Zoe is a bright, kind-hearted 10-year-old with a passion for baking. She also faces several chronic illnesses, including heart disease, short bowel syndrome, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which have resulted in multiple hospitalizations throughout her life. Because of her diagnoses, Zoe often misses out on the most important parts of being a kid – school, extracurricular activities, or just hanging with friends.
During her hospital stay at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), the Child Life team introduced Zoe and her mom, Lacey, to Starlight’s Online STEAM Coaching in partnership with CoachArt. Zoe’s Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) Lisa explained to them that Zoe could sign up and take free STEAM classes online, including baking, from both home and the hospital. It’s no surprise that Zoe was immediately booked for her first class!
In the days leading up to the class, Zoe ended up having to stay in the hospital and was nervous that she would have to cancel her class. Thanks to the accessibility of STEAM Coaching, Lacey reached out to the assigned Coach, who was able to identify some activities they could do safely from the hospital.
The coach is amazing. She was able to accommodate Zoe and her medical needs — turns out she has a low carb diet too, due to medical needs. Zoe was so excited and asked all day several times, ‘when is my cooking class?’ She is so used to things being canceled or postponed due to hospital stays and I truly thought there was no way we could do a cooking class while inpatient in the hospital, but boy was I mistaken. - Lacey, Zoe's mom
In her class, Zoe and her coach made chocolate-covered strawberries. Something as simple as making a sweet snack provided a creative outlet, distraction, and an opportunity to continue learning fun new skills during her hospital stay. Not long after was Zoe’s birthday, and because of new dietary restrictions, she was anxious about not being able to have cake on her special day. Zoe's Coach adapted a recipe just for her, to ensure Zoe can not only have her cake but bake it too!
Moments like this are so transformative for kids experiencing illness — they provide the space for young patients like Zoe to shift their focus to familiar and exciting activities, giving them a reason to smile.
Starlight knows that even a brief hospitalization can cause a child to miss school, impacting their overall mental health and educational development. As part of Starlight’s new Education program, STEAM Coaching makes sure that kids like Zoe can continue their education from home or the hospital.