What Goes Into the Building of a Starlight Space?

Certified child life specialists are individuals in the clinical space who dedicate their lives to helping children and families cope with the challenges of hospitalization. At the core of their work, love, kindness and selflessness always shines through.

Maria Elena Tome, CCLS, Child Life Program Director, at LAC+USC Medical Center is no different. Her passion for her work and dedication to her patients is exactly what led her to push for the creation of a Teen Room.

Currently, the pediatric floor at LAC+USC only has a standard playroom that’s open to all ages –from infants to young adults. Maria knew that teens needed their own “cool” space to hangout. Thanks to the generous donation from our partner, Joy in Childhood Foundation, Maria’s dream for a teen room for her patients will become a reality.

“Many of the adolescents are interested in getting out of their room, but hesitate to come to the playroom because there are many younger children there and they feel out of place,” explained Maria.

Because the current playroom is open to all ages, movies and video games that are played in the space are limited to kid friendly, G-rated content –which most teenagers don’t have an interest in.

The Teen Lounge

The lounge, which will be called “#TheSpot,” will be a space solely for adolescent patients. #TheSpot will provide a space for teens to venture out of their hospital rooms and socialize with other patients their age. But more than that, Maria highlighted that “[it] will provide a space for adolescents to work through their hospitalization in a developmentally appropriate setting through art, music, and other available resources facilitating opportunities to express their individuality and experiences.” 

The teenage patients could not be more excited for their new personalized space. Many of them have given suggestions for the type of activities, gaming systems, and overall theme of the room they would like to see. 

The lounge is truly made for the teens, by the teens. 

A Selfless Act 

Not only was Maria the biggest advocate for this space, but she and Alma Ramirez, CCLS, gave up their shared office to make it possible. 

Selflessness doesn’t even begin to describe Maria fully. 

To her, this was the simplest solution; there was a need and she had the space. “The space was the biggest non-patient room available on the pediatric floor that would be able to accommodate what the adolescents were asking for,” Maria said. 

Thankfully, Jorge Orozco, CEO, Sandy Correa, Pediatric Administrator, and Rebecca Sandoval, Nursing Director provided the support and final OK to use this space. 

Sandy Correa was a major force and the greatest supporter. Sandy helped Maria in the submission of the paperwork and in forming the Teen Lounge Planning committee. Thus, Maria had all the support she needed to get approval from all the key players and make sure everything fell within the safety and infectious control guidelines of the hospital. 

Plus, when the news of Maria and Alma giving up their offices, the Pediatric Nursing Supervisors moved offices to give them the original Child Life offices. 

Delivering Happiness 

While the room is still undergoing renovations, the finished project will be cherished and loved by so many patients. 

Maria, staying true to the gracious individual she is, had many thanks to give. 

“On behalf of the patients and the families that will enjoy and benefit from this space for many years to come, thank you for making #TheSpot possible. We will continue to think of you and your generosity as we bring positive interactions to our teens and families on the pediatric floor at LAC+USC Medical Center,” said Maria. 

Maria also highlighted that this project would not be possible without the Teen Lounge planning committee: Sandy Correa, Alma Ramirez, Terice Hall, Roberta Guerra, Ricardo Rodriguez, Bill Walton, Jason Gutierrez, Ana Chavez, and Ron Lee. 

While Starlight and our incredible donors and partners made this financially possible for LAC+USC, Maria’s part in the ideation and actual giving of the space is priceless. 

Since 1990, Starlight has been transforming pediatric hospital spaces into colorful, entertaining oases that can be enjoyed by patients and their families. 

Starlight is incredibly lucky to work with individuals like Maria, who dedicate their lives every day to deliver happiness to seriously ill kids and their families. The child life specialists, administrators, nurses, doctors, and so many others help implement Starlight programs every day, and are a huge reason for why we are able to have the impact that we do. 

We cannot wait to see #TheSpot on its grand opening! 


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Starlight Space before image
#TheSpot undergoing renovations

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