A newly unveiled pavilion at St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children drew applause from the hundreds of attendees at Thursday night’s ribbon cutting. But it was a cavalcade of the Bayside hospital’s patients that drew the loudest cheers.
At the ceremony, St. Mary’s unveiled the first phase of a $114 million project that includes a center for pediatric feeding disorders, upgraded rooms for its patients, a music therapy room, horticultural garden, physical fitness center and state-of-the-art equipment.
As the event kicked off, the hospital’s staff wheeled its 97 patients into the building that will become their new home. Attendees at the ceremony reached down to shake their hands, cheered loudly and wiped tears from their eyes as the procession made its way through the crowd.
“I’ve always wondered what it would look like when the saints came marching in,” said Michael Maroutsis, the hospital’s chaplain, who gave the ceremony’s opening remarks. “I’ve now seen it and it’s wonderful.”
Leah Weinberg, whose brother, Zev, is a patient at the hospital, told the event’s attendees that the hospital “focuses on what [its patients] can do, not what they are unable to do.”
“It’s a place where all children can feel accepted,” she said. “As a nurse, I’ve learned to treat a patient for the person who he is, not the condition that he has.”
Local elected officials to attend the ceremony included Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, former Borough President Claire Shulman and City Council members Dan Halloran, R-Whitestone, and Mark Weprin, D-Oakland Gardens.
“The borough of Queens is proud to be the home base for this institution, which is renowned for its programs,” Marshall said. “We are so grateful to have a place like this for our children.”
Halloran said he was “honored” to be the Council member for the district in which the hospital is located.
“To see the work they do is heart wrenching and heart warming,” he said. “The family atmosphere here is what’s so special.”
The hospital, located at 29-01 216th St., will soon begin phase two of the project, which includes upgrading its existing building, enhancing its school trailers, adding a clubhouse and providing new space in which families of patients can relax. That phase of the project will take one year to complete, said Leslie Johnson, a spokeswoman for St. Mary’s.
The facility provides space for children, who range in age from newborns to 18-year-olds, with severe injuries, illnesses or complications from premature birth. Patients tend to stay at the hospital anywhere from a few months to several years.
The hospital’s new pavilion also includes a piece of robotic exoskeleton machinery that helps children stay mobile, a swimming pool and a new therapy program known as Arts for Healing.
Its first floor will house toddlers, the second floor is the nursery and the third and fourth floors are for older children.
The upgrade has been paid for through the state’s Dormitory Authority as well donations from philanthropists.