For the last decade, more than 30,000 people from 8,000 families from all over the United States and the world have had a second home at the Sinai Hospital campus.
The Hackerman-Patz House has served as a place to rest and make new friends for patients undergoing a variety of extended treatments and their families.
“Whenever we come here, it feels like coming home,” said Chandler Crews, 20, who has achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. She has been traveling from Little Rock, Ark., to Sinai since she was 16 for limb lengthening and has gained a total of 14 inches in height from the treatment.
The house was a gift from Willard Hackerman, the former CEO of Whiting-Turner Contracting Company and renowned philanthropist who died earlier this year, and his wife, Lillian Patz Hackerman. It sits directly across the street from the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics, where limb lengthening, hip and knee replacements and other specialized procedures take place.
The 10th anniversary was marked on Thursday, April 24, with a reception that featured speeches from members of the Hackerman family and officials from LifeBridge Health, which operates the hospital.
“If Mr. Hackerman were here, he’d tell you the best Hackerman-Patz House he ever built was here at Sinai,” said Gwenn Eisenberg, coordinator of patient and family activities at the house and Willard Hackerman’s niece. “To him, a bridge was a bridge. What was meaningful to him was to build things that helped other people.”
There are six other Hackerman-Patz houses on hospital campuses such as Johns Hopkins Hospital, Saint Agnes Hospital and the St. Joseph Medical Center.
In attendance at the reception were current residents of the Hackerman-Patz House, who hail from all over the continental U.S., as well as Alaska, India and Saudi Arabia.
When the building opened in 2004, there were 10 rooms. Due to high demand, the house expanded to 18 rooms in 2006, where families from all 50 states and 43 countries have stayed.
Everything at the house, including toiletries and the canned food in the pantries, is donated. An extensive DVD and VHS collection, video-game systems and computers were all donated. While there used to be a coin-operated laundry, a fundraiser paid for new, free washers and dryers. Young children staying at the house have tutors sent by Baltimore City schools.
A family in the furniture business donated beds and Blockbuster donated enough Nintendo GameCubes for each room to have one; even the landscaping around the patio area was donated.
Other than a stove, the Hackerman-Patz House has just about everything to make patients feel at home: kitchenettes in each room, a playroom, a common area kitchen with various appliances and a projector in a common area for movies and sports.
Bill Turner, the director of the house since it opened, said he tries to create a tranquil environment for families who are otherwise under a lot of stress.
“We just try to have as relaxed an atmosphere as you can,” he said. “A lot of families come in here and will say they feel like they’re at home.”
Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, noted Turner’s unwavering commitment to the Hackerman-Patz House by shoveling snow in the wintertime so patients wouldn’t have icy commutes or arrivals to the hospital.
“He truly cares for these families like they’re his own,” said Meltzer.
Hackerman was a good friend of Meltzer’s, they shared a love of maps and would dine together at Miss Shirley’s Café. Meltzer said that once he explained the need for housing for patients traveling from afar, it was a no-brainer for Hackerman to donate the building to Sinai.
“This is a very special place,” Meltzer said, adding that the Hackerman-Patz Houses are the only buildings Willard Hackerman put his name on.
Crews and her family can attest to that, having spent a Christmas at the house and having forged lasting friendships with families in Brazil and Norway.
“I really can’t imagine doing what we do without this place,” said Cathy Crews, Chandler’s mother. “When we got off the plane, we said we feel like we’re coming home.”