View as a webpage

From the CEO: Where all families can play

By Cheryl Wolfe, Salem Health president and CEO

When I walk out of my office in Building B, I can hear children laughing from the new therapy CherylNesterBowersplayground. That sound fills me with pride and joy because it reminds me of healed relationships, healed bodies, and the way Salem Health can meet unmet needs in our community.

An 11-year-old boy with a powered wheelchair recently came to check out the playground with his brother and sister. At other playgrounds, he would simply sit and observe his siblings play, unable to engage with the equipment, holding an iPad his mom let him use.

But at the therapy playground, the boy was just another kid. He could maneuver under the geodome, climb to the top of slide hill, and even push his siblings on the merry-go-round using his powered chair.

His mom was in tears, seeing her children experience the joy of playing together maybe for the first time at a public park.

This playground offers a unique gift. It strips away differences and empowers commonalities. It creates a place of healing and joy for bodies and souls that have been broken.

It is also a healing place for relationships. The therapy playground and the rehabilitation center sit on the former site of the Oregon School for the Blind. Salem Health and OSB did not always see eye-to-eye in the design and construction process, but the end product is a result of collaboration and partnership that honors both the past and the future. Nothing showed me how far the relationship between the two organizations has come then the sight of the OSB alumni blessing the playground, singing the school song in amazing harmony and playing on the new equipment at a recent dedication ceremony.

Some people may think we lost the battle in the news media over the development of the OSB site. The mom and her boy mentioned above represent many heart touching stories our staff have already experienced on the playground. Some battles are worth losing. The special needs children in this community are worth it. 

There is nothing like this playground in Oregon, and I believe it will be a tremendous resource, regardless of who you are, or what you can do. Salem Health is committed to its continued funding and looking for other ways to meet unmet needs in Salem. It is a shining example of how we can benefit our community, by stepping in and filling gaps that others cannot fill.

To the many who donated to help make this playground possible — thank you! For many kids, playgrounds can be a sad and lonely place because they only accentuate the things they can’t do.  This playground is a place where kids can experience the wonder and joy of playing together, no matter what constraints they have.

Submit a question

Ask executive leadership a question to have it answered in a future Common Ground