Reflections of Child Life SpecialistS

The 2018-2019 Teen Board at the MN Wild Game in November

The 2018-2019 Teen Board at the MN Wild Game in November

As 2018 draws to a close, the PAB’S team is looking back at a monumental year. Pia and Abbie were awarded the prestigious Jefferson Award, and PAB’S was the November MN Wild Charity of the Month. The teen board program was pioneered, and 8 wonderful teens have been able to learn an immense amount about running a nonprofit and giving back. Most importantly, PAB’S was able to provide 2,505 packs to teen across the United States, Canada and Haiti, and established new partnerships with 14 hospitals and camps.

These partnerships would not be possible without the many wonderful Child Life Specialists who work so hard to help teens feel comfortable and appreciated during their hospital stays. These specialists facilitate our visits, take us room to room, and are always conscientious and caring. When PAB’S PACKS isn’t able to be present, our partnering Child Life departments handout our packs on our behalf, ensuring the teens who need them most receive them. During this time, these specialists become our spokespeople, helping to spread our mission.

We are so thankful for these specialists, and all of the energy they spend making our handouts possible. In turn, we asked many of these specialists why they were grateful for PAB’S. Here is what they had to say:

Diane Morales, Child Life Specialist at Nicklaus Children’s Health System in Miami, Florida, describes the impact on a teen and a family when they receive a PAB’S PACK: “Giving out PAB’S Packs is definitely a rewarding experience – after every pack I give out I feel like calling Pia and Abbie myself to thank them for the tremendous impact they made! Even with some of the most anxious patients, providing a PAB’S PACK brings a notable sense of relief and serves as a great ice breaker. I’ve even had a mother cry because of how thankful she was as I gave a PAB’S PACK to her daughter prior to surgery. Her daughter, who had mumbled and avoided eye contact with me during the start of my visit, was smiling from ear to ear and talking up a storm after I gave her her PAB’S PACK. I was then able to better connect with her and provide emotional support and procedural teaching to her prior to her procedure; all thanks to Pia and Abbie (and the ultra-soft penguin inside)!”

We focus a tremendous amount on the immediate care and comfort that our packs bring to teens, because that’s the part that we see most often. But, as Diane points out, our packs impact kids long after we give them.

Child Life Specialists at Masonic Children’s Hospital of the University of Minnesota

Child Life Specialists at Masonic Children’s Hospital of the University of Minnesota

Amy Wynia, Child Life Specialist at Masonic Children’s Hospital of the University of Minnesota spoke about this lasting impact as well. “Providing the PAB’S PACKS is a rewarding experience because it not only provides a tangible bag of comfort, it gives the message that self-care is important- that THEY are important.  I provided a pack to a teen girl just prior to a sedated procedure. She was tearful, scared to have her procedure. We talked about her worries as she explored the PAB’S PACK She commented that she could use the journal to write down her fears, the blanket to cover up and feel safe. She then used the penguin for medical play, letting the penguin be her twin – complete with an IV, just like her.  The PAB’S PACK not only provided comfort, it was a tool for educating and exploring feelings” she explains.

The addition, our teen board has also had a profound impact on the teens that we serve. With each handout event, we are able to have at least two teen ambassadors present, connecting with teens and giving them their new pack. Jessica Koppelman, Child Life Specialist at Mayo Clinic, shares “I get many comments from parents following teen ambassador visits on how big of an impact they made on their child and how they want to give back in some way as well.”

This want to give back is so inspiring. That’s the need that prompted Pia and Abbie to make a change, and it’s what keeps us going today. The more teens that are empowered, feel connected to other teens and know that they are loved and valued, means that even more teens can feel the same.

Diane concluded,  “I think it’s inspiring for my teenage patients to see concrete proof that nothing can stop you from reaching your dreams and helping others – not even health concerns. PAB’S PACKS definitely inspire hope amongst my teenage patients.”

Happy Holidays.

The PAB’S Team