Category Archives: News

Child Life Conference Wrap-Up!

All in all, attending this year’s Child Life Conference in Chicago was an amazing experience!  On our final day, child life specialist Betsy Brand and I gave our presentation, “Educating Volunteers About Child Life & Family-Centered Care:  Developing An Orientation DVD.”  We showed clips of the training video that we use at orientation, and discussed the essential child life components that volunteers should know before working with hospitalized children.  We had a wonderful, engaged group who asked lots of great questions, and Betsy & I really enjoyed interacting with them!

After our presentation, we attended the Closing Ceremonies, where two extremely cool things took place:  (1)  Child Life Manager Sheila Palm received the Child Life Council’s Distinguished Service Award (congrats, Sheila!), and (2)  we were treated to a performance from The Penguin Project, an organization that provides musical theatre performance opportunities for children with disabilities.  It was, without a doubt, an incredibly inspiring way to end the conference!



Child Life Conference, Day 3!

It’s Saturday in Chicago!   Today was the last full day of this year’s Child Life Conference:  the closing session wraps up at 12:30 pm tomorrow. 

My day started at 7:45 am by attending a meeting of the Child Life Council’s Professional Resources Committee, which I am a new member of!  It was great to connect with the other committee members and put faces to names that I’d only seen via e-mail.  I continued the day by attending sessions on compassion fatigue, humanism in medicine (i.e., incorporating child life concepts into medical student curricula), and hospital sibling play areas.  All three sessions were very relevant and informative:  the compassion fatigue session gave great ideas on how to combat work stress, the medical session provided helpful tips for teaching students about child life, and the sibling session illustrated the significant impact that hospitalization has on the brothers and sisters of pediatric patients.  (I’m so thankful that Children’s has a dedicated Sibling Play Area to support these sibs on their journeys!)

One of the most fun things about this conference has been running into past volunteers:  today, I ran into former Child Life Exposure Student Maria Gaebel, who is donating her time as a conference volunteer.  It was awesome to see her!

Betsy and I present our session on educating volunteers tomorrow morning from 8:30-10 am…wish us luck!  Our presentation will be followed by this year’s closing ceremonies, including the presentation of the Child Life Council’s Distinguished Service Award.   This ceremony will be particularly exciting, as Children’s-MN Child Life Manager Sheila Palm is receiving this award!  Sheila is an amazing person & true advocate for children, so it will be wonderful to celebrate her and all that she does for child life staff and volunteers alike.

I’ll post a “final write-up” of our conference presentation when I return to the office on Monday!  Until then, have a WONDERFUL Memorial Day weekend!

:) Jenna

Child Life Conference, Day 2!

Happy Friday from Chicago!  It was another eventful day here at the Child Life Conference.  A few highlights:

  • The Emma Plank Opening Keynote Address, delivered by developmental pediatrician Dr. Larry Gray:  Dr. Gray’s talk revolved around infant development, and how crucial early relationships are to a child’s success later in life.
  • Cheering on Children’s child life specialists Jodi Betsinger and Stephanie Smith during their presentation on the use of nitrous oxide for pediatric sedation. 
  • Valuable afternoon breakout sessions, such as “Employee Engagement–Why It Matters” and “On-The-Job Training for New Child Life Specialists.”

The conference Exhibit Hall opened this evening, so it was also a lot of fun to walk around and chat with the (nearly 70!) exhibitors.  Some exhibitors I recognized, such as CaringBridge and Beads of Courage, but there were also a large number of new & innovative companies/products.  The most creative, I thought, came from a company called Kelsey’s Kids:  they make “marshmallow launchers” to help kids with respiratory difficulties move air through their lungs in a fun & humorous way!  (I now have my own complimentary marshmallow launcher to bring back to Minnesota…YAHOO!)  Overall, it was another great day of networking, sharing time with my Children’s-MN colleagues, and meeting many new child life specialists from around the globe!  I’ll share highlights from Day 3 tomorrow!

Until then,

Jenna :)

Welcome to the Windy City! (Child Life Conference, Day 1)

Hello from Chicago!  As I type this, I can see the University of Chicago & Chicago Tribune buildings against the city skyline…I could definitely get used to this view! :)

I’m so thankful to be here, attending the 29th Annual Child Life Conference on Professional Issues.  Earlier this morning, I had a chance to spend time with several child life colleagues from Children’s-MN, then attended a “half-day intensive” session called “Supporting The Healing Community Through Interactive, Closed-Circuit Television.”    (Amy Peterson, director of Children’s Star Studio programming, was also in attendance at this session!)   The presenters were from Skylight TV, the interactive TV channel at Children’s Memorial Hospital here in Chicago.  Their presentation was filled with video clips of their various patient shows, including visits from celebrity guests like Mr. Rogers, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Yo-Yo Ma.  One of the neatest parts of their talk (for me, at least!) was hearing how volunteers are being plugged into supporting these programs!

In the evening, the Child Life Council held a “First-Time Attendees/New Members” gathering.   Since this is my first time at the conference, I signed up for this event…and I’m so glad that I did, since I ran into past volunteer/intern Laura Blayney!  (It was great to see her!)  I also attended a “Professional Networking Roundtable” later in the evening, and thoroughly enjoyed chatting with other professionals from Alabama to Missouri about their role(s) in supervising child life volunteers.  To top off the night, my wonderful co-presenter, Betsy Brand, and I rehearsed our presentation for Sunday morning.  It will be an honor to speak in front of other child life specialists/volunteer supervisors later this weekend.

Tomorrow marks the “official start” of the conference, with the Opening Keynote Session scheduled for 8:30 am!  I’ll be back with a “Day 2″ update tomorrow night!

Until then,

Jenna :)

Volunteer Coordinator Molly Lamon & Volunteer Heather LaClare Featured in Hamline Magazine!

Providing support for students from a variety of high schools and colleges is a huge part of our work in Volunteer Services.  In addition, each of us strives to maintain connections with our collegiate alma maters.

Volunteer coordinator Molly Lamon (Hamline, class of ’02) was recently featured with volunteer Heather LaClare (Hamline ’11) in the Hamline University magazine.  The article highlighted how valuable alumni connections can be for students like Heather, who are seeking “real-world” experiences to clarify their future career goals.

Click here to read the full story!  

Career Article Molly Lamon & Heather LaClare


Lunch & Learn Opportunity!

All Children’s employees & volunteers are invited to an upcoming Lunch & Learn session!
Topic:  “Social Media, Online Safety, and Cyber-Bullying: What Health Care Workers Should Know”
When & Where:   Tuesday, May 17, 12-1 pm, Children’s-St. Paul (John Nasseff Center-Miller Room)
Tuesday, June 14, 12-1 pm, Children’s-Minneapolis (Conference Center)
Speakers:  Jessica Kracl, Policy Coordinator; Cavan Reagan-Reichmann, Interactive Communications Coordinator; Jesse Stremcha, E-Philanthrophy Strategist, & Peter Odegaard, Information Security Officer 
We invite you to bring your lunch & join us for one of these sessions!



Happy Child Life Week!

This week, we celebrate the work of child life specialists at Children’s and across the country!

The child life staff at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics work to make every child’s health care experience a positive one. They work with children and adolescents to minimize the stress that children can feel during hospital stays or visits to clinics, emergency rooms, radiology, or surgery areas.

Our certified child life specialists have bachelor’s or master’s degrees in fields such as child development, education, and child psychology. They specialize in working with children in health care settings, and address each child’s need to understand and cope emotionally with the medical experience.

Our child life activities associates have associate or bachelor’s degrees in child development. They focus on a child’s need for play to support normal growth and development. All child life staff members see patients in playrooms, waiting areas, and patient rooms.

We are fortunate to partner with Child Life in a variety of ways within our department, and we are grateful for the very important work that they do!

Click here for more information about Child Life services at Children’s-MN.

Click here for more information about the child life profession (courtesy of its national certifying organization, the Child Life Council).

Pictured:  Volunteer Pat Vitullo, child life specialist Jeanine Clapsaddle, and child life specialist Christi Dady blowing up balloons for Child Life Week.

Great Clips Family Resource Center & Sibling Play Area

This morning, a special naming presentation was held to acknowledge the sponsorship of Great Clips Inc., Raymond & Mary Lou Barton, & Great Clips franchises across the metro for two very important areas at Children’s-Minneapolis.  The Family Resource Center & Sibling Play Area will now officially be known as the Great Clips Family Resource Center and Great Clips Sibling Play Area.

Great Clips FRC    


 Great Clips SPA   


Volunteer Services Photographs by Annie Torrini

On Monday, February 7th, professional photographer Annie Torrini graciously volunteered her time to take some fabulous photos of volunteers in action. These photos will specifically be used in Children’s Volunteer Services media to advertise the program and department.

Thank you, Annie, for sharing of your time and talents at Children’s! 





(For more of Annie’s work, please visit