations collected through the 2020 Niswonger Children’s Hospital Radiothon funded the playground. The Radiothon is the children’s hospital’s second-largest annual fundraiser, and to date, it has raised more than $2.8 million for babies, children, teenagers and their families in the Appalachian Highlands.

Hayley Dietrich (right), director of Exceeding Expectations School, embraces Claudia Byrd, director of the Bristol chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities.

“Children are not just little adults – they have their own way of perceiving the world, and they have different needs for their emotional and physical well-being in the hospital,” said Hayley Dietrich, a longtime Niswonger Children’s Hospital supporter who also serves as director of Children Exceeding Expectations School. “Even if children are in the hospital, their childhoods should be a pure and magical time. By supporting Niswonger Children’s Hospital and its annual radiothon, I’m very proud to have had a role in making this playground a reality.”

The new playground is the newest piece of the Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network, a region-wide system of healthcare and community services that raise the bar for quality healthcare for the children of the Appalachian Highlands.


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