Children's hospital radiothon to make kids’ care less scary

Sue Guinn Legg • Feb 21, 2019 at 9:28 PM

The seventh annual Niswonger’s Children's Hospital Radiothon is underway.

A two-day, on-the-air drive hosted annually by Holston Valley Broadcasting in partnership with the Ballad Health Foundation, dozens of community sponsors and teams of volunteers who come out to work the phones, the radiothon kicked off Thursday morning and will continue through 7 p.m. Friday.

It’s the second-largest fundraiser of year for the children’s hospital and last year raised $395,000 for the Niswonger Children’s Resource Center that provides health education and support to families with children across the region.

Proceeds from this year’s event will go the children’s hospital Child Life Services program that uses toys, games and play therapies to distract, educate and ease kids’ fears and during their hospital care.

Tiffany Willis, director of events and children’s initiatives for the Ballad Health Foundation, said the work of Child Life specialists plays an important role in the care of the hospital’s young patients.

For small boy about to undergo an MRI, she said, a Child Life specialist may use a Spider-Man doll to demonstrate what is about to happen and make it less scary. Special toys are used to calm children during procedures that require them to be still, reducing the need for sedation and increasing their likelihood of success. Therapeutic play is also used to help kids meet their post-procedure goals and get home quicker. And there’s even a child life specialist assigned to the children’s hospital’s emergency room, Willis said.

Seven-year-old Ellee Large, who has been a patient at the hospital since she was diagnosed with pediatric leukemia at the age of 5, and Ellee’s mom, Shauna, will be among the families who help explain the value of Child Life Services during today’s live radiothon broadcast

Shauna said she will never forget how scared Ellee was when she began her treatment and how much it helped her when Child Life Services showed her how the procedures were going to happen. “They showed her on a doll, so she could visualize it and really understand what’s going on. It was a huge comfort for Ellee.” she said.

Child Life Services Manager Amanda Ward said, “Children understand their world and process their emotions through play. Child Lfe specialists use play as a powerful tool to help children cope with the new experiences and complex feelings they may have while they’re in the hospital, and it makes a big difference in not only their emotional state, but their physical healing as well.”

“These medical play activities help children feel in control of their environment and help them to better understand what’s being done to care for them.” And the bottom line, Ward said, is “When kids feel safe, they’re in a better frame of mind for healing.”

As of 2 p.m.Thursday, Willis said sponsors of this year’s radiothon had chipped in $50,000 for the special equipment on the Child Life Services’ wish list and another $11,000 in pledged donations had been made by Holston Valley Broadcasting listeners.

98.5 WTFM will be broadcasting live from the hospital lobby today starting with a 7 a.m. with hosts Steve Mann and Lynda Fontaine. The day will kick off with a couple of VIP teams made up of mayors and community leaders from across the Tri-Cities in a friendly competition to see whose team will raise the most donations in the first hour of the broadcast. The competition will continue through 7 p.m. with a total of 14 volunteer teams rotating through turns on the phone lines.

Listeners can also follow the radiothon at Holston Valley’s 102.7 Classic Hits, 95.9 The Hog and ESPN Tri-Cities.

For those who would like to give, donations may be by calling 1-855-611-KIDS, by texting KITE to 51555 or online at www.niswongerchildrensradiothon.com.


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