The Greater Naples YMCA celebrated another milestone Tuesday with several long-awaited projects aimed at making local children happier and healthier.
The Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida and the YMCA embarked on a collaboration two years ago for the network to open a primary care center in the YMCA.
The new center is called the Nichols Pediatric Center after a longtime Naples resident, Jerry Nichols, gave an undisclosed gift to help with health care network’s expenses for the program. The gift was used to redesign 5,400 square foot space in the YMCA building for the clinic.
The center will offer primary care and behavioral health care that is convenient for children enrolled in YMCA’s early learning programs, which can help ease hardships for working parents. The center also will serve children from the community as a traditional pediatric practice.
The center will open April 18 and will be headed up by Dr. Todd Vedder, a local pediatrician who joined the health care network’s staff two years ago in anticipation of the collaboration with the YMCA.
“It’s been well worth the wait,” Vedder said.
The pediatric center has six private exam rooms, a lactation consulting room and separate waiting rooms for sick children and well-being visits.
The total project cost is $503,000.
In addition, the health care network will provide dental and vision services at the YMCA through its mobile programs, Mike Ellis, chief executive officer of the health care network, said Tuesday.
“In essence, we are treating the entire child,” he said.
He described the collaboration with the YMCA as cutting edge and only possible because of community support.
Tuesday’s event also celebrated the opening of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation “mini Fenway” ability field that will be used by the Special Olympics athletes for games and sports education. The field cost about $400,000.
Retired Army Gen. Fred Franks threw the ceremonial first pitch on the field. A Vietnam War veteran, Franks said he lost a leg in the war but the Army allowed him to stay on active duty. He compared that Army mindset to what the Cal Ripken foundation and the Special Olympics will strive for with the new ability field at the YMCA.
“The focus was on ability not disability,” he said.
Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is another YMCA partner and will offer pediatric rehabilitation services on site full-time. The Golisano project budget was $450,000 to build out the space and also for equipment.
Kathy Bridge-Liles, chief administrative officer of Golisano Children’s Hospital in Lee County, said the YMCA approached Golisano about working together.
“We said we would love to partner with you,” she said.
Other special guests included Chris Resop, a former Boston Red Sox player, and American Idol finalist Lazaro Arbos, who sang the national anthem and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Paul Thein, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA, said Tuesday’s event was a celebration for kids and also to thank the community for its ongoing support in the rebuilding of the YMCA into a healthy living campus after the Labor Day fire in 2013 destroyed much of the complex.
“This is like a second launch for us,” he said.