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New facility provides home-away-from home for children fighting cancer

By Heide Brandes

After years of planning, construction and dreaming, the Toby Keith Foundation officially opened the doors of the OK Kids Korral in November, a home-away-from home for children undergoing cancer treatments and their parents.

The free facility has been in the works for 10 years and is located at the Oklahoma Health Center Campus at 818 NE 8th St. in Oklahoma City. The 25,000-square foot OK Kids Korral includes 16 rooms, 12 overnight room suites for families, four daytime suites, a kitchen, an Oklahoma Route 66 indoor playroom, an Oklahoma-themed outdoor playground, a neutropenic wing for children with weak immune systems, a game room, a laundry room, an indoor theater room and a resource room for families.

“Thank you to all of those people who have supported us over the years,” said country music star Toby Keith at the opening. “Ten years goes by fast when you are working toward a goal this big.”

“This will be a home-away-from-home for children undergoing cancer treatment,” said Juliette Nees-Bright, executive director of the Toby Keith Foundation. “If a child is undergoing treatment for cancer in Oklahoma City, they and their families stay free of charge.”

OK Kids Korral will provide daytime and overnight lodging for pediatric patients and their families. The facility, which was designed by architect Crofton Tull, was constructed by Manhattan Construction.

“The story of the OK Kids Korral started years ago,” said Nees-Bright. “One of Toby’s original band members lost her little girl to cancer. They had gone to St. Jude’s to receive treatment and had stayed at a similar place. They were just in a cancer haze, but she told Toby that the people there thought about what they needed before they even needed it.

“Toby wanted to do that here,” she said. “Now that new treatments are available in Oklahoma, the Toby Keith Foundation wanted to be able to offer these kinds of amenities to families free of charge.”

The OK Kids Korral décor reflects Oklahoma’s heritage.

“The indoor playroom has a Route 66 theme, so we will recreate the Blue Whale and the Round Barn in miniature for the children,” Nees-Bright said. “The day suites will be for families who may need to rest, but not stay overnight. They can check in, play in the playrooms or outside and the parents can just relax or shower.”

Overall, she said, the hotel is designed to be as comfortable as possible for families battling cancer.
“It’s unlike anything in the state,” Nees-Bright said. “We hope it’s a place families can go and forget for a little while about cancer.”

For more information on OK Kids Korral, how to donate and volunteer to help, visit

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