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GrandKids daycare center watches over children of COVID-19 heroes

Harper Campbell and Konrad Kistner enjoy a water painting activity Thursday morning at UCHealth GrandKids Child Care Center in Steamboat Springs. The center serves families with children who are 8 weeks old up to the age of 5

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Anya Gunn has seen all four of her children served by the UCHealth GrandKids Child Care Center. Gunn, a nurse navigator at UCHealth Heart and Vascular Clinic in Steamboat Springs, said she likely would not have been able to work without the center, because Routt County has very few options for daycare centers.

While GrandKids has always played an integral part in Gunn’s life, the center’s importance has become even more apparent since COVID-19 hit Routt County in spring 2020, as she works with COVID-19 patients and faces extra stress now.

“They’re heroes,” Gunn said. “They came to work and took care of our kids, so that we could take care of the community.”



GrandKids is the only on-site daycare center in the UCHealth system and is dedicated to caring for children from eight weeks to 5 years old while their parents work inside the hospital.

“It’s a critical service that we provide to the hospital and the community, so it’s really important that we continue to provide this service to as many people as we can,” said Jessica Carroll, the center’s director.



Gunn also said she has been constantly impressed with GrandKids’ dedication to keeping children and their families safe.

“While most people in the community were sensibly shying away from being anywhere near our hospital, the GrandKids staff did everything they could to show up, knowing that these children were mostly from frontline healthcare workers,” Gunn said. “That was such a huge piece to so many families that work at the hospital.”

Children 3 and older are required to wear masks, and Carroll said almost all children do so willingly and with no issue.

“I’m always so impressed with how well our children wear their mask,” Carroll said. “Given that many of our parents are healthcare providers, the parents set a good example.”

Before COVID-19, daycare staff took children on field trips around the community — visiting residents at Casey’s Pond, interacting with hospital workers and learning about the environment around Steamboat. Now, activities involve only the daycare children to prevent possible COVID-19 exposure. Staff also ensure children spend at least one to two hours outside everyday as it’s a COVID-19-safe activity and has a positive impact on a child’s overall wellbeing.

“We have a lot of trust in these employees,” Gunn said. “It definitely made it easier to put myself out there and certainly I know other moms who take care of COVID patients all day knowing their kids were safe, and they would get to see them at the end of the day.”

Children also are taught to express their emotions and improve social skills, which Carroll said is a vital part of development before a child enters kindergarten.

“Children are best prepared for school if they can socially and emotionally take care of their own needs,” she said.

While Carroll said working with children is a joy in itself, she also said she feels an extra sense of duty as she watches parents drop their children off before working as heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really need to be able to provide child care for the employees that are serving our community,” she said.


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