Originally opened in 1996 as “Aikman’s End Zone,” this space was the first interactive, therapeutic playroom that led to the launch of the Child Life Zone Network. With a vision of pediatric patients having the opportunity to chat with other kids at Children’s Hospitals across the country, the Troy Aikman Foundation and Starbright came together to provide the place and the technology to make it happen.
The Zone was remodeled in 2003 and underwent another renovation that was completed in November 2016. Originally designed as two smaller spaces separated by a corridor and elevators, the Zone is now one large area called "The Big Z." The newly renovated space includes an infant play area, a dramatic play area for school-aged children, and a bubble column which changes colors for sensory stimulation and calming. Patients can be creative in a crafting space and try out new recipes in the kitchen.
There is also a wall of Microsoft X-Box Systems and a Panasonic 9-screen TV with a Microsoft interactive system. The Zone is decorated with sports memorabilia from the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars, Southern Methodist University Mustangs of Dallas, and Troy Aikman; and musical memorabilia from Garth Brooks.
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Director of Child Life and Social Work at Children’s Health, Children’s Medical Center
Thresa Belcher holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Texas Tech University and a master’s of Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. Employed at Children’s Medical Center since 1999, Ms. Belcher leads the two largest Family Support Service departments at Children’s.
Child Life strives to normalize the hospital environment and help children and families cope effectively. Child Life Specialists provide procedural preparation and support, developmentally appropriate diagnosis education, and therapeutic play opportunities for patients and families. We provide support to the patient by providing coping strategies, developmental assessments, and opportunities for normalization through play. We support the entire family, and include siblings in the assessment process. The Big Z provides a state of the art, interactive play space to help all of the goals of child life come together in a fun, engaging and normalizing environment for the children.
Amanda Ammons, M.S. CCLS
Child Life Zone Coordinator, Senior Child Life Specialist
Amanda Ammons holds a bachelor's degree Human Development and Family Studies from Texas Tech University and a master’s degree in Child Development and Child Life from Texas State University. She has been a member of the Dallas Child Life team since July 2010 and joined the Zone team in September 2016.