CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It's not often you hear laughs and excitement coming from the four walls of a hospital room. But at UNC Children's Hospital, Wonder Connection is making that happen.
What You Need To Know
- Wonder Connection is a nonprofit organization in Chapel Hill
- The program brings hands-on science and nature activities to patients at UNC Children's Hospital
- Katie Stoudemire founded Wonder Connection in 2006
Wonder Connection is a nonprofit organization that brings hands-on science and nature activities to the hospital rooms of kids and teens.
Katie Stoudemire founded the program in 2006.
"I noticed kids in the hospital didn't have access to hands-on science activities, and that they were isolated from nature and wanted to try to connect kids in the hospital with engaging activities," Stoudemire said.
Whether it's making plaster volcanoes or slime, Wonder Connection offers a menu of different activities for pediatric inpatients ages 4 to 18.
"That's a gift to them because when you're in the hospital, you don't often get to choose who comes into your room," Stoudemire said.
For 5-year-old JoJo Traverse, painting a bird house is a distraction from his chemotherapy treatment.
Traverse has been receiving treatment at UNC Children's Hospital since 2018 for neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer.
"When they can't get out of bed, they can't go to the play room, or walk around the hallway, it brings these hands on activities. He is definitely a texture guy, so it gives him something to look forward too instead of just watching TV all day," Kim Traverse, JoJo's mom, said.
Wonder Connection is run by three staff members and 15 volunteers, who serve kids at the hospital several days a week. They receive training from the program and UNC Hospital.
"We get a list of patients that are here, they go to the patient's room and ask if they want to participate," Stoudemire said.
Madi Negron is the program director for Wonder Connection, and has been working with the organization for two years.
"I love working with kids and I love anything nature and plant related. This is the perfect position to merge them both together and just hangout with kids," Negron said.
The children they work with are typically hospitalized for infinite periods of time. Their diagnoses include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, cancer, traumatic brain injuries and more.
"They are still kids, and they want to be treated more [than] as just a diagnosis or prognosis, so for me it's really fun to get to know what they are interested in, what do they like, who are they as people," Stoudemire said.
Wonder Connection also works with kids and teens in the psychiatric inpatient at the N.C. Neurosciences Hospital and serves families living at the Ronald McDonald Houses in the Triangle area.
Recently, children in the Wonder Connection Program participated in creating a design for the N.C. Museum of Art's 2022 Art In Bloom Festival.
Wonder Connection relies on donations to make the program possible. For more information on how you can help, click here.