GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The state’s first recreational facility for immunocompromised kids is set to break ground on its new headquarters, which will be located near Calvin University.

For the past eight years, the Children’s Healing Center has rented space off Fulton Street on the city’s southeast side.

The center is meant for children between ages 0 and 26 who have been diagnosed with diseases that leave them more vulnerable to illness than their peers.

“So the kids who come to our center are struggling with things like cancer, or cardiology, kidney, pulmonology (diseases) — different types of conditions that cause their families to live in isolation and loneliness,” Melissa Block, director of development and growth, said.

The organization offers a wide variety of classes and spaces for kids and young adults, as well as their parents, to simply relax and play.

“We focus on the whole family because one person in the family is affected, everybody is affected,” Block said.

Construction for the $8.5 million expansion will begin after Labor Day at a building near Calvin University, located alongside its nature preserve. The new center’s grand opening is planned for the fourth quarter of 2024, according to organizers.

Once the expansion is complete, the CHC will nearly double in size. Not only will it be able to take on more families, but it will also be able to offer better services and spaces for those in need.

“No one should have to put a price on their family’s overall mental and physical wellness when they’re dealing with such complicated things,” Block said.

The Children’s Health Center is also in its third year of a pilot program with Priority Health and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The center is collecting data to study the correlation between play and an ill child’s health.

“What we’re finding in our really early returns is that the kids who are attending the center are going to the hospital less often, are having less off-schedule admits into the hospital. And there is a health care cost associated with that,” Block said. “So we’ve always believed that we are more than a place to play. And now we’re gathering the data to prove that.”

The CHC also announced earlier this year that it will expand its presence on the east side of the state, with a new facility opening in Ypsilanti next year.