Thanks to a partnership between MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital and the Simon Property Group Inc., owners of the Houston Galleria®, a trip to the mall with a toddler in tow may be less a challenge with the opening of the Little Galleria play area.
At this indoor playground designed to provide a safe and fun place for children to play while at the Galleria, the smallest child is a giant. The play area includes miniature versions of landmark Galleria retail stores such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. It even includes a miniature version of the iconic Williams Tower. Made from a specially molded, anti-bacterial foam material, the buildings are meant for climbing, jumping and other activities. The play area also features a soft, path-based floor that represents Uptown Houston with street names such as Westheimer and Post Oak.
In 2007, during a chance meeting between representatives from the Simon Group and MD Anderson at the inaugural Houston Santa’s Elves Party, which raises funds for MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, the idea arose for a co-sponsorship of a play area in the Galleria. The proposal seemed an ideal opportunity to help increase visitors to the Galleria while promoting the children’s hospital and the care and support it offers pediatric cancer patients and their families.
“We’re not only interested in treating children with cancer, but also preventing cancer in children when they get older,” says Eugenie S. Kleinerman, M.D., head of MD Anderson’s Division of Pediatrics.
Kleinerman adds that avoiding sun exposure and teaching good exercise habits can help reduce the risk of cancer as an adult. The Little Galleria play area provides a fun way to teach both concepts to children.
“I was thrilled when I first heard about it,” says Ashley Loeffler, a mother of three and a member of the MD Anderson Advance Team, an advisory board that promotes the Children’s Cancer Hospital. “I come to the Galleria often with my children. Now we have a place where they can play and relax while we’re here.”
The Galleria is a top destination in Houston, with more than 24 million visitors a year. After only a few months of operation, the Little Galleria has become a popular attraction for families as well. Plans include a family lounge area and art gallery featuring artwork from the MD Anderson Children’s Art Project.