New play place for GR boy with leukemia

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Children’s Healing Center, a first of its kind year-round recreation center for children with weak immune systems, now has 125 members.

The center gives children with cancer, autoimmune disorders and other medical issues a germ-free place where they can play and stay fit.

The Children’s Healing Center opened its doors at 1530 East Fulton Street in late September.

The Alflen family joined just a few months later after 5-year-old Conner was diagnosed with leukemia.

“Conner wears a mask everywhere we go except for here and he loves that and I love that,” Jennifer Alflen, Conner’s mother said. “Outside of school he doesn’t get to interact with anybody.”

Jennifer said Conner can play with his siblings and other kids in similar situations at the center.

“I don’t have to hover over them, I don’t have to follow them around with Lysol or hand sanitizer like I do anytime we go anywhere,” Jennifer said.

The Children’s Healing Center is fabric free, toys are cleaned constantly and families are screened for potential illnesses at the door.

The center has four zones, a play area complete with reading nooks, a high-tech area, an art and learning space and a fitness space for games, dance and other classes.

It’s everything the founder and executive director Amanda Winn dreamed it would be.

Winn, a cancer survivor, said she started the Children’s Healing Center because she remembers her own feelings of isolation during treatment.

“It’s been an absolute joy to see some of these kids walk through the doors and their faces light up and they’re so excited and play screen everyone,” Winn said.

Winn said there may be plans in the future to expand the concept beyond West Michigan.

A membership fee for families cost $40, although generous donations have sponsored those memberships so far.

You can donate to the Play it Forward campaign to sponsor memberships to the center.

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