Partner Profile: Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital

Published by Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation on

JDCH

One of the nation’s leading pediatric facilities, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital features innovative facilities designed to meet the specific medical and emotional needs of children and their families. Inspired by and designed for kids of all ages, the hospital is filled with vibrant colors, whimsical décor and a world-class medical staff who work tirelessly every day to ensure that children receive the best possible care, using “The Power of Play” as a healing mechanism. In 2021, the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation was proud to make a substantial donation to the hospital to help fund its 8th floor expansion, which will feature the nation’s newest Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Child Life Zone. The Child Life Zone will provide patients at the hospital with interactive areas for therapeutic play and relaxation.

While the team at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida includes some of the nation’s top pediatric medical professionals, the world-class facility also employs a staff of Child Life Specialists, whose job it is to reduce the fears and anxieties faced by the children under their care through education, play and relaxation.

Meeting the children on their level, the Child Life Specialists at the hospital use hands-on methods to help kids understand the treatments they are undergoing and coach them through the process. From playing on iPads to blowing bubbles and spending quality time with the hospital’s therapy dogs, the Child Life Specialists are there to ensure children take time every day to forget about their medical issues and just be kids.

Shannon Bajwa has a deep understanding of the correlation between emotional and physical health. In her 14 years as a Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Child Life Specialist, Ms. Bajwa has experienced first-hand the power that a positive emotional connection can have on a child enduring a stressful medical emergency. She and her staff routinely go the extra mile to establish a personal, caring relationship with the kids they care for—a feat which is not always so easy to do. 

“One of my employees once had a young patient who would cover his face any time she walked into the room,” said Ms. Bajwa. “He would cry and ask to go home, refusing to play or speak to anyone on the staff. One day, she decided to sit down with him to do a medical play session. She gave him a doll and a combination of real and play medical equipment, and helped him understand the treatments he was going through by having him act them out on the doll. Through this process, we began to see the child open up and feel comfortable around staff members. By his second week in the hospital, he was calling the Child Life Specialist 10 to 20 times per day asking for video games and new toys to play with. Because she spent that extra time with him, he was eventually open to adding music and art therapy to his daily routine as well. Although he was going through a very rough time in his life, her dedication to his emotional well-being enabled him to have fun through it all, which is so important in the healing process—especially for children.”

Already a first-rate facility, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital is in the process of adding four floors, including the 8th, which will be the new home of a Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Child Life Zone. Founded in 1999, Teammates for Kids partners with athletes, corporations and foundations to help children in the areas of health, education and inner-city life. A key initiative for the organization involves its Child Life Zones, state-of-the-art therapeutic play areas in hospitals where pediatric patients and their families can learn, laugh and relax. There are currently 13 Child Life Zones throughout North America, and once completed, the Joe DiMaggio space will be the 14th.

“The Child Life staff at Joe DiMaggio are doing incredible work, but they have never had a dedicated space that allows them to work with patients in a way that elevates their profession,” said Jason Grahame, President of Teammates for Kids. “This new space on the hospital’s 8th floor will allow them to have a place to call home and create new interactive play experiences for patients and their families.”

Once completed, the Child Life Zone will feature a cruise ship theme, with play spaces for children of all ages including a collaborative water table, a ball wall, and an interactive virtual space.

“We are so grateful to the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation for their generosity in making this possible,” said Ms. Bajwa. “Their donation has enabled us to enhance the full potential and programming of the new space, which will impact so many lives in the future. Children always remember the happiest moments and the people who uplift them, and when they’re in the hospital, the people who make those moments possible are Child Life Specialists. Words cannot describe how thankful we are to the Foundation for this gift.”

To learn more about the partnership between Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids and the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital visit: https://www.jdch.com/news/2021/10/finker-frenkel-family-foundation-donation-supports-garth-brooks-teammates-for-child-life-zone


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