By Jeffrey Zell
Imagine being eight years old and in the hospital. You hear your mom whispering to the doctor and he says it’s “serious.” It’s frightening, it’s foreign and it’s very lonely. All these strangers come in and out of your room, poking and prodding. Needles. Machines. You should be in your 3rd grade classroom, learning multiplication and playing on the monkey bars during recess. Instead, you’re stuck in the hospital.
Now, imagine how you feel when the nurse gives you a teddy bear to hug or brings video games to your bedside. You start being less worried and the time passes quickly. Even your dad laughs when he’s playing Nintendo with you. When magicians visit, you get to leave your room and play for a little while. In between hospital stays, you get to go to special family events.
STARLIGHT CHILDREN’S FOUNDATION MIDATLANTIC helps seriously ill children and their families cope with pain, fear and isolation through entertainment, education and family activities. Our services are proven to distract children from their pain, increase their willingness to return for treatment, and connect families facing similar challenges. We currently reach over 18,000 children a month in Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
We offer a comprehensive menu of outpatient, hospital-based and electronic programs that are accessible constantly — before, during, and after medical treatment. Our featured programs are Fun Centers (mobile entertainment units); Great Escapes (family activities like sporting events and circuses); Hospital Happenings (in-hospital parties with clowns or crafts); PC Pals (child safe laptops); and Starlight Sites (in-hospital teen lounges and playrooms). My mission as Starlight MidAtlantic’s president has been to expand our services so that all children in the region can find solace during their medical ordeal.
The most popular program, Fun Centers, features a Wii gaming system, a DVD player, flat screen TV and are pre-loaded with games, movies and music. Fun Centers provide hours of distraction for children as they await surgery or spend time with their families during visiting hours. If a child is not bedridden, the Wii also gets them moving as a form of rehabilitation. Playing video games together creates a bond between doctors and young patients; instead of talking over the child to a parent the doctor can relate on a different level.
Our biggest fundraiser of the year, the Ninth Annual Taste of the Stars, will take place on Saturday, Nov. 22 at the Four Seasons in Georgetown. Along with fellow gala co-chairman Curtin Winsor, we are excited to host the evening, which includes live and silent auctions, a tasting of “Wines From Around the World,” a gourmet dinner, dancing and a cigar bar. Last year, Washington Life called the event “One of the Most Lavish Silent Auctions” in the Washington, D.C. area. All of the gala proceeds support the programs we provide for sick kids. Last year we raised $650,000 and we hope to break that record this year!