That little girl there with a smile as big as a butterfly’s wings?
That’s Becca Burgers. But not Becca Burgers the patient. Not Becca Burgers who has leukemia.
It’s Becca Burgers the kid, beaming because she’s about to burst through the doors of the Children’s Healing Center.
And simply play.
Becca, 4, is just one of the many children whose immune systems are compromised by disorders or disease, and whose parents naturally fret over exposing them to environments where they might contract a cold or infection.
Diagnosed with leukemia in August 2014, Becca enjoys attending church and preschool activities when she can. But parents Mark and Susan are ever-vigilant that she could be exposed to germs that compound her battle with leukemia.
“She has less infection-fighting ability as it is” because of the chemotherapy sessions Becca endures, explains Susan. “So we take some pretty strong precautions – a lot of hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces. It’s a constant risk wherever we go.”
Except for inside the Children’s Healing Center. That’s because the Center employs rigorous health standards that create stronger assurances kids who go to play there will exit as healthy as when they entered. The air there is specially filtered. Toys and structures are cleaned constantly. And anyone entering the facility is screened for infections.
Most of which is lost on Becca and her younger brother Ben, 2. “All I know is that all I have to do is say the words ‘healing center’ and they know it’s going to be a good time,” says Susan.
“Oasis is a good word for it. Becca likes to pretend, and they have a great storefront where she can play with the cash register and shopping carts. She’s also into everything medical, and they have a great little doctor kit, so she gives me checkups.”
Becca also thrills to the music that’s often playing, and loves taking part in special events, including an upcoming “Frozen Day,” which will allow kids to celebrate elements connected to the movie “Frozen,” which “is Becca’s favorite,” says mom.
“What it comes down to,” says Susan, whose family hails from Caledonia, “is that this has become such a safe haven. It’s risk-free, it’s positive, and it’s a happy place and a refuge.”
As for the staff and its executive director, Amanda Winn, “they’re amazing,” says Susan. “We’re always greeted by name. They know Becca’s interests, and they’re just all so fantastic.”
Susan’s advice to other parents seeking respite from the rigors connected with a childhood disease that threatens their youngster’s immune system? “Come to the Center. It’s the first of its kind, and they’re doing an amazing job.
“It’s a place where you can come relax, and let your guard down, if only for an afternoon.”