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A Home Away From Home

FedExFamilyHouseExterior

Children come to Le Bonheur Children’s from all over the U.S. and throughout the world. FedExFamilyHouse is the first facility in Memphis to provide housing for families of patients receiving extended care at Le Bonheur Children’s. Financial support for construction of FedExFamilyHouse came from a $2.3 million donation from FedEx Corp. and personal donations from Frederick W. Smith, chairman, president and CEO, and his wife Diane, and Alan B. Graf, Jr., executive vice president and CFO, and his wife Susan.

“For more than 50 years, children from around the world have received exceptional care at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital,” Alan Graf said. “We believe this donation will improve the lives of children and their families and reinforces Le Bonheur as one of the leading children’s hospitals in the country.”

In 2008, Le Bonheur Children’s provided inpatient and outpatient services to more than 130,000 children from 50 states. Approximately 30,000 of those children came from outside Shelby County to receive specialized treatment at Le Bonheur Children’s. 

Susan Graf learned at a young age how long-distance health care impacts a family. When she was 9, her mother moved with her special needs brother to Philadelphia for his medical treatment while Susan and the rest of the family lived in Boston. Her aunt came to live with Susan and her brothers. By age 10, Susan was cooking, cleaning and helping to run the household.

“It was so hard on my mother to go alone and get an apartment in a strange city so she could stay with him,” she recalled. “It was such a stressful time for her to begin with, caring for a child undergoing neurosurgery in the ‘dark ages’ and also worried about her children at home.”

An Answer to Prayers

When FedExFamilyHouse was being designed, voices of parents guided the way.  Patti Reed,  chairman of Le Bonheur Children’s Family Partners Council, was part of the team that helped design the facility.

This was a special way for Patti to share her experience when she stayed at a similar facility when her daughter needed surgery not then available in Memphis. Patti’s daughter, Jessica, was born without the left side of her heart – a condition called hypoplastic left–heart syndrome. The surgery Jessica needed 21 years ago was then experimental and only offered in Philadelphia. The family lived in a Ronald McDonald House for three months and returned twice for additional surgeries. Patti offered insights that only a parent could.

 “The personality of the house changes,” she said. “Sometimes you need quiet time and space and other times you need company to celebrate milestones happening in your child’s life.”

Thoughtful Design

The FedExFamilyHouse is located in Legends Park at the corner of Poplar Avenue and Ayers Street – across the street from the hospital.  In addition to their suites, each family has access to living and family rooms, a teen lounge and indoor and outdoor children’s play areas. The kitchen features four separate cooking areas, 24 refrigerators and individual pantry storage for each family. The dining area has booths and tables that can be moved to accommodate families who want to dine together.

The design team also took into consideration the importance of outdoor space to families who spend many hours in hospital rooms.

“We were very intentional about incorporating natural light and spaces into the design of the house,” said Dave Rosenbaum, Le Bonheur’s vice president of facilities services. “The design creates outdoor spaces and ensures that all interior spaces have natural light.”

FedExFamilyHouse is built in a U–shape with the center containing screened and covered porches, a children’s play area and an outdoor barbecue grilling station. A dining terrace borders the indoor dining area and Poplar Avenue.

Going Green

Before FedExFamilyHouse design started, a team from Le Bonheur Children’s traveled to similar facilities across the country. In cities like Philadelphia, St. Louis and Chicago, the team talked to parents and the staff that run the homes. Sustainable design was a key request.

“Just like Le Bonheur Children’s, FedExFamilyHouse will be one of the first LEED– certified children’s hospital family facilities in the country,” Rosenbaum said. Three factors were taken into consideration when designing the sustainable FedExFamilyHouse: environmental and energy efficiency, economic efficiency and community focus/social responsibility. Some of the green elements include energy–efficient heating and air, use of recycled materials, reduced energy consumption and native plants and efficient irrigation.