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CAMC, Town Center to build play area in mall

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Beginning soon, shoppers at Charleston Town Center Mall will have a place to take their small children to play.

The mall's play area, a space of about 940 square feet called Play Patch, will open in December, mall officials said Tuesday. The area will be on the first floor across from JC Penney.

The area, sponsored by Charleston Area Medical Center, will feature a fruits-and-vegetables theme. The area will have soft play equipment shaped like fruits and vegetables for children to climb on, crawl through and slide down. It will also have seating for parents, a shoe keeper with a hand sanitizer dispenser, and a retractable barrier to close the area for regular cleaning.

"We think this will be a great thing for parents to bring their kids to," said Thomas Bird, the mall's general manager.

The play area is being built in Colorado and will be onsite Dec. 10, Bird said. The mall will hold a grand opening for the area Dec. 17.

The addition of the play area comes as the mall, nearing its 30th anniversary, is making renovations that include new flooring, handrails and a new fountain in the shopping center's Center Court. The mall's owners -- Forest City Enterprises, of Cleveland, and the Cafaro Co., of Youngstown, Ohio -- are putting $7 million into the renovations, Bird said.

CAMC is funding the play area, along with a family restroom, for an undisclosed amount.

Dr. Jamie Jeffrey, medical director of the Children's Medicine Center at CAMC, said Play Patch will be a safe, enclosed area for children to be active while their parents rest and watch them. The area is geared toward children under age 6.

The vegetable theme of the play area is also to support the national 5-2-1-0 campaign, which encourages children to, daily, eat five fruits and vegetables, watch TV or play video and computer games for less than two hours, get one hour of exercise and skip sugary beverages altogether, Jeffrey said. West Virginia continues to be second in the nation for childhood obesity, Jeffrey said.

A team from CAMC designed the play area, said Elizabeth Pellegrin, chief marketing officer for the hospital.

"We see this as an investment in our community," Pellegrin said.

The CAMC-sponsored family restroom will open in November. The bathroom will have private areas for mothers to breastfeed, diaper changing areas, junior toilets for small children and a microwave oven for parents to warm baby formula.

"We encourage breastfeeding for healthy eating, but, knowing not everyone can do it, we wanted to accommodate the other folks," Pellegrin said.

Breastfeeding is important because babies who nurse learn to self-regulate how much food they take in, Jeffrey said. With bottles, parents decide how much food the baby eats. Babies who learn to self-regulate food while nursing carry that skill through life, which helps prevent obesity, she said.

The restroom and play area are a part of a 10-year partnership between CAMC and Town Center Mall, Pellegrin said. The hospital also plans to expand its mall walker program to include classes such as yoga and chair exercises as well as to provide blood pressure checks on a continual basis beginning in January, Pellegrin said. The hospital is also installing new automated external defibrillators and providing new wheelchairs for the mall's guest services.

The partnership between CAMC and the mall is the hospital's most significant sponsorship ever, Pellegrin said.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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