GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — U.S. Navy sailors from the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier are paying a special visit to the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital on Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday, the aircraft carrier’s crew members will be part of a private ceremony honoring the 106th birthday of President Gerald Ford of Grand Rapids.
They came to town early as part of a very important mission, however. Beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, the crew will meet with military veterans who are staff members and patients at Mary Free Bed.
The sailors also will tour the hospital’s facilities, which are located at 235 Wealthy St. SE.
The Ford family’s relationship with Mary Free Bed dates all the way back to 1931, when former First Lady Betty Ford’s mother, Hortense Neahr Bloomer, was president of the Mary Free Bed Guild.
Betty Ford was a founding member of the Mary Free Bed Junior Guild.
In 2016, the Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program was named in her honor and the Fords’ daughter, Susan Ford Bales, became an honorary member of the Mary Free Bed Guild.
Mary Free Bed is a non-profit, nationally accredited rehab hospital that has called Grand Rapids home since 1891. It provides rehabilitation services for adults and children suffering from brain injuries, strokes, spinal cord injuries, multiple traumas, amputations, cancer and other diagnoses.
The hospital offers more than 110 specialized medical and sports rehabilitation programs.
The Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network includes more than three dozen acute care hospitals across the state of Michigan.