Smiles and good cheer abounded this week when the 62nd class of Distinguished Young Women visited USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital to meet young patients.
By Casandra Andrews
Representatives from all 50 states also took part in community service projects at the hospital with a group of Girl Scouts led by Jenni Zimlich and her daughter, Delaney. The group helped make dozens of blankets and pillowcases and performed part of the program they will showcase next week in Mobile culminating during a national finals program on June 29, 2019.
“A hospital stay can be very stressful for a young patient and their family,” said Kimberly Thompson-Yates M.Ed., Program Coordinator for the Mapp Child and Family Life Program at Children’s & Women’s Hospital.
“Research has shown that allowing children and youth to continue socialization while hospitalized is a great catalyst towards normalizing the hospital environment. It is a real pleasure to welcome members from our community that contribute to making the hospital a normal and ‘fun’ space for kids.”
The Mapp Child and Family Life Program traces its roots to the late 1970s when Cathy O’Keefe, a therapeutic recreation instructor at USA, worked to create a program in the pediatric unit at USA Medical Center, now USA Health University Hospital. For nearly three decades, hospital staff and school teachers have worked with hospitalized children, teens and their families to ensure a child’s developmental, educational and emotional needs are met.
Child Life specialists, recreational therapists and teachers work to ease stress for children and families by helping them to understand and manage illness and treatment.
During the visit, another group of DYW participants interested in health and science careers took a side trip to the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute. They toured the state-of the-art institute for cancer treatment and research, and heard from speakers like radiation therapist Heather Curry.