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Philanthropy Increases Access to Activities for Patients at Children’s of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM – Opportunities for therapeutic play at Children’s of Alabama are now accessible to more patients thanks to recent funding from the Toy Foundation, Children’s Hospital Association, Ace Hardware Foundation and individual donors.  

Child Life Specialists at Children’s engage patients in therapeutic play to reduce fear, anxiety and pain. The hospital’s Performance Area, a designated space for Child Life’s playful activities and special group events, was previously not accessible to patients who were restricted to their hospital rooms due to contact precautions or restricted mobility. Visitation restrictions during the pandemic affected even more patients facing boredom and isolation while in the hospital. With over 12,000 inpatient admissions a year and continued precautions due to COVID-19, Children’s sought community support to address this ongoing challenge.

The recent funding has permitted technology upgrades to the Performance Area, which is now equipped with a camera system that has the capability to broadcast from the room into all inpatient rooms so all hospitalized children can participate in activities from the safety of their rooms. Additionally, new technology including cameras, lighting, and a green screen will give patient events more opportunities for fun and creative activities.

Activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Special guest visits: such as celebrities, local sports figures and collegiate mascots, musicians, Disney characters, Weather Wednesday with local news celebrity, the Birmingham Zoo, etc.
  • Annual/holiday activities: such as the Trick-or-Treat parade, Holiday Tree Farm, Life-Sized Candyland, and Superhero Window Washer visit during superhero month
  • Crafting: patients can participate in art therapy with arts and crafts supplies brought to their rooms
  • Presentations by patients: opportunities for patients to host their own activities or performances to share with other patients using the green screen, giving them a chance to socialize safely and enjoy a sense of community with their peers

The upgrades are designed to bring comfort, positive distraction and joy to patients by connecting patient rooms to the play area virtually. The improvements will enable all patients to be included, regardless of their condition or limitations, which can normalize hospitalization and reduce anxiety. Child Life plans to host 2-3 events per week in the Performance Area and have the option of virtual deployment into inpatient rooms beginning July 12 with a week of summer camp-themed activities for current patients.

“It’s hard to fully express how grateful we are for these gifts,” said Jennifer Conway, Children’s Director of Family Services. “We also hope that having more flexible methods to deliver activities can help us have more options for teen patients, who often do not have as many opportunities focused on the older population. In the past, so many of the children we treat were medically unable to physically leave their rooms to participate in the events and activities we have here. Now, not only can they watch the events, but they can fully participate, which we think will ultimately help them in their recovery.”

Since 1911, Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children, offering inpatient, outpatient and primary care throughout central Alabama. Ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves patients from every county in Alabama and nearly every state. Children’s is a private, not-for-profit medical center that serves as the teaching hospital for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) pediatric medicine, surgery, psychiatry, research and residency programs. The medical staff consists of UAB faculty and Children’s full-time physicians as well as private practicing community physicians.