Sitting in a hospital bed or wheelchair, surrounded by beeping machines and new faces can be a bit jarring for both patient and parent.  However, a special team at Blythedale Children’s Hospital has the unique responsibility of turning frowns upside down.  They are the finders of fun. The laborers of leisure. The realizers of recovery. They are certified therapeutic recreation specialists and members of the Therapeutic Recreation Department.

The benefit of recreation here at Blythedale is that it serves as sort of an escape for our patients,"

 said Andrea, a recreation therapist.  “Recreation activities are also used as a form of treatment modality to address assessed needs of individuals, help them develop new leisure skills, reintegrate into the community and make sure that when they leave here they are better off and more capable to do the things they enjoy.”

After a busy day of intensive therapies, comprehensive treatments and education at the Hospital’s on-site Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School, kids can enjoy time unwinding and engaging with each other socially.

For Josiah, a Hospital inpatient, that means not letting his diagnosis and wheelchair get in the way of playing basketball, the ukulele and hanging out with his friends.

“I play video games, color, listen to music and socialize,” said Alayja, another Blythedale inpatient. 

Recreation is a place where you can release your stress and have fun.”

Therapeutic Recreation uses goal-oriented recreational activities, based on each child’s individual preferences and abilities, to put the fun back into functional skills while facilitating the development, maintenance and expression of appropriate leisure lifestyles for every patient, seven days a week.

“It's very hard to be a kid and go through what some of our kids have experienced because they kind of miss out on a lot of their childhood, so we help bring it back to them while using play as a form of medicine,” said Laura, a recreation therapist.  “It helps them recognize that even though they may have a difficulty now, they can still achieve the things that they used to love doing.  They just have to figure out how to do it in a different way.”

Utilizing holistic healing, the Therapeutic Recreation team is able to focus on five essential domains—physical, cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual—and include them in different activities and opportunities for both inpatients and residents of The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Pediatric Long Term Care Pavilion.

“On any given day you’ll see us engaging in a lot of really fun activities like Junior Chef Night, where patients work with our dietary team to create their own food, or in Long Term Care, where kids participate in various sensory and developmental experiences,” said Kelsey Mayer, MS, CCLS, Director of Therapeutic and Developmental Support Services. 

It’s all about choice, opportunity and bringing the childhood spirit back into the hospital.”

In addition, community visits from outside organizations and holiday celebrations are routinely part of Blythedale life as a way for everyone to experience the world around us.

“The value of Therapeutic Recreation really allows us the opportunity to bridge therapy skills, that each child is working on, with real life while having a vibrant, creative team behind our medical providers, rooting our kids on,” said Mayer.

Blythedale Children’s Hospital looks at what patients can do, not what they can’t do, because each child is a hero in their own way.

“Going to Recreation and seeing everyone just make me feel happy,” said Ghazlan, an international patient recovering from multiple organ transplants at Blythedale.  “I can spend time with my favorite best friend and all the people that I love here.”