Section: Clara Maass Medical Center News

Clara Maass Medical Center Foundation Opens New Pediatric Playroom Offering an "Aquatic" Feel



Belleville, NJ – Clara Maass Medical Center (CMMC) now offers pediatric patients an underwater escape during their hospital stay. On Thursday, December 12, CMMC Foundation held a ribbon cutting in the newly renovated pediatric playroom, which offers kids a unique and welcoming "aquatic" experience.

The playroom provides children and their families with often much-needed distance from the medical technologies and treatments surrounding them in the patient rooms. Designed as an aquarium, the new space brings the best of underwater life indoors. Kids marvel at the fish and coral, bubbles on the ceiling, and large wall unit designed as a submarine. The updated room complements the beautiful view of the Cherry Blossom Trees in Branch Brook Park just beyond the windows of the pediatrics floor.

"Our new pediatric playroom is a bright and cheery place," says Jane Newman Kessler, CFRE, Vice President of the CMMC Foundation. "It is a place where kids go for safe and therapeutic playtime, and it helps them adjust to their hospitalization. This new environment makes kids smile which aids in the overall healing process."

The space will be utilized by CMMC's certified Child Life Specialist to provide educational interventions and psychosocial support for our young patients. Having a visually inviting and fully equipped space is an important aspect for the growth, development and well-being of pediatric patients, says Laura Pantusco, CMMC's Child Life Specialist.

"Play is the language of a child and through it, children can communicate across language barriers of complex feelings and gain mastery of their environment," Laura adds. "Play can also indicate the well-being of a child. A child who is hesitant to play and interact may be displaying signs of health complications, while a child who is playful and interactive is on the path toward good health."

The ribbon cutting welcomed a mix of Clara Maass employees and donors as well as the playroom's creators – interior designer Rhona Hershkowitz of RHD and Robert Lekich from Hudson Construction. Guests at the ribbon cutting were welcomed by a CMMC employee dressed as a mermaid and were served milk and cookies on silver trays, and fresh popcorn from a carnival stand.

The playroom renovation project was funded by individual donors, by grants to CMMC's Child Life Program, from the George Link Foundation and Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation and funds raised at the Foundation's 'A Tasteful Experience' fundraiser held on November 18, 2013.

(left to right) John V. Kelly, MD, President of the Medical Staff at CMMC; Robert Lekich from Hudson Construction; Laura Pantusco, Child Life Specialist at CMMC; Irene Hernandez, Medical Assistant at the Cancer Center at CMMC; Rhona Hershkowitz of RHD; and Mary Ellen Clyne, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer at CMMC.

Clara Maass continues to set the standard for delivering quality care. In 2013, Becker's Hospital Review named it one of "100 Hospitals with Great Heart Programs." It also received its third consecutive Grade "A" score in Hospital Safety by the Leapfrog Group this year. HealthGrades awarded Clara Maass both a Patient Safety Excellence Award™ as well as an Emergency Medicine Excellence Award. Clara Maass Medical Center has been recognized by The Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of health care organizations in America, as a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures® for 2012 – the Medical Center's third year in a row to receive this designation. The Medical Center is ranked among the 50 Best Regional Hospitals in the New York Metro Area by U.S. News & World Report. Thomson Reuters named Clara Maass among the top 100 hospitals nationwide in 2012, one of only three hospitals in New Jersey to attain the distinction. In addition, Clara Maass won the Thomson Reuters Everest Award, one of 12 hospitals in the United States to do so. It is ranked top in the state for the treatment of Congestive Heart Failure and Heart Attacks by the New Jersey State Department of Health and Senior Services.

Located in Belleville, NJ, Clara Maass Medical Center, a Barnabas Health facility, provides a complete continuum of care to residents of northern New Jersey. Clara Maass' centers and services include The Health and Wellness Center, Nuclear Medicine, The Cancer Center at Clara Maass, Adult Cardiac Services including Diagnostic Services, Cardiac Catheterization, Elective and Emergency Angioplasty and Rehabilitation, The Pain Management Center, The Joint & Spine Institute, a Vascular Center, Same Day Surgery, The Wound Center at Clara Maass, The Center for Sleep Disorders, The Bariatric Surgery Center, Rehabilitation Services, The Eye Surgery Center, Maternity Services and Parent Education, as well as Pediatrics. For a physician referral or more information about Clara Maass, call 1-888-724-7123 or visit

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Categories: Children's,Press Releases