Bringing Play to Chronically Ill Children During a Pandemic

In early March, we were clearly not preprepared for the sideswipe that COVID-19 brought. The unexpected virus created havoc in our communities, hospitals, and homes. As a child life specialist working in private practice, I had to halt my in-person sessions and pivot to a telehealth platform. Then quickly figure out how to create an interactive and therapeutic virtual environment that still followed the highest standards of safety and privacy.

Child life specialists working in hospitals also had similar challenges. Playrooms were closed, strict restrictions on visitations were in place, and patients were isolated in their rooms. It was awful.

Project Sunshine is a nonprofit based out of New York City.  Their mission is to “harness the power of play to support the psychosocial and developmental needs of children and their families as they face medical challenges.” They quickly saw the negative impact that COVID-19 was having on our most vulnerable and decided to pivot their efforts to better support them.

They licensed a healthcare HIPAA compliant Zoom account and allowed many child life programs to use. They also created a TelePlay program for interactive group sessions that are FREE and available to children and teens.

I have had the opportunity to use both. The families I work with were thrilled to continue child life services during our shelter in place orders; creating, expressing, and staying connected during these challenging times.

Learn more about Project Sunshine’s TelePlay program in the guest post below.

Know a child who is hospitalized, or dealing with a medical challenge at home?  In the current environment of the pandemic, it can be overwhelming for children and their families, given the additional hurdles of isolation and social distancing. Dealing with a medical challenge makes things even more difficult. For over 20 years, Project Sunshine has brought play programming to pediatric patients in over 400 medical facilities across the United States.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is one of the most effective methods of reducing stress in kids, allowing their bodies to heal. To continue to support children and families in innovative ways, Project Sunshine has developed a new virtual, safe TelePlay program that provides the healing power of play. Children can choose from a variety of live, interactive games, and activities facilitated by Project Sunshine’s highly trained and vetted volunteers. Games are created for children between the ages of 5-12 and 12-18. Join us for a wide variety of games, from Disney and animal trivia to Scattergories, hidden image, fishbowl, and more!

If you know of any child facing medical challenges in your community that would benefit from TelePlay, they are welcome to sign up for our programs – all they need is a device (a laptop, smartphone, or tablet). A full schedule of activities can be seen here. Patients can join from home and their siblings and caregivers are always welcome. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, all of Project Sunshine’s programs are free for patients.

For additional information please visit our website.

You can sign up for a TelePlay Session by going to the following link: bit.ly/TelePlaySessionSignUp. Or you can download our TelePlay Postcard

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COVID-19 Resource

Project Sunshine’s Holiday Toy Drive

Help Bring a Smile to a Child’s Face with Project Sunshine’s Holiday Toy Drive

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I am excited to share a spotlight on one of my favorite organizations, Project Sunshine and highlight their annual Holiday Toy Drive.

Ten years ago I was introduced to some volunteers, wearing their bright yellow shirts and smiles upon their faces. I quickly realized how powerful their mission was in creating a safe, therapeutic and fun environment for pediatric patients and their families. Their compassion to help others is contagious, so let’s jump aboard and help them bring cheer to kids this holiday season!

Project Sunshine Holiday Toy Drive 2015

Project Sunshine holiday Toy Drive Collage

Help Project Sunshine spread holiday joy this season to pediatric patients! Project Sunshine is collecting toy donations for children and families facing medical challenges. You can purchase toys and games on their Amazon wish list to be distributed to patients at the organization’s partner hospitals across the country. With your generosity, the holidays will be brighter for children and families going through a very difficult time, both emotionally and financially.

Please help Project Sunshine brighten the holidays for families in need by clicking here to purchase a toy to donate.

If you are interested in organizing a toy drive in your local community, contact Project Sunshine at info@projectsunshine.org. You can also support the organization by using smile.amazon.com and selecting Project Sunshine when you do your holiday shopping, or by making a donation on their website.

Project Sunshine

Project Sunshine empowers a dynamic and dedicated corps of over 15,000 volunteers to bring programming – recreational (arts), educational (tutoring and mentoring) and social service (HIV and nutritional counseling) – to 100,000 children facing medical challenges and their families in 175 cities across the United States and in four international locations. Project Sunshine volunteers spread sunshine, restoring a crucial sense of normalcy to the pediatric healthcare environment. To learn more, please visit www.projectsunshine.org.