Ryan House: Small Building with a Big Mission

Ryan House: Small Building with a Big Mission

The opening of Ryan House, a pediatric palliative care center in Phoenix, touched the hearts of many at Kitchell, both personally and professionally. Not only did Kitchell, a Ryan House founding partner, serve as general contractor on this speedy project (13 months from permit to completion!), the company’s former CEO and president Bill.

Schubert and his wife, Judy, were champions of the project, instrumental in maintaining momentum of, and raising funds for, the entire undertaking.

A Family’s Struggle Inspires Community Response

Holly and Jonathan Cottor brought the concept of Ryan House to Phoenix in 2003. While living in London, their youngest son, Ryan, had been diagnosed in 2001, at eight months of age, with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a rare motor neuron disease with a devastating prognosis. They had been referred to London’s Helen House, the world’s first palliative care home for children providing child-centered resources for ill children while giving family members time to rest and recharge. Upon returning to Arizona, the Cottors committed themselves to establishing a similar program and were delighted when Bill and Judy, and the entire Kitchell family, took up their cause. Historically, Kitchell has donated construction services to one non-profit project each year, and Ryan House was the beneficiary.

“Kitchell supports a wide variety of not-for-profit organizations,” said Schubert. “When you volunteer time to help organizations and causes that interest you, it not only helps build a stronger community, but benefits you as an individual.”

Bill and Judy’s passion for the project inspired many in the construction community who stepped up in a big way. Not only did subcontractors submit highly competitive bids, many donated in-kind labor, supervision and materials. While Kitchell donated its fee and equipment costs, one consultant donated fire system design services, and others donated a warehouse full of tile, a swimming pool and pool tiles. A sense of purpose and community spirit permeated the project.

“It’s really special to get close to the people who will use your building,” said Steve Whitworth, Kitchell project director. “We met the Cottor family and worked closely with the Ryan House team. Their passion for the project came through in our meetings and made the project more personal for us.”

It may have been coincidence, but more likely destiny, that the home’s groundbreaking was held on Ryan’s birthday. Ryan turned nine this April.

Nancy Martin, executive director of Ryan House, has warm memories about the project’s evolution. She recently recalled weekly meetings with Kitchell and the architect, Orcutt |Winslow, held every Tuesday morning for a year.

“From beginning to end, building Ryan House was such a positive, fulfilling experience,” said Martin. “It was a high quality group of people – individually and as a team – and Kitchell did an amazing job anticipating, troubleshooting and resolving issues, challenges we didn’t even know about until much later after the facility opened.”

Homey Touches

Martin and her team wanted the center, constructed on a lot owned by St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, to look as homey as possible. A stone façade, earthy color palate and planters help soften the exterior. Inside, a “Camp Ryan” theme extends through each of the eight children’s rooms and three family suites, which serve as gateways to adaptive music, art, computer, sensory, hydrotherapy and family fun rooms, along with a fully accessible playground and relaxing outdoor garden. Each bedroom features unique murals; the insect room’s painting features a fly and magnifying glass, and stars abound in the night sky room. Commercial metal doors are softened by woodtrim to give the appearance of wood-cased doors. And the kitchen, the S’more Café, feels especially warm and welcoming.

Other Ryan House founding partners include Orcutt|Winslow Partnership, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Board of Visitors, Junior League and Hospice of the Valley. For more information, please visit the Ryan House Web site at www.ryanhouse.org.

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