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Extra Life Celebrates Child Life Month

Child Life Month, also known as March, has become an important time for Extra Life and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The month provides everyone a chance to reflect on and celebrate the people working in the child life profession. Child life specialists work hard to make sure that every kid who comes into a hospital can spend their time getting treatment and recovering with a smile. Funds raised through Extra Life go to these programs to make sure that the best treatments and recoveries are possible with the aid of those working in the child life departments at children’s hospitals across the US and Canada.

One Extra Lifer had direct experience with his local child life program at Riley Children’s Health for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Cooper noticed a growing pain in his spine, culminating in a moment of extreme agony. After testing, doctors revealed to his parents that Cooper had all the red flags for leukemia centered on his spine. During his treatment of in and out stays at Riley Children’s, the child life specialists were able to provide Cooper with video games to help him have a more normal life experience. “Video games are a great distraction,” said Cooper, who experienced a full recovery after spending a cumulative 153 days in the hospital.  Check out this video to meet Cooper and his Child Life Specialist, Melissa Sexton.

Honoring child life specialists stands as an important component of Child Life Month. Every year, ten child life specialists across the US and Canada are nominated for the Delta Child Life Specialist of the Year award. Every single one of the nominees plays an integral role in the treatment and recovery of children in the facilities under their care. Two nominees this year caught our attention at Extra Life for how they incorporated games into their programs: Beth and Carly.

Beth Fitzpatrick

In her role as a Child Life Specialist, Beth Fitzpatrick does everything in her power to serve and support the patients at OHSU Doembecher Children’s Hospital. For the past 9 years, Beth has helped kids in her home hospital and other medical facilities around the country find their smiles again. She made a weekly bingo night program that involves all of the kids at her hospital. She also plans and helps run the Delta STEM initiative at the hospital. The program features STEM mentors working with patients along with a cart full of games and a 3D printer to help bring dreams to life for kids.

Carly Primavera

Carly Primavera works as a Child Life Specialist for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Proton Therapy Center. The center specializes in treating cancer in pediatric patients – to whom getting treatment can be an incredibly scary and uncomfortable experience. Carly makes it her priority to meet with children coming into the center to help their visit be as positive as possible. As part of her role at the center, Carly learns their favorite toys, movies, music, and games to tailor their treatment experiences. That could take the form of a box of hand-picked toys to play with or a console and some games to play with during their visits. She often works with a child’s parents or guardians to make sure they have the support kids need at home after treatment. In the words of her nomination, “Carly doesn’t just make treatment easier. She makes it possible.”

Take a few minutes this Child Life Month to think about the people who make it their job to welcome and comfort the kids who go into our hospitals every day.

Don’t forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!