Mary Free Bed Guild

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has a storied history. Its roots date back to 1891, when a small group of women wanted to help people who couldn’t afford health care. Seeking support from the Grand Rapids community, they passed around a little black purse asking anyone named Mary – and anyone who knew someone named Mary – to donate 10 cents. Mary was the most popular woman’s name at the time, so the group quickly raised enough money to fund a bed at a local hospital. It became known as the first “Mary free bed.”

Initially, the Guild focused on children:

  • 1920 – Sponsored the first pediatric orthopedic clinic.
  • 1921 – Brought the first trained physical therapist to Grand Rapids.
  • 1923 – Established accessible classrooms at Grand Rapids Public Schools so children with disabilities could attend school.
  • 1930 – Opened the Children’s Convalescent Home.
  • 1938 – Developed The Brace Shop, a forerunner to Orthotics.
  • 1946 – Created the Juvenile Amputee Training Program, which became a national model and was featured in a Life magazine article.


As those needs grew, so did the group of women. It became incorporated in 1911 as the Mary Free Bed Guild of Grand Rapids.

Mary Free Bed began providing rehabilitation to adults in 1953, and beds were filled throughout the polio and thalidomide crises. And through its first century, a growing Mary Free Bed occupied several buildings as programs and services grew to meet the rehabilitation needs of the region.

Now 120 women strong, the Guild has representation on all hospital boards and committees. Its reach extends into the community, where the Guild has donated more than $25 million to dozens of organizations dedicated to furthering the quality of life for people with disabilities. That includes the lead gift for the Mary Free Bed YMCA, the world’s first universally designed health and wellness facility.

The Guild also provides services, support and sponsorship of many hospital and community events, including: 


Most importantly, the Guild is the keeper of our nurturing culture, ensuring a positive experience and a better future for patients.

Apply for a grant from the Mary Free Bed Guild Fund.

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