CONTEST WINNER:

TUESDAY OCTOBER 2, 2007 Last modified: Tuesday, October 2, 2007 9:53 AM EDT

Contest winner names new hospital play area, meets one of his heroes

Jake Krzyzaniak found out Friday that his entry, “The Dugout,” won an online contest to name a play area at the new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital under construction in Ann Arbor.

By David Panian

Daily Telegram Staff Writer

PITTSFIELD TWP. — An

8-year-old boy who understands the trials and tribulations sick children go through got to hang out with one of his baseball heroes Monday because of the player’s interest in helping sick kids.

Jake Krzyzaniak found out Friday that his entry, “The Dugout,” won an online contest to name a play area at the new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital under construction in Ann Arbor. A hospital representative called Jake’s mother, Shannon, who called her husband, Jim, who teaches at Manchester Elementary School, where Jake is a student. Jim Krzyzaniak then asked the principal to announce the result to Jake’s classroom.

“I felt really good, very good,” Jake said Monday. “I felt so good that I was pleased. … The other (entrants) did good. I’d like to congratulate them. Their essays were very good.”

The play area in the pediatric cancer infusion clinic at the new hospital is being built with a $100,000 donation from Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge and his wife, Shani. For winning the contest, the play area will bear Jake’s entry, and he and his family got to spend the evening with the Inges, playing games and eating pizza at the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Ann Arbor.

Several entries suggested “The Dugout” as the play area’s name, but the Inges chose Jake’s to be one of the finalists. Brandon Inge said they liked that Jake had been a patient at Mott and how he explained why he chose “The Dugout” as his entry.

In his entry Jake wrote, “Sometimes in life we have to sit in the dugout, wait, watch, get stronger and learn. We get benched for a while, but it’s to make us stronger in our life and faith.”

Both Inges said they liked the name “The Dugout” because of the symbolism between baseball and what it means for the children receiving treatment. Shani Inge said for baseball players the dugout is a place away from the stress of the field, while for the children the clinic’s play area is where “they get to play and relax.”

“It’s a place of friendship,” Brandon Inge said. “That was the whole intent of the room. I’m glad others felt that same way.”

The Krzyzaniaks know Mott well. Jake’s older brother, Brock, 13, is a neurology patient at Mott, and Jake spent most of the first seven months of his life at Mott. He twice had pneumonia before being diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency, also known as “boy in the bubble disease.” A bone marrow transplant was necessary to try to give him an immune system. Doctors gave Jake a 50-50 chance of surviving, but now he is a healthy, energetic kid who loves sports, especially baseball.

Jake met Brandon Inge once before when he was at Mott for some treatment. Brandon Inge said he became involved with Mott after he was on a Tigers’ winter caravan through the state and saw how a visit from a ballplayer cheered the kids. Each winter just before spring training, groups of Tigers players and coaches visited a few cities in Michigan and Toledo, visiting children in hospitals along the way.

“When you walk in there their faces brighten up,” Brandon Inge said. “I knew that was something I would like to be involved in.”

Shani Inge said they were touched by how the young patients always had a positive attitude and with how the hospital staff treated the kids.

Jake’s entry received 4,337 of the 12,595 votes cast in the one-week contest, according to a news release from the hospital. His was one of 55 entries received by the hospital.

The new hospital is scheduled to open in 2011.

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