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Tuesday, Feb 5, 2019

Seventh annual Niswonger Children’s Hospital Radiothon on Feb. 21-22 to benefit crucial Child Life Services department

Empowering children, easing fears and creating a comforting environment for kids are what a child life specialist at Niswonger Children’s Hospital does every day.

Seven-year-old Ellee Large’s mother remembers what it was like for her daughter when she was diagnosed with pediatric leukemia at the age of five.

“The unknown is very scary; it’s terrifying for both you and your child, but you have to be strong for them,” said Shauna Large. “When Ellee began her treatment, she was so scared. I’ll never forget how much it helped her when Child Life Services came in and 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.”

That’s why Niswonger Children’s Hospital has a Child Life Services department, staffed by specially trained team members who make a huge difference for kids like Ellee and their families.

“Children understand their world and process their emotions through play,” said Amanda Ward, manager of Child Life Services. “Child life 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.”

Child life specialists often provide simple games, crafts, or toys to help cheer and distract children while they’re undergoing medical treatment. But where the expertise and training of the child life specialist really shines is in medical play – a therapeutic approach to educating children about all aspects of their care. This might involve allowing a child to practice giving an IV to a teddy bear, or having the child take the caregiver role in putting a doll through a toy MRI machine.

As one young patient described it, child life specialists help her “be brave” during tests and procedures.

“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,” said Ward. “When kids feel safe, they’re in a better frame of mind for healing.”

The seventh annual Niswonger Children’s Hospital Radiothon – a Ballad Health Foundation event – will be supporting Child Life Services. The event is set for Feb. 21-22 and will be broadcast live on the radio by Holston Valley Broadcasting from the lobby of the children’s hospital, culminating a fundraising campaign that involves the whole region.

“Our Child Life Services team is truly the heart of our hospital,” said Lisa Carter, chief executive officer of Niswonger Children’s Hospital. “The child life specialists completely change the type of care that the children receive. They make children brave as they change the hospital from scary to a fun, safe place for healing and hope. Supporting them through the radiothon will truly make a difference to our patients and their families.”

The radiothon relies on volunteers and community support to raise money for the hospital. In the days leading up to the event, local corporate sponsors line up their pledges, while children make contributions through change buckets at local schools. On the two days of the event itself, fundraising teams work phone shifts in the hospital lobby to both make and receive calls for donations, turning it into a friendly competition to see who can raise the most money.

The campaign is now accepting pledges in two ways:

Text “KITE” to 51555

For more details on putting together a fundraising team to support Child Life Services, visit or call the Ballad Health Foundation at 423-302-3131 or 423-230-8550.