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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Country music superstar Garth Brooks told reporters that he had one goal in mind as he hosted the Academy of Country Music’s inaugural fundraising gala at the Dallas Omni hotel tonight: “raise a s— ton of money!”

Brooks is being joined as host by Trisha Yearwood, Entertainment Tonight’s Nancy O’Dell, and Montel Williams. A stellar lineup is planned for the entertainment: including Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban. The inaugural concert and silent auction will benefit a number of charities, including Child Life Zones at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth and Children’s Health in Dallas.

“Thank you,” says Abel Escamilla, Sr., of Garland. “Keep doing it. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s making everybody happy and tons of children better.”

Escamilla knows that too well.

His five year old son, Abel, Jr. was critically ill when he arrived at Children’s Health in late January. His upper intestines had twisted, cutting off the blood supply. “They told us he may not make it,” says Escamilla. But, following several surgeries and more than two months in the hospital, Abel may soon be going home. His parents credit the care he received at Children’s Health—and that includes time spent in the hospital playroom.

“This place is a Godsend,” says Escamilla. “It’s where they can go—and be sick, but actually feel like a normal kid. [They] don’t have to worry about their poles or IVs hanging, or the medicine they’re taking, they can come 2 times a day, 3 times a day– and just be normal.”

The pint sized playroom is being used while the hospital’s Child Life Zone is undergoing a major renovation. When it is completed in the fall of this year, the expanded area will have areas targeted to infants and toddlers, a cooking station, where kids can actually prepare meals, and another area for teenagers.

But don’t limit the area’s appeal to just play—experts also call it a pathway to healing.

“The hospital’s just really hard for kids,” says Kristen Johnson, manager of Child Life at Children’s Health. “We take a lot of control away, because we have to. We have to give medicine at certain times, the nurses have to do things, the doctors have to do things, and not always on the child’s schedule. The playroom gives them a choice, it gives them power to play and do things they want to do on their timeline. It’s really therapeutic and healing.”

And seeing his son smile is, for Escamilla, the best medicine a parent can hope for.

“This is huge… it helps us out a lot.”

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