Garth Brooks stops by Child Life Zone that his foundation helped build

Brooks’ Teammates for Kids Foundation revamped the play space at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.
Garth Brooks greets a fan during his visit to the Child Life Zone at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Country music star Garth Brooks visited the pediatric play area his foundation helped build at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital. (Photo by Nick Carranza)

After years of construction and scheduling delays because of COVID-19, country music star Garth Brooks finally got to visit the playroom inside UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital his foundation helped to build.

The Grammy winner dropped by the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Chase Child Life Zone on Thursday, June 27, to see the new space and meet the patients and families enjoying it.

“This is a Child Life Zone, and what I love about Child Life Zones is it’s the one place in the hospital that doctors are not allowed,” said Brooks, whose Teammates for Kids Foundation has built 15 such zones in children’s hospitals across the country. “I think my favorite thing is: If you’ve got a child that needs care, what happens to the brothers and sisters? Well, they come down here and they get to be brothers and sisters together here.”

These play zones reduce the amount of medical attention children need to recover, he added, and shortens their hospital stays, “because what kids do best is being kids, and this is what happens (here).”

Founded in 1999, Teammates for Kids has provided more than $100 million to support health, education and inner-city services for children across the globe. With a $3 million gift from the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, the Teammates for Kids Foundation overhauled the former Chase Child Life play space at UCLA Health. It is the first Teammates for Kids Chase Child Life Zone in California.

The previous play room at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital was “kind of dark and the play areas were very small and broken up by walls,” said Kelli Carroll, MS, director of Chase Child Life.

“What Teammates did is they knocked down those walls and opened it up,” she says. “Their goal is, you walk into a Zone and you don’t feel like you’re in a hospital anymore. And what they did here, it was slam dunk on that goal.”

The new Teammates for Kids Chase Child Life Zone has been open for patients since 2022, but Brooks’ schedule – including a residency in Las Vegas – prevented him from visiting UCLA Health sooner.

The space includes a music studio, video game station, craft areas, crates of toys, plus an outdoor patio with a Hot Wheels track and life-size Barbie play area.

Jackie Redmond, whose 5-year-old son, Logan, was hospitalized for months at UCLA Health, said the play zone made the long stay tolerable.

Garth Brooks stands with Jackie Redmond and her 5-year-old son Logan
Garth Brooks visits with 5-year-old Logan and his mom, Jackie Redmond. (Photo by Nick Carranza)

“I don’t think we would have gotten through five months here without it,” she said.

Even older pediatric patients appreciate the play zone, says Jasmine James, 23, who has been treated at UCLA Health for five years. It’s not about the toys, she said, but having an escape from the hospital atmosphere.

“It’s important for the older kids, too,” she said. “Because otherwise you’re stuck in your room all day with nothing to do. So just to get out. Even if it’s more geared toward little kids, it’s still good.”

Brooks tipped his cowboy hat to every parent and child he met in the play zone, posing for photos and talking about his own daughters and grandkids. Chase Child Life Specialists snapped Polaroids of play zone guests. Brooks signed photos for the kids, and asked them to sign photos for him, too.

After a ceremonial ribbon cutting, for which an 11-year-old girl helped Brooks wield a giant pair of scissors, the country star said to UCLA Health administrators, “I’m so lucky to be part of this.”