The University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital celebrated the grand opening of its new lobby, courtyard and gift shop Thursday afternoon, honoring all who contributed to the three and a half year long project.

Everyone from hospital administrators, employees, university officials, parents, patients, pet therapy teams, artists, jugglers, school mascots, cheerleaders and even Ronald McDonald joined together for the event.

Owen Bailey, USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital administrator, opened by welcoming everyone and recognizing those who played a part in making the new areas of the hospital come to life, stating the best hospitals are ones that are intertwined with the community.

“It’s meant to have a welcoming feel to it, a place of peace and rest,” he said. “And as you come into what can be a very disturbing kind of situation, if you come into a hospital, it’s kind of scary. We wanted to have a very welcoming kind of feel to this place.”

Speakers included Bailey, University of South Alabama President Dr. Tony Waldrop, Brady Hall, whose son was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and treated at USACWH and Mary Kate Russell, who delivered both of her children at the hospital.

Hall spoke about the moment she found out her son, Shephard, was diagnosed with ALL and the strong impact USACWH had on their lives.

“USA Children’s and Women’s has made what some may see as a horrible circumstance to be one filled with a multitude of blessings for my family and we are forever grateful,” she said.

Russell followed by speaking about the experiences she had at the hospital during the birth of her two children.

“Two of the happiest days of my husband and I’s life have been spent here at Children’s and Women’s Hospital,” Russell said.

Russell delivered her first child in 2011, and just three weeks ago, welcomed her second child into the world and USACWH.

“We look forward to having more children here, but I’m just very grateful for such a wonderful hospital and a wonderful experience both times,” she said.

Rep. Davis Sessions, Rep. Randy Davis and Rep. James Buskey were also present in the new lobby of USACWH, which is now adorned with fresh paintings, photographs and even original glass art pieces from the USA Glassblowing Department.

“I was so impressed as we walked around and interacted with healthcare providers here that this is not where they work, this is their home,” Waldrop said. “This is a place where they make people better and they’re so proud of [it] and want to make it even better.”