Presentations at the United Nations, national & regional child life conferences, over the web and free hands-on workshops. Our volunteers are available to consult and assist you with whatever technology challenges you are facing.
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Our volunteers work with you at not cost to make your message and content more engaging for the patients and families you serve. iBooks are an excellent medium for bringing together multimedia and interactive elements and games for an engaging delivery of medical information.
Celebrating a day of service with the wonderful child life team at Montreal Children's Hospital, McGill University Medical Centre.
Despite the best laid plans, so many of the major outcomes and consequences in life, both good and bad, reflect as much the randomness of fortune as our intentions. And to those unfortunate enough to lose the lottery of disease or other affliction, witness the cascading of bad into worse in virtually every facet of their life. A complete free fall... physical, spiritual, economic and social free fall. While I can never understand how a higher being could so afflict children, I can at least recognize His Grace in providing the optimistic child life professionals courageous enough to meet children at the crash and guide them home. In all my years, travels, professional relationships and friendships, I have never met anyone quite like the hundreds of child life professionals I have had the good fortune to have met in our journey to close the technical divide between what presently exists in practice and what is possible to jointly give to our children. These most special child life specialists are the closest I have ever known to being the adult we envisioned and hoped to become back when we were seven years old. Despite unimaginable circumstances, you see beauty, provide compassion, just listen, and raise hope in the most desperate of times. Somewhere, somehow, amid the noise of the day, the rest of us lose the optimism to stop and sing or stare in appreciation of a butterfly floating across a sunny May day. We compromise, rationalize and get by counting that which doesn't really much count. But, hey, it's a living, I suppose. This is not meant to be a religious message, as I am not as religious now as I was back then. It is more intended to share an experience which comes to mind. When I was seven, I heard the Nativity story for the first time. For those unfamiliar, Joseph, a common carpenter and his pregnant wife, Mary, travel across the desert for several days to reach a distant town. She on the back of a mule and he walking beside her all the way. As the weary pair reached the town at nightfall, the story goes, they knocked on the door of an inn. Unsympathetically, the inn keeper uttered the now cliche 'there is no room at the inn' and proceeded to usher the pair into the stable out back where Mary would settle in and deliver the baby Jesus amid the animals. As seven year olds may take things quite literally, I recall sitting back in my second grade chair at Our Lady of Angels grammar school in Brooklyn and thinking two thoughts: 'imagine going down in history as that guy?', and more regretting, 'if only Mary and Joseph had come to Brooklyn, come to our door on 72nd Street, I would have given them my bed to stay'. Funny looking back now, but a seven year old's emotions can make play in juxtaposing time, space and gospel. As I mentioned, I am not a religious person. Shedding religion is a tough road because by denying divine inspiration; you are forced to seek out your inspiration here on Earth. And that is what I see in Laura, in Kia, John, and Chris, and these other optimistic and courageous souls who deny all the chaos and suffering around them and just see flowers on the wall. And where there is only a wall, you make flowers for the wall. And you can bring smiles to barren faces. And in our boring, but blessed, routines, insulated from this alternative reality you see, it is very helpful for my fortunate friends volunteering in this work to catch a glimpse for themselves, to learn, and to act. Who among us cannot learn something by looking through a child's eyes? Having never been seriously ill myself, I, too, am none-the-less, a survivor. At fourteen, my closest friend was stricken with cancer and for five years we rode the roller coaster together. That was 40 years ago, but it gives me a strong understanding of how child life could have helped had it existed for us. My memory still retains good recall of some exhilaratingly high times and I don't really remember much of the bad. But, the constriction in my stomach, as I am feeling again right now, always comes from recalling the overwhelming feeling of complete lack of control at the mercy of the randomness of the whole experience. Good became bad immediately and then a sudden worse made bad seem like the good ol' days. And the only respite was spent in recovery, catching our breath and waiting... I lost my best friend to some multi-syllabic diagnosis for which, as kids in Brooklyn, we used four letter words to understand. The loss culminated a five year battle in which I played child lifer as best I could. So, I know your frustration and I know your optimism. So, together, let's let the former fuel some constructive outlet for the latter. I have spent the last 25 years being a supporter of the Ronald McDonald House of NYC. Getting close to the families of pediatric cancer patients has reinforced my understanding of the experience the entire family goes through. And I think back on how my friend, was my best friend, but not my son, and I hope to never learn the difference. And now that I can do something about it, even some relatively little thing, gaining control is good therapy. You don't need to cure cancer to make a difference. You don't need to be diagnosed yourself to be affected. And Italian guys from Brooklyn never let go of a grudge, not even against some invisible foe. My child life friends, you speak for thousands of children with no voice; you must scream for them. And if you are not comfortable screaming, you must whisper it to us and allow us to do the screaming. We are good at that. We fail any time you let go of a child's hand so that you may do some secondary task. So, when you feel your grip start to loosen, you must scream at us. People seem very surprised I would post my cell phone number for over 5,000 members. And those who call are worried the call may be inconvenient once they realize. But when someone from child life calls, I see Mary and Joseph on their journey of sacrifice to bring joy and hope, and I will never show you the stable. Not this seven year old nor his valued friends listed on the page.
Thank you for all you do for the world's children and never hesitate to ask for a hand if we can help you make things better. --- Lou Riccio
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