At Child’s Play, we’re passionate advocates for the importance of Child Life Specialists in hospitals. Hospitals can be a scary place for a child, and Child Life Specialists play a crucial role in improving quality-of-life for children who are often in the most difficult situation of their lives. One of the challenges in this important work is time. A CLS with a full patient load is likely to find it difficult to find time to research the latest tools and technologies available, let alone keep up with cutting-edge developments in the latest games! Thankfully for Children’s Hospital Colorado, we were able to step in and help out.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors and fundraisers, we were able to offer Children’s Hospital Colorado a grant to fund a full-time Gaming Technology Specialist. This position was quickly filled by the eminently skilled Michael Kundrat, and we were able to siphon off some of his time to talk about what the job looks like.
What Does a Gaming Specialist Do?
Child Life staff are, by necessity, often focused more on school-age children, so a specialist like Michael is able to offer valuable help to older children and teens who may need more diverse and complex entertainment. Before taking up this position, he worked as an instructor at Gamestart, teaching young people skills that run the gamut of technologies from programming to 3D modeling and printing. Combined with a lifetime of experience as a gamer, Michael was in the perfect position to take on this role.
The power of gaming in improving quality-of-life for patients is enormous, and a great deal of Michael’s time is spent researching the latest technologies and methods to achieve this. On the most basic level, playing games together is a great way to get kids out of their rooms and talking to each other, alleviating the boredom and loneliness that can set in during a hospital stay. Newer technologies, such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, can have a truly transformative effect.
The Technologies That Transform a Hospital Stay
Google Earth VR is a particularly popular program, freeing patients from the confines of the hospital ward and allowing them to travel the Earth and see all the amazing sights that it has to offer. The sense of control that comes from this unfettered exploration is sorely needed when a patient has been bedridden for days, weeks or even months.
Virtual Reality art programs like Tilt Brush and Medium allow patients to experience a truly immersive creative outlet, creating art and sculptures in 3D space that would cost hundreds of dollars of materials to create in real life. The boundless potential of these creative tools opens them up to people with no artistic experience, knowing that any mistakes or missteps they make can be undone in an instant.
Many patients, of course, suffer from restricted mobility, so Michael comes prepared with games that can be enjoyed by anyone. Eagle Flight is a great example; a game that allows a player to explore the skies of Paris as an Eagle, using only small head tilting movements.
The fun and creativity of VR is one thing, but hospitals are currently experimenting with the use of VR and AR as pain management tools. A burn patient who has to undergo regular, painful dressing changes can turn that ordeal into an opportunity to explore a new world, and research is currently underway to explore new ways that these technologies can be used to manage acute and chronic pain.
Your Help Makes All This Possible
Child Life staff have a difficult and vital job that makes an enormous difference to the lives of their patients. Having a specialist like Michael available allows them to make the best use of the technology at their disposal, and his research and expertise keeps them on top of the latest developments. If you’d like to get involved in Child Life, either as a career or just to help out, Michael recommends contacting your local hospital and seeing what volunteer positions they have available so that you can learn the ropes.
Michael’s position at Children’s Hospital Colorado wouldn’t be possible without the grant from Child’s Play, and that grant wouldn’t be possible without the help of our donors and fundraisers. Donating to Child’s Play makes a huge difference to hospitals, both by making this amazing technology available and by allowing them to fund the staff to make use of it. If you think this work is as important as we do, please consider making a one-off or recurring donation.
Child’s Play would like to introduce you to our new Board of Directors. Two of these faces will be familiar and we are really excited to welcome our three newest members.
Elaine Chase is Vice President of Global Brand Strategy & Marketing for Wizards of the Coast at Hasbro. After starting her career in education, she has spent 19 years at Wizards working to bring people together through their love of games, working on a plethora of trading card games including Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, and Harry Potter. She also serves on the board of Safe Crossings Foundation, which funds grief services for children who have lost a loved one.
Mike Krahulik is the artist behind the comic strip Penny Arcade as well as the co-founder of the PAX gaming festival and the Child’s Play charity. He is a lifelong gamer and artist who has happily found a way to merge both his passions into one ridiculous career.
Asher Marks is a pediatric oncologist and faculty member at Yale University’s School of Medicine, as well as an avid gamer, technophile and father of two. His experience as the director of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology as well the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Clinic at Yale has given him the opportunity to see the tremendous value that gaming and distraction have had on his patient population. He hopes to help bring Child’s Play’s values and spirit to the next level through the endorsement of gaming and gaming technologies as a tool to enhance supportive care and the patient experience.
Mike Fehlauer Hayes
Mike Fehlauer Hayes has been involved with Child’s Play Charity since 2004. While Penny Arcade’s Director of Sales he expanded Child’s Play Charity’s network of beneficiary hospitals nationwide. A father of two, his commitment to the charity’s mission became personal when his own son had to take an extended stay at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He is currently Penny Arcade’s Vice President and serves the Child’s Play board of directors as Treasurer.
Mateo Messina is a Grammy-winning composer who writes music for film, television, and the symphony. His signature sound can be found on many of today’s Oscar-winning movies & independent film hits. The beauty of unfamiliar sounds becoming musical is one of Mateo’s unique sought-after talents.
Since the age of 23, Mateo has written, produced, and premiered 20 symphonies. All revenue from each premiere benefits families at Seattle Children’s Hospital. To date, he and his team have raised over $2,000,000 for these children and their families. Mateo is an accomplished musician, a unique storyteller, a seasoned producer, a dependable man of his business, and one of today’s most innovative composers. He also sits on the fundraising board of Seattle Children’s Hospital.
He is a dreamer and a doer.
Child’s Play is also excited to now offer the opportunity for you to sign up for a Recurring Donation. This monthly donation will not only allow you to support Child’s Play it will allow you to budget monthly for that support. If you would like to donate for a different amount then what is on the list currently let us know and we will be happy to tweak it.
2018 marks the 15th year that Child’s Play has been in existence. In November of 2003, Gabe put up a post on Penny Arcade’s front page calling the gaming community to come together and support Seattle Children’s Hospital by creating an Amazon Wishlist with the goal to “give the newspapers a different kind of story to write about gamers.”
Over these past 15 years, Child’s Play has done just that. We’ve grown to include over 140 partner hospitals worldwide, we have expanded our reach to help over 100 domestic violence shelters in the United States, and countless more facilities and other nonprofits through our grant program.
Just this morning, we heard from a Child Life Specialist at the University of Illinois Hospital: “I have had amazing success on pediatrics so far. The MRI VR paired with my child life preparation spiel got a 5 year old through an MRI without sedation yesterday!”
Performing this procedure without using sedation/general anesthesia is a huge win and something that would simply not be possible were it not for the support of the amazing and caring community that allows Child’s Play to deliver these gifts.
To celebrate this milestone year we’re offering a beautiful new pin available, with all profits supporting the great work that we do with your help. You can buy it on our online store here or come and see us at the Child’s Play booth at any PAX event.