More than a decade ago when she was living in California, Kimberly Moran-Blad’s 15-month-old niece, Sophia, was diagnosed with Leukemia. “I remember seeing her in the hospital, and she put her hand on the door, looked back at me and just said, ‘outside”,” Moran-Blad recalls. “It opened my eyes to what it’s like when you have to stay in the hospital.” This moment made Moran-Blad think of all the simple, everyday things that sick children can’t do, and it spurred her to do something about it.
Now a resident of Denver, Moran-Blad, along with Kristine Randazzo, coordinates the Denver chapter of Project Sunshine—a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to making children’s hospital stays a whole lot brighter.
Currently in 175 cities as well as Canada, China, Israel and Kenya, Project Sunshine’s 15,000 volunteers offer recreational, educational and social programming to children and their families facing medical challenges, restoring a sense of normalcy to the pediatric healthcare environment.
Locally, Project Sunshine visits Denver Health Medical Center once per month. Volunteers roll an art cart through the hospital halls filled with creative arts and craft supplies, visiting children at their bedsides and giving them something else to think about.
“For Mother’s Day, we had frames kids could decorate with puff paint,” Moran-Blad says. “We try to stock an array of arts so we can be flexible depending on the kids” ages and interests.” They usually start on the second floor, then head to the emergency room and the waiting room to see who could use some cheering up.
The Project Sunshine volunteers also organize in-hospital parties for kids” caregivers, in an effort to help parents in similar circumstances connect with one another and relieve anxiety. They might provide pampering kits with nail polish or other items ‘to help get them out of reality for a few minutes and build camaraderie,” Moran-Blad says.
The Denver Chapter was just formed last year (June 2015), and Moran-Blad and Randazzo are currently working hard to build a stronger and larger volunteer base. The goal is to offer an even larger variety of volunteer days, times and efforts to help kids and their families.
How Families Can Help: Adults wishing to volunteer with Project Sunshine must first complete orientation and training (no one under 18 is allowed to volunteer in the hospital). “From there, we”ll get a feel for what their comfort level is and what they want to do to help,” Moran-Blad says.
Kids, usually age 8 and up, can help Project Sunshine by assembling Creative Arts & Crafts kits and other packages for patients. This could also be a great activity for schools, scout troops, birthday parties or other kids” organizations. See the website for a variety of ways the community can help, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.