Childcare Program Celebrates 30 Years of Growth


Children play on the playground outside Munson Medical Center. Below, right, Munson Healthcare
Chief Human Resources Officer Sue Peters. Below left, children have fun at summer camp.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a two-part series

Rays from the morning sun are generating some heat outside Munson Medical Center and a playground in its shadows is hosting joyful toddlers who are serious about mixing water and soap into suds. 

One little toddler represents a third generation at the hospital. Her mother, now a nurse like her grandmother, once was happily enrolled in the same suds-producing program a couple decades ago.

Across town, older kids are having a blast on a water slide at the health system’s summer camp.

"I also have kids who have come here who are now working for me at our summer camp or working for me at one our childcare locations,” said Brigid Wilson, manager of Munson Healthcare’s Child Development Program.

30 Years of Childcare

The program is celebrating 30 years in 2021.

Munson Healthcare Chief Human Resources Officer Sue Peters first advocated for the program in 1991 as a recruiting and retention tool for staff. She continues to believe in its importance and sees the program as a highlight in her own career.

“Childcare continues to be a real struggle for many families and to see a vision that was birthed three decades ago remain strong and meet needs gives me a lot of satisfaction,” she said. “We are grateful for its growth, its value to help recruit and retain staff, and for the commitment this organization has shown by providing it for the staff who work here.”

Brigid said the program, which initially was housed in a former state hospital building in the Grand Traverse Commons, boasts five locations, 73 staff, and 661 children in care every year.

In addition to onsite childcare at the hospital for 99 children, the program has another site just off campus, as well as a site at Northwestern Michigan College that includes 56-grant funded slots for at-risk children. There is also a daytime summer camp for older children, and during the school year a before-and-after school program.

“We have 275 kids at summer camp and 100 kids at Munson Kids Club, our before-and-after school program,” Brigid said. “The Kids Club was housed 14 years at Central Grade school and is now at a church site near the Munson Medical Center campus. We walk kids to school in the morning and bring them back to our program after school.”

During initial weeks during the pandemic, the program continued to provide support for hospital staff who were needed to care for patients, and even offered virtual learning opportunities before Traverse City Area Public Schools was able to launch its virtual learning program.

Staff Appreciation

Staff who use the program continue to express appreciation that the health system’s senior leadership remains committed to it, Brigid said. And those parents who come to the program with older toddlers walk away impressed by the services that are not available at other childcare centers they have experienced.

Katelynn Yonkers, RN, spent her early years in the program and now has the daughter mixing soap suds and a son who have benefited from it.

“My mom has worked at Munson my whole life and just retired in January. My brother and I were both in the program,” she said. “I remember being over in one of the buildings at the commons, playing on the playground, and birthday parties -- stuff a toddler would remember. I have pictures that show the fun I had! My mom always had great things to say about the teachers and the convenience of having us nearby while she worked five days a week.”

She also enjoys knowing that some of the teachers taking care of her children, took care of her years ago. “They recognize me and tell me and my kids stories. It makes the place feel more like family and that is how we want our kids to feel while we are away at work,” she said.