New Women's and Children's Center Will Foster Play in Youngest Patients Children’s Center

Pay it forward and make life better for generations to come with your contribution to the Women's and Children's Center. Click here to donate.

The pink power car is more than a toy for Henzley Walker. It’s freedom and independence for a girl who doesn’t have much of either.

Henzley’s Benefis pediatric occupational therapist Michelle Fox-Hustwaite uses a modified wheelchair harness to hold Henzley steady in the toy car. Across Henzley’s lap, Michelle puts a board with a large button that allows the 3-year-old to operate the car by placing it within reach of her stronger right hand. Behind Henzley, a PVC brace, modified by her dad, keeps her head upright and holds her feeding system. Pool noodles keep her steady in her seat.

The car’s headlights flip on, and Michelle asks her, "Are you ready to rock and roll?"

pink car

Henzley makes a loop in the driveway and raises her arms in victory.

“This is amazing!” Michelle says. “She’s playing. This is something she can do  while her sister is playing outside. She’s playing with a toy like any other child, and neighbor kids come by and visit.”

The new Benefis Women’s and Children’s Center will impact kids like Henzley in a profound way. We look forward to the day we see children’s legs grow stronger as they pedal tricycles around the new outdoor racetrack. They’ll gain confidence and competence in the model kitchen or bathroom as they safely develop strategies for greater independence at home. They’ll try new speech skills as they play together. We’ll be there as the magic happens.

The first time Henzley operated the car, “Her face just lit up. She knows she’s making herself move, and when does she ever get to be in control of her body moving through space?” Michelle said. 

“Research shows children who have these experiences have more growth in motor skills, cognitive skills, and verbal skills,” Michelle said. “Kids just want to  do more every day. It’s my job to help them be more successful.” 

Michelle calls Henzley “one of our miracles.” 

Henzley was born with a chromosomal abnormality that left her immunocompromised and dependent on a feeding tube, an ostomy bag, a tracheostomy vent, and a wheelchair. She can only see bright, solid colors.  She has a partial corpus callosum, which affects her balance, coordination,  and movement. 

Her mom, Ashley, is wowed by how far Henzley has come.

“She was never able to touch a toy or grab one. Now she can grab toys,”  she said. “She likes to cruise in her car, and she and her sister go up and down the sidewalk, We’re so thankful.”

Play is the avenue to wellness for our pediatric therapy patients, and that's why the outdoor therapy space at the Women's and Children's Center is designed like a playground.

Central to the program is the message that your child’s development may not be how you envisioned it but “this is how you can help them build confidence in their capacity,” said Peggy Ray, manager of outpatient therapies at Benefis Therapy Center. 

therapy rendering

Plans call for pediatric therapies on the first floor of the Women’s and Children’s Center, an outpatient center that also will include a basic lab, screening mammography, pediatrics, and women’s health. The center will have a calming room for children who need to withdraw to re-center themselves and a feeding room.

There will be space for education, as well. A large part of what therapists do is help patients and their families understand how to cope. They’re a support structure after a scary, even overwhelming, diagnosis, often helping a child from the incubator to elementary school - formative years where they make a tremendous difference. 

Peggy is excited to see the impact of greater collaboration in the new Women’s and Children’s Center. Currently, the 10 pediatric therapists in occupational, speech, and physical therapies are spread across four cramped locations at Benefis.

“There are so many important details the designer was able to accommodate and make beautiful,” she said. “The therapists all had  a part in developing the space.”

You Can Come Through for Pediatric Therapies Patients

We believe we can all make an impact in improving young people’s health. Your gifts toward building the new Women’s and Children’s Center with its multidisciplinary health and wellness programs will help build brighter futures for Montana’s youth.

The Women’s and Children’s Center has a limited number of naming opportunities remaining, including sponsorship of sculptural pieces that will inspire patients, spaces of comfort and education, and more. There is no better way to honor the legacy of someone you love than to pay it forward in their honor.

We also have a wish list for pediatric therapies spaces  and would appreciate monetary gifts toward these items: 

  • Bathroom lift - $2,954
  • Pneumatic table - $5,578
  • Parallel bars - $6,795
  • Fold-out table - $876
  • Therapy ball - $113 each
  • Swings - $400 each
  • Folding floor mat - $170 each
  • Circle bolster furniture - $425 each
  • Tricycle - $115 each
  • Bicycle -  - $199 each

If you can help furnish the pediatric therapies space, please click here to donate.