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Being at the hospital and going through treatment can be demanding and tiring for patients and their families especially if they are here for a long period of time. Being away from home often means missing out on daily activities and events that are typically incorporated in a child and family’s routine. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital recognizes the importance of normalizing the child and family’s hospital stay. Child life specialists provide special events that enable families to have those experiences that also give opportunities to celebrate their child and positive moments in their life. A special event is defined as a planned activity or performance, having educational, inspirational, or entertainment value for children, adolescents, and their families.
The Child Life Department provides the following events each year for patients and families:
A Gallery of Expression – Better known to insiders as the Teen Art Show. This is the one evening a year that various works of art, displayed like a swanky gallery opening, feature our teen patients and siblings. Throughout the year teen and young adult patients and siblings use art to not only highlight their dramatic talents but also to express to family and staff attendants the experience of the hospital through a teen’s perspective. Art has included photography, drawings, paintings, collage, music, beading, crochet, sculptures, and poetry. There are more than 70 individual pieces as well as at least two large collaborative projects each year.
Sibling Star Day – Siblings are such an important part of the family and very often during treatment the focus has to be about their sick brother or sister. Because siblings also play a huge part in the hospital experience, and in the spirit of family-centered care, St. Jude wanted to set aside an annual time to honor them. This day helps to acknowledge the enormous contributions brothers and sisters make every day in the healing process and allows them a time to shine. The day includes a therapeutic group time for siblings ages 3 and up; a party for patients and families honoring and thanking siblings for all they do; and a ceremony and sibling trophy presentation.
All About the Body Week – Each day of this week is themed to teach about a different part or system of the body in a creative and fun way. Activities are interactive and teach patients and siblings how their body works. Previous highlights have included the “Scoop on Poop” and “It’s SNOT all about germs.” This week really helps many children understand the connections between their body some of the things they are experiencing during treatment. Using hands on activities can break down complex concepts for patients and siblings in a way that makes them more accessible.
Dance Fever – The winter months and summer months in our culture are filled with celebrations and excuses to have parties. Our hospital culture is no different! We celebrate with the annual Snowman Jam and End of Summer Blast. Dances are open for all patients and families to kick their heels up and have fun! There is a DJ, festive décor, formal pictures, food, and a special take home memento. The dances are great fun not to mention socialization and exercise for children and teens of all ages and abilities.
Teen Formal - This celebrates one of the most hallowed events in a teen’s life: prom. Patient’s and their siblings ages 13 to 19 are invited to dance the night away. Due to the generous donations of staff and many local businesses, this glamorous evening complete with red carpet, limousines, prom pictures, formal wear, and makeovers creates an unforgettable night for our young adults.
All of Me - This event features interactive activities all focusing on a specific aspects of physical and emotional self esteem. The goal is to help strengthen self image views among children and teens in a safe environment while promoting socialization. Projects include photography, audio voice recordings, painting, drum circles, and yoga. The events conclude with a “Showcase” that allows participants to display their completed projects and participate in a talent show.
Brain Tumor Game Night - Children with brain tumors are often unable to attend slumber parties or participate in other activities that most kids take for granted. Patients and brain tumor staff members “camp out” in the clinic. Patients and staff sing songs around a pretend campfire, speed down the halls in wheelchair races, and cover each other with shaving cream and cheese puffs. Kids are pushed through the halls in a “stretcher parade,” meet local firefighters and climb on fire trucks, play basketball, enjoy manicures and even vote on the pajamas to be worn by Amar Gajjar, MD, director of Neuro-Oncology.
Silly Field Day – This event resembles a simple spring fair. The day of fun is always kicked off with the Silly String Extravaganza, which is a messy face off between patients, families, and staff. It is followed by a day of treats, games with tickets for prizes, face painting, tattoo art, a DJ, and Soak the Staff booth. It is the perfect excuse for many families to be outside between regularly scheduled appointments.
Green Day - That’s right St Patrick’s Day at St Jude is celebrated like most with the expectation that anything green goes! Events around this holiday in the past have included green foil wigs for all with simulated hair cuts, coin wishes, handprint rainbows, and campus- wide scavenger hunts.
Mardi Gras - In the spirit of green, purple, and gold, patients and families toss shiny beads, don outrageous masks and spread the fun throughout the hospital. The festivities begin when patients spend an hour making masks and decorating their “floats,” which consist of wagons, wheelchairs and IV poles. Then the parade begins complete with Cajun flair!
New Year’s Eve - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Happy New Year!! New Year’s Eve is celebrated with inpatients and their families after a competitive round of Hospital Bingo and several trips to the Ice Cream Bar. The event is topped off with an exuberant count down to 12 noon followed by a bubble wrap stomp!
Cinco de Mayo - Patient’s and siblings whack the stuffing out of a piñata while being jeered on by their families, staff, and mariachi band! This festive celebration has even included authentic food and sombreros.
Halloween - Child life participates in the hospital-wide event. Each year units secretly pick a theme to transform their units for one day. Patients and siblings wishing to take part are given a map featuring over 50 stops and a trick or treat bag. Sugar and smiles galore!
Other celebrated events: Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Valentines Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Tie Dye Day, birthdays, End of Chemo, End of Radiation, End of Transplant etc.