Newswise — A Baylor University interior design team is assisting Decon7 Systems — manufacturer of a powerful disinfectant used by the military, first responders and, most recently, hospitals in China as they battle Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) 19 — in designing a hyperclean play space for children with diseases that compromise their immunity.

The effort is inspired by Lily Taylor, 5, who had cancer and whose immunocompromised system from chemotherapy kept her away from her favorite activities and friends. A ribbon-cutting for a nonprofit facility called Lily’s Pad — a safe place where children who have had chemotherapy or who have one of a host of diseases that can weaken their immune systems — is scheduled for April 29 in Tempe, Arizona, marking Lily’s final treatment for the cancer, which is in remission.

A prototype of Lily’s Pad will be shared with those who have shown interest in communities across the nation.

Health care design expert Debra Harris, Ph.D., an associate professor of interior design at Baylor University, and two senior interior design students at Baylor are working to define the finish materials — floors, walls, ceilings, casework and counters — and assist Decon7 Systems, which is developing protocols for disinfecting the facility and the socks the children wear while there.

“The hospitals are good about treating the diseases, but the boredom and isolation from other kids are byproducts,” said Al Taylor, Lily’s grandfather and a retired police lieutenant who is chief executive officer of Lily’s Pad. “The idea is to give kids back their childhood. That’s something these kids don’t have. They don’t have fun.”

Lily’s parents, Brad and Peggy Taylor, struggled to find ways to keep her occupied and happy as she was treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. But when they searched for a safe play space, they found none. With her cancer in remission, when Lily returned to preschool in October 2018, it was difficult for her to adjust after more than two years at home.

Seeking to help others like Lily, the Taylor family connected with Baylor University and Decon7 Systems.

Plans for the 5,800-square-foot Lily’s Pad — being built with the aid of the Technical Assistance Partnership of Arizona and donors — call for a playhouse, a jungle gym, a climbing wall, a “campland,” a theater/music stage, a baby space with foam blocks and a respite space for parents.

“We want the children to feel free to play — and play hard — and make new friends,” Professor Harris said. “And we want to let the parents relax, perhaps with a ‘revive’ room, a sensory room where they can go to take a 30-minute break in a relaxing sensory environment and a private space to make necessary calls to insurance companies or the like.  

“We want to define the best way possible of keeping the space hyperclean so parents and doctors will have confidence in referring families to Lily’s Pad,” she said.

Decon7 Systems, headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, has helped during hurricanes and other disasters and with charity efforts, but “this is our first time to do something like this with children,” said Joe Hill, the company’s senior vice president of safety, security and defense. “Lily’s Pad has been very proactive. I sat down with them and they told us what they’re trying to do and the kind of product they’re looking for. Decon7 seemed to be a really good fit, so we’ll be working with Al to provide a solution for Lily’s Pad.”

Interior design students Molly Harris and Abi Young are excited about working with Professor Harris to investigate durability and functionality of materials for Lily’s Pad. The team is using Baylor’s environmental forensics and textile laboratories as they prepare materials and help develop protocols for using Decon7.

“Searching for materials that will work in this clean play space is a challenge because of the high standards for health and cleaning that must also work for a playground-like interior space,” Molly Harris said. “As seniors, Abi and I have had courses and health care projects that have provided us with the knowledge capable of finding appropriate surface materials. But this project is unlike others in the sense that we are micro-focused on specifications and have the time to research individual products thoroughly.

“Lily and children in her position deserve a place to enjoy themselves and socialize, and I am honored that I get to be a part of this project and help find materials that will be safe for the kids,” she said.

Young said that while she and Harris have been students at Baylor, their projects have provided them with many hypothetical situations/simulations, some tied to actual clients in Waco, where Baylor University is located.

But “this private study we are doing for Lily’s Pad is giving us hands-on experience to educate and grow us for our careers,” Young said. “This has been incredible because we have been able to connect with Al and connect with real people who are passionate about changing the world, and especially changing aspects of health care.”