No child should have to face a stay in the hospital alone. That’s the founding principle of Josh Cares, an organization that funds full-time Child Life Specialists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Cincinnati Parent spoke to Matthew Hughes, Executive Director of Josh Cares, to learn more about how his organization makes sure that no child is ever alone while receiving care at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Why was Josh Cares created and what does your organization do?
The organization was founded in 2006 and is named after Josh Helfrich, a child who was killed in a bicycle accident. While he was in the hospital, his parents Ann and Mark Helfrich noticed that there were children who did not have visitors. Josh was always known for sticking up for kids and his parent’s thought that helping these children would be a good way to honor him. After Josh passed away, the Helfrich’s, along with Dan and Lynn Pierce who had also lost a child in a water skiing accident, created Josh Cares with the intent that no child ever be alone when receiving care at Cincinnati Children’s.
Josh Cares funds Child Life Specialists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. What exactly is a Child Life Specialist?
Child Life Specialist’s are different from other medical personnel in that they are trying to make sure that the child is healthy from a stress-free standpoint. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was a pioneer in the field of Child Life Specialists. They now have the largest and most successful Child Life Specialist program in the country. When we were looking for a way that we could do this, it was through the Child Life Specialist program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The way our program works is that Josh Cares raises money each year to pay for the salary and benefits of seven full-time Child Life Specialists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Our specialists have a different caseload and they concentrate on children that don’t have parents there or whose parents can’t be there as much as they’d like.
How can the community support Josh Cares?
We have fundraising opportunities throughout the year. Our mission is simple: We raise money, we give that money to Cincinnati Children’s and then these Child Life Specialists take care of the patients that we work with. We serve 180-200 patients throughout the year. If a person wants to help they can come to a fundraiser. We run a dodge ball tournament in February or March, a clay pigeon shoot in July and a golf tournament in September. I also tell people that if they have a passion for working and helping children that the volunteer office through Cincinnati Children’s is always looking for volunteers. We encourage people to go in and sign up to be a volunteer and go through the process of becoming one.
Why is the work your organization does so important?
I’m a parent myself and I have five children. I know that if one of my children needed to be in the hospital I’d want to be there every minute that I possibly could. That’s a natural instinct. But the reality is that the world does not simply allow you to be there full-time. Josh Cares provides a very important service. Say you’re 3 years old and you are going into the hospital for a very serious procedure. When you’re sitting in your hospital room and you’re alone wouldn’t it be nice to have someone there that you can talk to? That’s what a Josh Cares Child Life Specialist does. What this means to the child is that there is a lower stress level, they heal faster; mentally they are stronger because someone is there that they know—a familiar face. That’s really what we do. No child is ever alone while they are receiving care at Cincinnati Children’s.
Learn more about Josh Cares on their website www.joshcares.org.