“Walker’s Imaginarium,” a 12,000-square-foot, first-of-its-kind facility, will bring play, learning, and fun to children receiving care in the hospital, in loving memory of Walker Beery.
NEW ORLEANS – Imagine a place where kids can discover, learn, play, and just be kids – in a hospital. Children’s Hospital New Orleans and Kids Join the Fight did. The two organizations have announced plans to build a visionary, 12,000-square-foot enrichment center located on the hospital’s main campus. The center is named ‘Walker’s Imaginarium’ in memory of Walker Beery, the brave boy who launched Kids Join The Fight before he passed away following a courageous fight against pediatric brain cancer last September.
Thanks to Walker’s vision to make a difference for other children like him and the generosity of friends and supporters, this inspired project will provide a therapeutic space for patients and families to thrive, find joy, and enjoy time together while in the hospital.
“Walker’s Imaginarium will enhance each patient’s care and provide joyful moments while these families navigate their healthcare journey,” said Taylor Beery, Kids Join the Fight founder and father of Walker Beery. “Walker wanted better for every child who has to face a tough diagnosis. This place will provide moments of joy and normalcy that these children and their families so highly value and so deeply deserve.”
The Imaginarium, which was conceptualized in partnership with architect and design firm EskewDumezRipple, features a spacious first floor entry adjacent to the hospital’s main concourse and inpatient tower, providing easy access for patients and families to explore its two expansive floors of interactive exhibit space designed for children of all ages and abilities. The space also includes a covered outdoor area with wrap-around porch, a multipurpose room for creative arts, educational opportunities and special programs, a recording studio for kids, and an enclosed outdoor space on the ground level for animal encounters. Exhibits will be designed and inspired by the uniquely New Orleans personality that invites culture and community into the space.
“Being in a hospital setting can be scary for any child,” said John R. Nickens IV, President and Chief Executive Officer at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. “We believe that children learn and heal through play, and we must meet them where they are. This project does just that – delivering a playful and energizing environment that will create more positive healthcare experiences. That’s what our partnership with Kids Join The Fight is all about.”
In addition to offering an innovative environment for kids receiving care in the hospital, Walker’s Imaginarium also provides opportunities to invite the community in, creating a unique opportunity where sick and well children can safely interact, engage, and support one another through empathy and encouragement, including siblings, families, friends, visiting groups and the community.
“This is the kind of big thinking that is redefining how we are delivering care for kids who are faced with the toughest diagnoses,” said Greg Feirn, CEO of LCMC Health. “I am incredibly proud of this partnership and vision to deliver something more for our pediatric patients and their families. Walker’s Imaginarium will elevate the experience for the whole family, giving them a space to enjoy time together.”
Walker’s Imaginarium will be made possible through generous donations from the shared community of supporters between Children’s Hospital and Kids Join the Fight. A campaign steering committee has already raised more than $4 M toward the project including a transformational $1 M matching gift from Boysie and Joy Bollinger.
“The missions of Kids Join the Fight and Children’s Hospital are near and dear to my heart, and Joy and I are proud to support the vision of Walker’s Imaginarium,” said Boysie Bollinger, chairman and chief executive officer of Bollinger Enterprises, LLC. “I encourage others to join the fight by considering a gift to help make this incredible project a reality for the children of our community who are treated here at Children’s Hospital.”
As Louisiana’s premier children’s hospital, Children’s Hospital New Orleans has delivered expert healthcare for children across Louisiana and the Gulf South for more than 65 years. With a recently completed $300 million transformation of its main campus in New Orleans, Children’s Hospital provides the highest level of pediatric care in the state, backed by more than 600 pediatric-trained providers, and partnerships with LSU Health New Orleans and Tulane University School of Medicine. Children’s Hospital also operates ambulatory clinics across Louisiana and the Gulf South including 12 primary care clinics and nine specialty clinics from Lake Charles to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
In August of 2019, Walker Beery was diagnosed with a very aggressive pediatric brain cancer, Medulloblastoma. Throughout surgeries, hospital stays, and multiple radiation and chemotherapy treatments, Walker’s courage and gratefulness always amazed his family, his medical community, and all who encountered him during his two-year battle with cancer. Walker passed away following a courageous battle with Medulloblastoma on Sept. 4, 2021, but his legacy lives on in the great work that Kids Join The Fight does today. Walker began the nonprofit to find a cure for pediatric brain cancer and help other kids and their families battling against pediatric cancer.” Walker and his family began the nonprofit to help other kids and their families battling against pediatric cancer. Kids Join The Fight, is a 501C3 nonprofit foundation that in its first year inspired children in all 50 states to raise more than $1 million dollars to support Walker’s vision and wish.
Learn more about Walker’s Imaginarium and giving opportunities at www.chnola.org/imagine.