How donors like you help make hospital stays easier for children and their families

Coping with a difficult diagnosis, a complex surgery or a long course of treatment can be extremely difficult for children and their families. But a special department at Advocate Children’s Hospital is making those situations easier to handle – all thanks to philanthropy.

During the 2019 holiday season, donors generously gifted nearly $500,000 worth of new toys, infant items, electronics and gift cards to the Advocate Children’s Hospital campuses.

“The Child Life, Creative Arts Therapies, and Education department includes four different disciplines: child life specialists, art therapists, music therapists and school coordinators,” explained Lori Mackey, an art therapist at the Oak Lawn campus.

Each discipline uses its expertise and training to tend to emotional and social needs of young patients and their families.

Art therapy promotes healing, self-awareness, and communication. It also provides opportunities for patients to process thoughts, emotions and fears related to diagnosis, hospitalization, trauma, survivorship or end-of-life care.

“Art is a natural language for children and adolescents to express themselves in less threatening and nonverbal ways,” shared Lori. “A consult with art therapy may provide opportunities to facilitate communication, stress management and healing.”

Certified child life specialists use their background in child and adolescent development to educate, prepare, and help support patients to promote positive coping with new diagnoses and procedures.

“We also use play and offer special programming to foster typical development and essential life experiences while at the hospital,” said Kayleen Egan and Elizabeth Solomon, child life specialists at the Park Ridge campus.

Music therapists utilize music as an outlet for expression and healing, while school coordinators act as liaisons between the hospital and school to advocate for educational services with a patient’s changing needs.

“Doctors and nurses heal patients physically. Our team is dedicated to addressing the important socio-emotional needs of patients and families to ease the challenges of healthcare experiences,” said Kayleen.

The impact of philanthropy

Many programs offered by the Child Life, Creative Arts Therapies, and Education department would not exist without financial and in-kind gifts from our many caring donors. For example, this past holiday season, donors generously gave nearly $500,000 worth of new toys, infant items, electronics and gift cards to the Advocate Children’s Hospital campuses.

“These donations help keep us stocked for the entire year,” explained Elizabeth. “Through your donations we are able to bring a little more comfort to the families we serve or help our youngest patients do their most important job – be a kid! And we couldn’t do it without you.”

To make a monetary gift, please visit For more information on how to participate in next year’s holiday toy drive, or for our current wish list, please visit our website. You can also email the Park Ridge campus at or the Oak Lawn campus at

March is Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Month, recognizing these teams for the important work they do every day.