People

A More Colorful, Comfortable Stay

Starlight Children’s Foundation partners with Texas Medical Center hospitals


By Alexandra Becker | April 3, 2018

Sitting on the edge of her hospital bed surrounded by her best-loved stuffed animals, Evie Baxter looked comfortable as she contemplated her next move in the board game Life. Her reddish blonde hair was tied into a loose, messy ponytail, and her face, flush with freckles, was quick to smile. Instead of a conventional hospital gown, she wore a brightly-colored garment made of soft, T-shirt-like material. It was purple and pink and sported an image of a superhero lightning bolt covered in sprinkles. For Evie—an 11-year-old with common variable immunodeficiency—the kid-friendly gown had been a significant source of comfort during her hospital stay.

The gown was one of more than 3,000 donated to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital late last year by Starlight Children’s Foundation, which works to improve the experience of hospitalized children and their families across the U.S. through entertainment and distraction.

“Our mission is to provide moments of joy and comfort for kids who are in the hospital,” said Chris de Haan, Starlight’s senior vice president of communications and public relations. “We want to take a moment that is very difficult and stressful and full of anxiety and nervousness and transform it into a moment that preserves the wonder and the magic and the joy of childhood. Because every child deserves to experience that.”

Starlight Children’s Foundation provides entertainment, education and technology to more than 800 hospitals and health care facilities across the U.S., as well as sites in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The nonprofit serves numerous Texas Medical Center institutions, including Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital, UTMB Health Children’s Hospital – Galveston, Shriners Hospitals for Children – Houston, MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, Ben Taub Hospital and Ronald McDonald House Houston.

Colorful, comfortable hospital gowns are just part of Starlight’s toolkit, which also includes donations of toys, stuffed animals, books, crafts and games; celebrity visits from actors, entertainers and athletes; virtual reality experiences that transport pediatric patients outside the hospital environment and into immersive and exotic adventures; as well as Starlight Fun Centers stocked with family-friendly video games, movies and other sources of entertainment.

Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital has a Fun Center on every floor and is currently constructing a new Starlight Site playroom, and Texas Children’s Hospital offers 75 Fun Centers in their campuses across the Houston area.

“Texas Children’s Hospital saw the value of our program, and you can now walk onto any floor on any campus and you’ll find a Starlight Fun Center there,” said Samantha Martinez, director of programs for Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Practical gowns with more coverage

Founded 35 years ago, Starlight has touched the lives of more than 60 million children worldwide. Last year in the U.S. alone, the organization provided more than $2.5 million in Starlight Special Deliveries—including toys, crafting materials, Radio Flyer wagons and other items—that brought smiles to hundreds of thousands of hospitalized kids.

“Not only do we provide hospitals with tools for their patients, but we can also provide significant budget relief,” de Haan explained. “A lot of our hospital partners are nonprofits—budgets are tight, and it’s expensive to care for children—so to the extent that we’re able to provide resources that help reduce budget constraints, that’s an additional benefit.”

Starlight works closely with hospitals to identify their needs and offer programs that best service their populations, which is how the gown program originated. Launched in 2016, the program has already delivered more than 150,000 Starlight gowns to pediatric patients throughout the country. According to de Haan, Starlight’s goal is to “revolutionize” children’s hospital gowns, which are typically faded, uncomfortable and unattractive. By contrast, Starlight gowns are designed to be comfortable, colorful and fun to wear. Designs range from astronauts to princesses to veterinarians and artists, and, according to Evie, they are “super cute.”

“The gowns make such a difference for the kids when they’re in the hospital,” said Evie’s mother, Julie Baxter. “To have something that doesn’t look like a hospital item, it gives them a little more personality, a little more individuality.”

Starlight gowns are more practical, as well. They tie on the side rather than the back, which provides more coverage, and they have snaps on the sleeves for easier, less invasive access for IVs or chest ports.

Design-A-Gown contest

In February, Starlight launched a Design-A-Gown contest and encouraged patients, as well as their families and friends, to submit a design for the next gown. As de Haan said, “Who better to design a gown for hospitalized kids than kids themselves?”

The foundation received more than 6,000 submissions and selected three finalists. Jack, age 6, who wanted to help his 7-month-old sister who was born with a congenital heart defect, designed a gown covered in hearts and glitter; 13-year-old Ava, a Girl Scout, and her brother Maxwell, 10, designed an out-of-this-world Starlight gown for their 6-month-old cousin who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer; and Kimberly, 36, from San Luis Obispo County, California, dedicated her design—an elephant to symbolize strength—to her daughter, Violet, who suffers from three rare genetic conditions and faces numerous hospitalizations. Starlight asked the public to vote on their favorite design in late March and plans to donate at least 30,000 gowns featuring the winning image later this year.

“To see the smile on a child’s face when you put something into his or her hands as simple as a colorful gown, it’s phenomenal,” de Haan said. “We’ve seen kids who are stuck in hospital beds who feel terrible, they feel sick, and we’ve watched them put on a gown and within minutes they’re up and out of bed walking down the hallway like they’re the cat’s pajamas. It’s incredible that something so simple can be so transformative.”




Social Posts

profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @krachlerlab: Today we celebrated the Lab Coat Ceremony officially welcoming our new graduate students to @MDA_UTHGrad and @UTHealth. We…

29 mins ago
profile_image

TAMU Health Sciences

@TAMHSC

Sometimes you need fresh eyes to look at problems that are tough to solve. #Texas #medicalschools come together to solve #healthcare problems as big as the state.Student-Led Competition Aims To Improve Rural Medicine https://t.co/syLUBAUixE@TAMUmedicine #ruralhealth https://t.co/omDa17lVll

51 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

If you quit today, you don’t have to miss the little moments in life anymore! Learn how to achieve a better quality of life and the other benefits when you quit tobacco: https://t.co/2CmQHRo8wC

55 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Fall begins tomorrow and what better way to kick off the new season than learning how to fall asleep faster! For more information on sleep disorders, visit: https://t.co/t9zfkejpud #sleep #tips https://t.co/rdILjIkxbw

55 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Our @jdhdavis shares what #cancer patients should know about #roboticsurgery: https://t.co/5Wv6viu1eD #endcancer https://t.co/39CFBXZ8Ng

1 hour ago
profile_image

UTMB Health

@utmbhealth

RT @CG_GiladKatz: Thank you President David Callander of @utmbhealth in @Galveston for hosting me today at your office and examining option…

1 hour ago
profile_image

Memorial Hermann

@memorialhermann

@JoannaZ47145549 Hi, Joanna! You can pay online at any time: https://t.co/Vr7SPfNuYY,

1 hour ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Try ‘seasonal’ eating this fall for a more flavorful diet https://t.co/U8c0Fmfi2H via #VAntagePoint

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

RT @CancerMedMDA: Register today for Sept. 29 @AIMatMelanoma 5k event! Funds benefit @MDAndersonNews Melanoma Moon Shot™ and immunotherapy…

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Arch J. Lewis Jr. https://t.co/P0B6FHwoiR

2 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @GetInvolvedUH: Come watch the debate next Sunday the 30th! Doors open at 5:00 PM in the Student Center Houston Room #GetInvolvedUH http…

3 hours ago
profile_image

CHI St. Luke's Health

@CHI_StLukes

RT @HoustonBCycle: Hundreds of people have already signed up for our @CHI_StLukes 5-Day Health Challenge, which includes a discounted BCycl…

3 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @_UHin4: HAPPY COUGAR RED FRIDAY! #UHin4 #gocoogs #CougarRedFriday https://t.co/17giHqS6Jd

3 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCM_SMART: Thank you @BYU for the opportunity to speak to highly motivated undergraduates interested in the summer research experiences…

3 hours ago
profile_image

Memorial Hermann

@memorialhermann

For those affected by Hurricane Florence, the emotional toll can cause panic and fear, and impacts people in different ways, at different times. Read more: https://t.co/iEG4RTlHwV.

3 hours ago