If you’re like me, and have been lucky enough not to spend time in a Children’s Hospital you might not know what we are talking about when we say Child Life Staff. I know that when I pictured a Children’s Hospitals before I worked at Child’s Play, I only thought about doctors and nurses. To me, that was who worked there. I never considered exactly who was receiving the toys and games I donated through Child’s Play, or how they were being used in the hospital beyond being given to kids to play with.
What I have learned in the past year is that where doctors diagnose and nurses treat, child life staff educate and encourage. The Association of Child Life Professionals explains that “Certified Child Life Specialists provide evidence-based, developmentally appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation, and education that reduce fear, anxiety, and pain for infants, children, and youth.”
When we visit a hospital for a Gamers Give Back visit, we bring along some gifts for the kids and some items for the play rooms, but most importantly we meet with the Child Life staff. We want the whole visit to be centered around celebrating the Child Life staff, to bring joy to their day in hopes that the memory of our visit will help them through a hard time in the future. We hope that many of the kids we bring gifts to will be home by the week’s end, but the Child Life staff will still be there, day in and day out, educating and encouraging a new group of patients.
After we hand out gifts to the patients we have the pleasure of providing lunch to the Child Life staff and sharing a meal with them. It’s an opportunity for them to share problems they’ve encountered, from not knowing how to play a certain game to the need for game carts to help bring systems to kids where they need them. At this lunch, we’re able to pool together all the solutions we’ve discovered on other hospital visits and share them, as well as help problem-solve the new ones that come up.
As we come to the end of summer, we’re also preparing to wrap up the 2017 Gamers Give Back Tour. This year we’ve seen 25 hospitals, with 10 more to go. Thanks to your support this year we’ve been able to bring gifts to over 2200 kids and visit with nearly as many Child Life Professionals. We try to share the impact your support has through testimonials and pictures on Twitter, but if I have learned anything over the last year it’s that there are not enough words or pictures to express the good work you are doing.