As I sat on the floor in the fitness area of the Children’s Healing Center, I was overcome with feelings of immense gratitude observing the carefree spirit of a beautiful little girl, currently undergoing outpatient cancer treatments at the local Children’s Hospital, run around smiling and laughing completely uninhibited. I was grateful for the Center providing a space for children and families to play safely and connect with others, grateful for the families that make time to attend Center programs while juggling appointments and treatment schedules, and grateful for the opportunity to now be part of the team serving these amazing children and families.
Hi! My name is Autumn Haan and I joined the Children’s Healing Center staff as a Project Manager in October of 2020. I was first introduced to the Center in 2016 during my previous job when we partnered with the Center for a fundraising event we were hosting. I was instantly drawn to the Center’s mission and impressed by the staff’s commitment and dedication to serving their members.
During my time here on staff, it has been truly impactful to observe the healing power of play and importance of social connectedness.
Like for so many, 2020 brought about unique challenges and change. As our family was trying to navigate the uncertainties of the future, we decided we needed to shift our focus and do something outside of ourselves, so we hosted a few bake sales to raise funds for our favorite charities (Children’s Healing Center being the first, of course!) and volunteered our time helping with needed tasks. It was a great reminder that among all the mess of 2020, there were still organizations like the Children’s Healing Center standing steadfast and faithfully serving and meeting the needs of their members despite what challenges the pandemic brought about.
During my time here on staff, it has been truly impactful to observe the healing power of play and importance of social connectedness. Whether its parents sharing their journey in a support group setting or children being able to check their diagnoses at the door and just be a kid – you can feel the release of stress and the comfort of connection happening in this space.
At the Children’s Healing Center, children and families are given the freedom to forget. Forget about the challenges and stress of a medical diagnoses, forget about the constant worry of germs, and are the given the chance to let their guard down and just have FUN. Serving kids ages 0-26 and their families, fun comes in a lot of different forms here. From floor hockey in the gym to painting canvases in the art room, to teens sitting around the fire pit chatting to Father-Daughter dance parties, there is never a shortage on fun to be had. Good. Clean. Fun. that is!
the real magic here at the Center is the opportunity to build connection and community
In addition to the ability to play safely, the real magic here at the Center is the opportunity to build connection and community. Think for a moment about what it felt like to be disconnected from our family and friends during quarantine, being restricted from social gatherings. For many of us these restrictions have been short-term, but for most of the families dealing with a child who has a weakened immune system, this is a way of life – on the inside looking out, longing to be part of the fun. With the sophisticated screening process, cleaning regimen and air filtration system that Children’s Healing Center provides, kids CAN be part of the fun again. Parents can connect with one another on a level of understanding, encouragement and support. Kids can say “yes” to activities and games and playing with others. I have overheard parents say how nice it is to be able to let their child play with another child, as they often have to limit playdates and outings to protect the health of their immunocompromised child. Regardless of whatever age you are, we need connection and sense of belonging to thrive. Children’s Healing Center does just that and more for children, teen and families throughout the community.
I am reminded every day of the great things that happen here and all the wonderful people who make it possible like our members, staff, volunteers and donors. I look forward to helping carry the mission of the Children’s Healing Center forward. My hope is that EVERY child and family who qualify for the Center take advantage of the unmatched and powerful healing experience the Center provides in breaking down the barriers of isolation and loneliness.