From a physical fitness perspective, improving flexibility can both increase athletic performance and decrease risk of injury. But when we’re strong and healthy, focusing on flexibility can take a back seat to other performance-enhancing activities.
Enter the new COVID-19 reality, however, and suddenly being flexible is key to surviving and thriving.
Shine On! Kids is no exception. From fundraising, to training our future Hospital Facility Dogs, to engaging with our kids and families all over Japan – we’ve flipped many of our usual processes and programs on their heads. Ty and Masa weren’t permitted to visit hospitals with their trainer (who is not part of the hospital medical staff) – so Annie’s handler, Yuko Morita, started taking them to visit patients. Our Camp Courage for Survivors events couldn’t be held in person, but going virtual enabled us to have twice as many sessions as in years past. And the strict regulations around hospital visitations, weekend home visits and in-hospital volunteer activities led to the launch of Shine On! Connections, a Japan-wide virtual support program for kids in hospital.
We’d rather not have to make lemonade from the lemons thrown at us by COVID-19 this year – but there is no doubt that this exercise in deepening our flexibility will prove extraordinarily beneficial in the long-run.
Kim Forsythe, President
Shine On! Kids was lucky to have the lovely Ella Henderson help us this summer while home on break from Durham University in the UK, where she is about to start her third and final year. Ella was essential in helping us with the launch of Shine On! Connections, our new in-hospital virtual support program, by building an easy-to-use online reservation system for hospital staff.
Ella’s family have been involved with Shine On! Kids for a number of years, so it was a natural fit to have her as an intern. “My parents have long supported SOK and I have been familiar with all the great work they do for a while now. Cancer struck close to home a few years ago and I witnessed the heartbreaking effects it can have on someone not only physically but emotionally, and so supporting those battling cancer is important to me. When the opportunity to work with SOK this summer arose, I was keen to help in any way I could,” shared Ella. Interning remotely during these strange times can pose challenges but Ella did not let that stop her from not only communicating effectively with everyone on our team but also taking ownership of her projects. “In both working on Shine On! Connections and in helping Marina, I was pushed out of my comfort zone when it came to communicating in Japanese, as this was probably one of the first times I had to use Japanese in a professional setting of this extent. We all had to adjust and adapt to the circumstances presented to us by the COVID-19 situation, and despite them being extremely busy, the SOK staff—especially Kim, Kyoko and Miho—were very supportive and I am so grateful!”
Thank you Ella for all your hard work this summer!
The most recent Camp Courage for Survivors session focused on Sustainable Development Goals – Education, in particular. Participants discussed the challenges pediatric cancer survivors face when they return to school after being in the hospital. Recovered young cancer patients want to be just like everyone else, but functionally, many of them have physical limitations due to late effects of cancer treatments. This makes it difficult to fully participate in the average school day. The Camp Courage members decided the best way to raise awareness in the community is to create a video that explains how some of the less-flexible aspects of the Japanese education system negatively impact kids transitioning back to normal life after being in the hospital. Stay tuned for more!
In August, Annie and Bailey took a little break from work to escape the heat. Our puppies-in-training, Ty and Masa, eagerly stepped in to work on their skills with our amazing veteren handler, Yuko Morita, at Kanagawa Children’s Medical Center. We asked Yuko to share a little bit about Ty and Masa’s “internship” at the hospital.
“Because of COVID-19, it had been a long time since I’d seen Ty and Masa and it was also the first time in about five months that they had visited the hospital. Since it had been so long, I really wasn’t sure how it would go. But both dogs showed no signs of anxiety or agitation in response to their new environment and thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the children. They were both very relaxed and friendly – quickly becoming popular with all the children. Around the ward, kids were calling out, “Masa-kun! Ty-kun!”
Both dogs accompanied patients who were receiving an IV, kept them company during sedation, and went with children to the operating room. They did nearly everything that a full-time Hospital Facility Dog does.
One child who had some trouble walking was thrilled when Ty invited him for a walk and held the leash while they walked down the hallway together.
Ty and Masa are still young and learning every day but I was so impressed with how well they did and I can’t wait to see what amazing Hospital Facility Dogs they will soon become!”
We have been practicing and trialling adventures with OriHime robots in preparation for regular outings to places like museums, aquariums and theme parks starting later this month.
Aside from just being cool, the power of using these robots to explore remotely, is that the children in hospital can communicate with and control them. The kids themselves can decide where the robot should go and what it should do.
This is in sharp contrast to their everyday hospital routine which is very much determined for them. Annie and Bailey were happy to be part of the practice session! We look forward to sharing more as this program develops.
In addition to our Hospital Facility Dogs – Shine On! Kids’ Beads of Courage® program is continuing in 22 hospitals, with more hospitals joining over the next few months. Shine On! Kids distributes over 8500 beads each month to kids throughout the country. With comprehensive COVID-19 restrictions in place now, demand for our psycho-support programs, all executed by medical professionals, is growing almost faster than we can keep up!
Meet Haru: He bravely shares his experience battling through a leukemia diagnosis, discharge and relapse thanks to the power of Beads of Courage®.