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22 November 2013
Toby Keith talks about his OK Kids Korral


Keith witnessed his friends dealing with their daughter's cancer. After seeing the facilities that cared for the family, Keith knew Oklahoma needed something like that.

"They had food, they had toiletries, Walmart cards," Keith said. "I said, ‘You know what, we don’t have that. We need that here.’ And that was 10 years ago. Today it came true."

Keith said that while standing outside the brand new OK Kids Korral, which was created through the Toby Keith Foundation and celebrated its grand opening Thursday.

"It’s taken 10 years to get it up, get it rocking, get it running, get some money going, get the right people on board, get the heavy lifting, get the donations coming," Keith said. "Once we got the snowball built and over the hump, this thing went up in less than two years."

Located across the street from OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, the 25,000 square foot facility has 16 suites where families can stay while their children receive cancer treatments.

Large suites sleep four people, with a full-service kitchen and large dining area. A large theater doubles as a storm shelter, and there’s an Oklahoma-themed outdoor playground and a Route 66-themed indoor play room, complete with a replica of Catoosa’s Blue Whale slide.

Oklahoma touches are everywhere throughout the facility, with mason jars in the rooms, replica cowhide on the floor, and dark wood throughout that give the facility a warm and comfortable vibe. The entrance lobby has a glass sculpture with 77 pieces suspended from the ceiling, each one in the shape of an Oklahoma county.

"We didn’t want it to look like a hospital, we wanted it to look like, ‘OK I got my treatment, now I’m going to go over here and my world’s going to light up,’" Keith said. "It’s like a trip into Chuck E. Cheese’s or Disney World. We wanted it to be as fun as possible."

For the Disney approach, Juliet Nees-Bright could offer some help. Now the executive director of the Toby Keith Foundation, Nees-Bright used to work for Disney animation.

While leading a tour of the facility, Nees-Bright said that careful consideration went into the facility to give it those Oklahoma and family-friendly touches.

"We really wanted the house to be a celebration of Oklahoma," she said. "The idea behind the house was bright, open, airy, inspirational."


Thursday’s tour took place while workers were putting the final touches on the building, which plans to begin accepting families by early December, Nees-Bright said.

The facility also has a quiet, softly lit chapel inside, which Nees-Bright said was important to provide for families as a place to recover. Though, Nees-Bright might as well have been talking about the goal of the entire facility.

"It was important to give them a quiet place to reenergize," she said.

Click here to view photos of the facility, and the ribbon cutting that took place on November 21, 2013.
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