The Emma N. Plank Child Life/Michael J. Bohdan Tree House Endowment

Serving Children and Their Families for 15 Years

When Cindy Meehan’s son was only three years old, he was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder and hospitalized for almost two weeks.

“Until you experience seeing your child so sick, not knowing what is wrong with him, or if he is going to get better, you can’t imagine the pain you go through," the Avon mother writes. "The Tree House and the Child Life program made a very emotional and stressful experience bearable for us. We’re thankful that they were there for us and happy they are going to be here for other families."

Today, Kyle is a healthy 10-year-old.

The Meehans’ story is one of many about how the Michael J. Bohdan Tree House and Child Life & Education Program at MetroHealth Medical Centerhave made a positive impact on the lives of children and families across the country.

A Playful Space

The Tree House, just steps away from the Inpatient Pediatric Unit, is a friendly, colorful, interactive space that inspires and encouages hospitalized children through respite and discovery. They engage in active play, spend quiet time with books and crafts, and enjoy presentations from special guests, such as magicians and storytellers.

In the Tree House, children know that anything that hurts, even the littlest “ouch,” will never find them. For young patients and their families, the space fosters a sense of connectivity to others and ultimately, wellness.

“Kylie knows that hospital stays will always be part of her life. It’s great that she has something she can look forward to,” Heidi Niedermier of Bellevue writes about her daughter, who was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and has frequent check-ups at MetroHealth.

Make a gift to the Emma N. Plank Child Life/Michael J. Bohdan Tree House Endowment

A Supportive Staff

MetroHealth’s Child Life & Education program staff manages the Tree House as part of its mission to help children and families cope with and manage the hospital experience. Their work is as important to patients as treatment is.

“I am grateful for my Child Life Specialist and the Tree House,” Tommy Mascia says. “My specialist became a confidant and a friend. I could talk to her about the things that scared me. She helped to keep my family hopeful and grounded, even when there was a chance I wouldn’t make it.”

The Chagrin Falls native was hit by a bus at cross-country practice when he was 13. He spent six weeks in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit recovering from a coma and multiple injuries.

“The Tree House was a wonderful place to get away and participate in art activities,” he says. “I wouldn’t have gotten through my accident without the support.”

A Legacy of Caring

Michael J. BohdanOpened in 1995, The Michael J. Bohdan Tree House is named for a man who deeply understood the value of respite, play, and discovery to hospitalized children and their families. Mr. Bohdan (1951-1990) was an active member of the Leprechaun Foundation, which anonymously grants terminally and chronically ill children their “greatest individual dream or desire.” The Leprechaun Foundation and the BP Foundation led the efforts to open the Tree House.  

A Pioneer in Child Life Programs

In 1955, Emma N. Plank (1905-1990) established the nation’s first university-affiliated Child Life and Education program at MetroHealth Medical Center, then called City Hospital of Cleveland. Ms. Plank was an assistant professor of child development in the Department of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Her 1962 book, Working with Children in Hospitals, continues to inform Child Life professionals at MetroHealth and throughout the world.

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*Five percent of each donor gift is designated to the MetroHealth Fund to help support philanthropic initiatives of The MetroHealth System.