CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Charleston businesswoman Anita Zucker and her family have made a $5 million contribution to help build the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital in Charleston.
The Zuckers' donation was announced during the MUSC Board of Trustees meeting October 12.
The donation will support the child life atrium in the new hospital, a 3,200-square-foot indoor play area where children and their families can relax, paint, read and play games away from the sometimes stressful environment associated with patient care.
The space will be named the Jerry and Anita Zucker Family Atrium.
Zucker said her family's decision to support the atrium was rooted in their shared belief in the therapeutic importance of "down time" to hospitalized children.
"We know that children generally have a better hospital experience when they feel safe and relaxed," Zucker said. "That's why a space like this is so important. It gives them a place where they can work through their fear in a really fun way, where they can just be kids and not patients."
Zucker's daughter-in-law Laura Zucker has a personal appreciation for such spaces. Born with a cleft palate, she has undergone 22 corrective surgeries, including 17 before leaving home for college.
"I remember waiting for surgery when I was nine, and my parents were next to me," Laura said. "As I'm going back, all of a sudden I'm surrounded by people I don't know, taking me into an operating room and putting a mask on me. It was pretty terrifying. I knew I wanted to do something so that other children wouldn't have to experience that kind of fear."
When MUSC began planning its new children's hospital, Laura volunteered to serve on the project's planning committee to ensure that it would be as child-friendly and family-centered as possible.
During the planning process, she emerged as a strong advocate for the inclusion of a large, centralized area where children and families could play and relax.
She and her mother-in-law collaborated with the planning team on the space's design and amenities, which will include games, toys, art supplies and a stage for visiting performers and play-acting.
Betsy McMillan directs MUSC's Child Life program, which focuses on the emotional well-being and development of its young patients. She said the Jerry and Anita Zucker Family Atrium will serve a strong therapeutic role in the healing of the new hospital's patients. "Working with hospitalized children, teens and families for over 25 years, I have over and over again witnessed how play and the ideal play environment are essential to enhance coping and mitigate anxiety," she said.
MUSC plans to open the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women's Pavilion in 2019 on the corner of Calhoun Street and Courtenay Drive.
It will replace the 30-year-old MUSC Children's Hospital currently located on Ashley Avenue, providing much-needed space for the thousands of patients and families served by MUSC each year.
The new facility will provide more spacious, family-centered amenities and expanded services, including an expanded neonatal intensive care unit, an entire floor dedicated to the care of children with cancer, and the most comprehensive pediatric heart center in South Carolina.
MUSC is working to raise at least $125 million in donations to help replace its current MUSC Children's Hospital, which opened in 1987. The Zuckers' gift brings the campaign's total so far to nearly $116 million, or 93 percent of its fundraising goal.