CHARLESTON (October 12, 2017) – Charleston businesswoman Anita Zucker and her family have made a $5 million contribution to help build the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital in Charleston.  The Zuckers’ gift was announced during the MUSC Board of Trustees meeting October 12.

The Zuckers’ gift will support the Child Life atrium in the new hospital, a 3,200-square-foot indoor play area where children and their families can relax, paint, read and play games, away from the sometimes stressful environment associated with patient care. The space will be named the Jerry and Anita Zucker Family Atrium.

Anita Zucker said her family’s decision to support the atrium was rooted in their shared belief in therapeutic importance of “down time” to hospitalized children.

“We know that children generally have a better hospital experience when they feel safe and relaxed,” she said. “That’s why a space like this is so important. It gives them a place where they can work through their fear in a really fun way, where they can just be kids and not patients.”

Zucker’s daughter-in-law, Laura Zucker, has a personal appreciation for such spaces.  Born with a cleft palate, she has undergone 21 corrective surgeries, including 17 before leaving home for college. 

“I remember waiting for surgery when I was 9, and my parents were next to me,” she said. “As I’m going back, all of a sudden I’m surrounded by people I don’t know, taking me into an operating room and putting a mask on me. It was pretty terrifying.  I knew I wanted to do something so that other children wouldn’t have to experience that kind of fear.”

When the Medical University began planning its new hospital, Laura volunteered to serve on the project’s planning committee to ensure that it would be as child-friendly and family-centered as possible. During the planning process, she emerged as a strong advocate for the inclusion of a large, centralized area where children and families could play and relax. She and Anita Zucker both collaborated with the planning team on the space’s design and amenities, which will include games, toys, art supplies and a stage for visiting performers and play-acting.

Betsy McMillan directs MUSC’s Child Life program, which focuses on the emotional well-being and development of its young patients. She said the Jerry and Anita Zucker Family Atrium will serve a strong therapeutic role in the healing of the new hospital’s patients.

“Working with hospitalized children, teens and families for over 25 years, I have over and over again witnessed how play and the ideal play environment are essential to enhance coping and mitigate anxiety,” said McMillan. “Play overpowers all that is scary and unknown. This atrium will give children that safe place, where they can laugh, be loud and messy and, most important, where they can heal.”

“The Zucker family’s philanthropy is guided by a Hebrew concept called ‘tikkun olam,’ which means ‘repair of the world,’” said MUSC President Dr. David J. Cole. “I cannot think of a better example of that principle than an investment in a place devoted to the healing of children. This is such a meaningful and impactful gift, and we’re so grateful for the Zuckers’ belief and confidence in our mission.” 

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