HEALTH

Volunteers help rebuild Children's Inn playground

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BETHESDA, Md. - Since 1990, the Children's Inn has been a second home for thousands of families and children in treatment at the National Institutes of Health. Monday, their backyard got a much needed makeover.

After a year of treatment for a rare form of cancer, 15-year-old Mary Kate Andrepont is in her last stage of chemotherapy.

"It's just been hard with school, because I had to miss [school]. But, I ended up making like a 4.0," the Baton Rouge, La. native said.

She's juggling school and medical care with help from the Children's Inn, a second home for sick children, like Andreport.

"I get homesick, because my dad and my brothers are at home," she said, "...so I was very excited he could come."

Monday, she and her younger brother handed out lemonade to more than 100 volunteers working to build a brand new playground at the inn.

For five hours, they poured concrete, spread astroturf and built playhouses in the heat and humidity. 

Volunteer Steve Leizear said, "It's such an enjoyable event to be out here to come out here and volunteer for the Children's Inn. It's very rewarding."

The idea is that by giving kids a rich playground it will help heal their mind and soul, which experts say is integral to the healing process.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, added, "Being able to feel optimistic about what is going to happen as part of your medical care is a good predictor of your health outcome, and it's hard to do that if you're cooped up in a space that doesn't feel very warm and welcoming. This is a very warm and welcoming place."

Andreport said staying positive has helped her through.

"When you're negative," she said, "...you tend to concentrate on all the bad things, and I don't do that."

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