New OSF Almost Home Kids facility is blessed, set to open in late September

As project supporters and community leaders look on, Sister Judith Ann Duvall, OSF, chairperson of the boards for OSF HealthCare, cuts the ribbon during blessing and dedication ceremonies in Peoria on Aug. 24 for the new Almost Home Kids at OSF Children's Hospital of Illinois. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Almost Home Kids at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria is almost ready to open — and is already fully blessed.

Blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremonies took place Aug. 24 at the newly built, $8.5 million facility that will provide transitional care in a home-like setting for children with complex health needs. It will also offer training for families to continue their care at home.

The new $8.5 million Almost Home Kids at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois, located at 5200 N. Hamilton Road in Peoria, is scheduled to open in late September. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“I know God’s arms are encircling us,” said Sister Judith Ann Duvall, OSF, chairperson of OSF HealthCare and one of several speakers to address a crowd of project supporters and community leaders outside the home, located at 5200 N. Hamilton Road, the site of the former Wee Tee Golf Course.

“May this new design of care give God honor and praise, serve the unique needs of these precious children, and provide the wonderful support their families so need,” said Sister Judith Ann. She described the facility as a bridge for children from intensive care to home “where they really belong.”

The home, built entirely from private donations, is only the third facility of its kind in the nation and the first newly constructed for such a mission. It will be able to accommodate 12 children and is expected to welcome the first ones in late September.

“A WIN-WIN FOR EVERYONE”

“Every year, the number of children with chronic or complex conditions increases,” said Dr. Divya Joshi, CEO of OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

“The need for complicated equipment increases as well to help them breathe, drink and move,” she continued. “Sometimes it seems parents and caregivers have to run a miniature intensive care unit at home. It can be overwhelming for these families to care for children when they arrive home.”

In the past, hospital stays would be extended by weeks or months as homes and families made preparations, or the children would be referred to an Almost Home Kids location in the Chicago area.

Deacon Joseph Knapp, manager of pastoral care and chaplaincy services for OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, prayed that the Almost Home Kids facility be “a place of compassion and comfort where the faithful come to visit Christ in the person of their sisters and brothers.” (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Having such a facility in Peoria is a “win-win for everyone,” said Jennifer Shinnick, site director for Almost Home Kids.

The young residents — from newborns to age 22 — will thrive “in a warm, friendly, comfortable environment,” she said. “For the parents, we can alleviate a lot of stress for them and be a support network.”

The facility will offer 24-hour medical and nursing support from skilled pediatric nurses. The maximum length of stay is 120 days. In addition, families can take advantage of respite care offered from 24 hours to two weeks.

“IT WILL CHANGE COUNTLESS LIVES”

Among those attending Friday’s ceremonies were Drs. Jeff and Suzanne Ruskusky, Peoria area podiatrists, who were accompanied by their sons Garrett, 10, and Gabriel, 9. Both boys are affected by a genetic disorder that leaves them without the ability to talk or walk.

Jennifer Shinnick, site director for Almost Home Kids at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois, smiles as she is introduced at the Aug. 24 blessing and ribbon cutting ceremonies. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“When you are the parent of a child with complicated health needs, life is different, but the love and happiness is the same,” Dr. Suzanne Ruskusky wrote in an Almost Home Kids newsletter last year as construction began on the Peoria project. “The daily tasks, the dependency, and the medical competency are challenging.”

The Ruskuskys were among the many donors helping OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois bring Almost Home Kids to Peoria. They predicted it will “change countless lives, ours included.”

Dr. Suzanne Ruskusky described the new facility as a “real house” with child-friendly décor, a full-size kitchen, and a wheelchair accessible garden and playground. There are two wings, one for the children and another for families, as well as physical therapy facilities.

Every room was sprinkled with holy water by Deacon Joseph Knapp, manager of pastoral care and chaplaincy services at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

“Peace be with this house and with all who live and serve the Lord here,” said Deacon Knapp. “Give us a true spirit of hospitality as we welcome and care for our sisters and brothers in their time of need.”

EDITOR’S NOTES: Those wishing to support the mission of Almost Home Kids at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois may do so via wish lists found at this link.  In addition, once the home is open, volunteers will be needed and opportunities may be learned by contacting the volunteer coordinator on site. 

More photos from the blessing ceremony are found on The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook. 

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