Billion Pavilion opens for play at Sanford Children’s Hospital

Pediatric patients at Sanford Health have a fun new way to play during their stay.

Billion Pavilion has opened outside the castle-inspired Sanford Children’s Hospital on the campus of Sanford USD Medical Center.

Play features include a covered picnic shelter for patients who cannot be in the sun and unique equipment such as a caterpillar climber, spring rider, patterned path routes, Oodle Swing and sound arch.

“You’ve seen a lot of smiles, and they’re taking it all in,” said Carrie Kindopp, child life manager at Sanford Children’s. “I think families are just so thankful and grateful we have the opportunity to offer this for kids.”

She and her colleagues brought forward the need for a space like this after looking for added ways to offer play to all abilities and developmental levels.

Often, it becomes a way “to provide positive coping strategies and mechanisms to get them through their experience and reduce stress and anxiety,” she said. “While this is a castle and a wonderful place, it’s still intimidating for kiddos and in a fast-paced medical world. … They’re emotionally charged when they’re there. It’s a vulnerable time in their life.”

Other elements in the new space include physical therapy steps and ramps for patients to do their physical therapy outside, planting gardens, workbenches, flower beds and garden benches with wheelchair space and decorative seating.

“To be able to offer a playground is really an extension of what we provide within the walls of the castle. The opportunities we have to provide play opportunities for kids is phenomenal,” Kindopp said, adding that research has shown that when pediatric patients are able to play during their stay, they healer fast, become more ambulatory and eat and drink better.

Kids try out the Billion Pavilion as part of a recent donor appreciation event.

There’s also enough space at the Billion Pavilion for a storage shed that can include everything from tricycles to lawn games that can be used during therapy or for added fun.

“We can make modifications and use the space in a really cool way,” Kindopp said.

For now, it’s open only to pediatric patients staying at the hospital and their families, as well as those coming for clinic appointments at the subspecialty clinic in the hospital. Kids must be accompanied by an adult, which could include a caregiver, to use the playground, which is structured as a secured area.

Billion Pavilion is funded entirely by donors through an effort that included a lead $1 million gift from David H. and Christine Billion. Other large donors to the $1.4 million project included Henry Carlson Co. — which also built it —  Panda Express and Northwestern Mutual, in addition to individual donors.

The climbing caterpillar is named “Henry” in memory of Henry Carlson Jr., who died in 2022 at age 97.

“We got everything we wanted to do through those philanthropic gifts,” said Erin Sanderson, vice president of the Sanford Health Foundation. “But we know there’s definitely going to be a continued need for support.”

Future gifts will support an endowment for ongoing maintenance and also focus on improvements to play areas inside Sanford Children’s Hospital.

“Now that we have the Billion Pavilion on the lawn, I think expectations are raised for our families, and we definitely need some updating,” Sanderson said.

That will include a complete renovation of the pediatric physical therapy gym inside the hospital, which is the next project ahead.

Conceptual renderings show proposed projects inside Sanford Children’s Hospital.

There’s also a plan to renovate playrooms on the first and third floors.

“We brought back the Children’s Gala last October and raised over $1 million, and we’re thrilled with that support and identified some of those dollars to the playrooms, as well as operational areas where we needed support,” Sanderson said.

The new indoor additions will complement the latest one, Truman’s Closet, which opened for patients last fall.

Dedicated in memory of pediatric patient Truman Pins, it’s filled with costumes that patients can try on during their stay

“Our child life team creates a custom experience for each patient and pre-sets the closet with costumes they think that patient would like,” Sanderson said. “So they have three to choose from in their size. Kids are loving it!”