Child's Play, Live from Legacy Emanuel Children's Hospital

Adam LaMosca | 22 Jan 2008 17:00
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Usinger notes that videogames also provide a kid-oriented supplement to often grueling physical therapy routines, especially for patients recovering from traumatic spinal cord or brain injuries. At Legacy Emanuel they use PlayStation 2 EyeToy camera-enabled games to help restore coordination. And the Nintendo Wii has been a hit with the hospital's mid-level quadriplegic patients. "Maybe they can't play regular videogames," Usinger says, "but I'll Velcro a Wii remote to their wrist, and they can play tennis."

Less expensive toys and activities often go home with patients, but videogames and gaming systems are heavily used, precious items that, like most Child's Play hospitals, Legacy Emanuel can't afford to replace. "You can't really fix them," says Usinger. "When they break, they're done. If they get stolen, you're done. That's the hard part. If we didn't have donations coming in, we wouldn't have them." When the 155-bed hospital signed on with Child's Play in 2005, their hand-held gaming supply had dwindled to a mere five GameBoys. A much-appreciated shipment of Nintendo DS units had a major impact, especially for kids confined to their rooms.

Holiday donations from charities like Child's Play bring year-round benefits. "Ninety-nine percent of what gets us through the year comes in a four to six week period over Christmas," says Usinger. In fact, hospital staff simply can't process the volume of toys that arrive during the holidays. "It's stuff we end up needing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis for the entire year."

Child's Play donations are used throughout Legacy Emanuel Children's Hospital every day, but you'd never know it. They arrive without fanfare, for the hospital to use as they see fit, no strings attached. There's no Penny Arcade plaque in the font lobby, and you won't find Child's Play stickers on the DS systems or DVDs kids take back to their rooms. Patients, their families and most hospital staff have no idea where the donations came from. And ultimately, it doesn't matter. What matters is that these toys and games are available to sick kids.

"We really appreciate it," says Usinger, undoubtedly echoing the sentiments of a multitude of caregivers, parents and children. "Because we have these donations, I get to ask kids, 'what would you like to do today? Because I really think that you should have some fun in your day today.' Without these donations coming in, I couldn't do that."

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