No parent wants to consider that a child may have to contend with a debilitating illness or injury, but it’s unavoidable that some children’s days are filled with medical treatments and procedures rather than playing with friends and going to school. Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital is dedicated to making the transition between traditional hospitals and home as smooth as possible. It is the area’s first and only pediatric bridge hospital, and its model of care allows young patients to play, grow, learn and interact with others.

“Ranken Jordan is not like a traditional children’s hospital—we don’t have an emergency room or surgery department,” president and CEO Shawn Dryden explains. “We care for around 1% of children, those who will be dealing with complex medical needs and ongoing challenges. Our goal is to prepare them and their families for their best lives at home.” The hospital refers to its treatment model as “Care Beyond the Bedside.” It allows for experiences that more closely mirror school, daycare or home by getting patients out of their rooms and into play spaces, activity areas, therapy rooms and the hospital grounds.

One of the latest advancements in Ranken Jordan’s approach to care is the Optimization Zone (OZ). The play-based learning program was designed to serve newborn to 5-year-old patients while they are at a critical developmental stage. Modeled after a preschool, the initiative ensures the hospital’s youngest patients can have more time out of their rooms to develop important skills. “As they advance their social, communication, mobility and emotional development, they also are advancing medically and meeting more of their goals,” Dryden says. “Play is an essential part of every child’s progression, and Ranken Jordan is very intentional about how we implement it in each patient’s journey.”

To make its model possible, Ranken Jordan relies on the support of the community. One way it shares its mission with St. Louis is the annual Beyond Gala. This year’s event is Sept. 21 at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis. The event’s chairs are Ralph and Julie Grant, and the Partners in Play presenting sponsor is Lesley Shekelton. “The gala is critical for us,” Dryden notes. “It’s an incredible opportunity to raise funds for our innovative, personalized care model. The evening also allows us to share stories about the remarkable progress and successes of our patients. It’s an amazing way to connect the community with our staff as well as our patients and their families.”

For 2024, the Beyond Gala is themed ‘Reimagined Fairytales’ to celebrate the inspiring journeys of the hospital’s young patients, such as that of Lani. Born prematurely, she spent the first year of her life in a neonatal intensive care unit before she was transferred to Ranken Jordan. “Lani spent two months with us, and it was life-changing for her and her family,” Dryden says. “Before, she was confined to a room, but here, she was able to grow and advance, visit the OZ, interact with her siblings and more. Places like Ranken Jordan don’t exist all over the country. St. Louis and the surrounding region are fortunate to have this type of care available so kids like Lani and their families can thrive.

Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital provides care between traditional hospital treatment and home for children from birth to age 21. Its Beyond Gala is Sept. 21 at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis. Pictured on the cover: Gala chairs Ralph and Julie Grant with Ranken Jordan patient Lani. For more information, call 314.872.6400 or visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Tim Parker Photography

Pictured at top: Gala chairs Julie and Ralph Grant with Ranken Jordan patient Lani
Photo courtesy of Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital