Spreading Hope to Children With Cancer and Their Families
Working with families from time of diagnosis through survivorship or end of life and bereavement care
We endow the Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (Washington, DC), and Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD) that pays the salary of a Child Life specialist at the Hospital.
We work with the Child Life staff at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Children's Hospital at Sinai to plan and coordinate activities for children who are inpatient.
We coordinate a free snack and item cart at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (Washington, DC), Children's Hospital Sinai (Baltimore, MD) and at the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center (Rockville, MD) for inpatient pediatric families, so they have access to necessities when they are away from home.
In 2021, we established the M&M (Margy & Mattie) Wishes program in memory of our board member, Margy Jost. This program will provide family grants up to $1,000 to support a fun family activity, trip, or a wish list item for a child with cancer.
In 2022, we created our Therapy Support Grant program. This program provides funding to children with cancer and their families to receive mental health services within the community.
To apply for a M&M Wish or a Therapy Support Grant, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding Child Life
On March 1, in honor of Child Life Month, Mattie Miracle donated $48,000 to Children's Hospital at Sinai, in Baltimore, MD. These funds help to endow our Child Life Program Fund, which supports a full-time position at the Hospital.
We are honored to announce our 5th Child Life Specialist is Lily Metzger. Our Child Life positions serve around 1,500 children and families a year.
Mattie Miracle is committed to funding access to Child Life services for children with cancer. A Child Life Specialist has the necessary skills and abilities to make a very frightening and stressful medical experience more manageable. In fact, we believe Child Life services are just as important as the medical treatment.
Reflections from Lily Metzger:
I am the Mattie Miracle Child Life Specialist at the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic at Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD). I originally discovered the field of Child Life back in my home state of New Jersey. While in high school, I attended a career fair, where I met two child life specialists who explained the field to me. I was immediately struck with the importance of Child Life in the hospital environment and felt called to the profession. In the time between then and now, to expand upon my knowledge and love for the field, I attended Towson University, earning both a Bachelor's in Family Studies and a Master’s in Child Life, Administration, and Family Collaboration.
When my time as a student came to a close and I started looking for work as a child life specialist, I knew that the hematology/oncology population was close to my heart. I had previously been blessed with the opportunity to work with Children's Hospital at Sinai’s outpatient clinic and experienced the magic of the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation.
As a new professional, I only hoped I would find a position with a similarly outstanding team and support services, like the ones offered through Mattie Miracle. When offered the opportunity to be a part of this organizational dream team, it was without question that I said yes to being a Mattie Miracle Child Life Specialist. I am forever grateful to work with such a passionate organization dedicated to serving children and families in the hospital and through innovative research.
10th M&M Wish Granted
In September, Mattie Miracle received a request for a M&M (Margy & Mattie) Wish to be granted to a 21-year-old named Julian. Julian's aunt said that due to his age, Julian would not qualify for support from other organizations supporting children with cancer. Julian's social worker explained that Julian was diagnosed with Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor (DSRCT) in November 2021, but sadly has not responded to standard treatment. Therefore, Julian will be starting a clinical trial at an institution in Washington, DC. Julian's social worker stated that, "Julian is cared for by his mother, who is a single working mom and because she has missed so much work to care for Julian and to bring him in to frequent medical appointments, she has missed a lot of work resulting in a significant reduction in her income, causing her to struggle to keep up with basic monthly expenses."
Julian has been a huge New England Patriots football fan since he was in elementary school. It has been his dream to see a live game at the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA. When Mattie Miracle received this Wish request, we mobilized forces and contacted Margy's family, who plays an instrumental role in our M&M Wishes program. Margy was a fierce childhood cancer advocate and a Mattie Miracle board member. In her memory, Mattie Miracle continues her legacy work by granting wishes to children and teens with cancer.
Mattie Miracle awarded Julian $2,200 to make his wish come true. We provided four seats to the Bears vs Patriots game on October 24th, and we included a special message for Julian and his family on the stadium jumbotron which read, "Shout out to Julian & his family, battling cancer! Love M&M Wishes." The Patriots also arranged for the family to walk on the field, meet players, as well as try on real Super Bowl rings. Julian's mom said, "I’m blown away at how quickly Mattie Miracle got everything done. Time is so precious, but not everyone feels the urgency we do." Mattie Miracle understands that wishes must be granted around a family's timing and needs, and we work hard to ensure that children and teens who may not qualify for wishes through other organizations have a chance at making their dreams come true.
Reflections from Julian's Mom
Thank you will NEVER cover it! Not ever! Julian has been a Patriots fan since elementary school. We are a big football family (Julian is number 3 out of 8 siblings). He has been taking on the whole family for years, rallying for his team. Since the news of your blessing, we don't go 15 minutes without hearing something about our trip to Gillette Stadium. He's been wanting this his whole life. Because he is 21 years old, I didn't think a blessing like this was possible. Financially, I could NEVER pull something like this off. Christmas came early and I CAN NOT WAIT to see his little face on game day! I will make sure to capture it all and send photos. Gifting him HIS LITERAL DREAM goes beyond charity. It's confirmation that my son's life has value and that he deserves to live the BEST LIFE.
Reflections from Julian's Aunt
I am going to try to put into words what I just experienced when Julian's mom told him about the trip to see the Patriots play on October 24th. First was disbelief, then excitement and then tears! He said, "Seriously?! I'm going to Gillette Stadium?! OMG, IM GOING TO GILLETTE STADIUM!!!" Then he got to deliver the news to his brothers, where they all screamed for joy and started talking about football and googling everything they could about Gillette Stadium and every fact you can imagine! It gave me goosebumps and made us all misty eyed! I wish we could have got it on camera, but we didn't even think about it at the time. However, there will be tons of pictures and videos at the game and everything in between! I wish I could express to you our gratitude for the gift that you just gave Julian. Your kindness will never be forgotten!
Making Wishes Come True
In 2021, Mattie Miracle launched its M&M (Margy & Mattie) Wishes Program in memory of our board member, Margy Jost. Margy was a steadfast supporter of children with cancer and devoted her life to this vital cause. In one year’s, time, Mattie Miracle has granted $12,000 to children and their families to make their wishes come true. In many cases, families have reached out to us because they do not qualify for support through other organizations, either due to the child's age, at what stage the child is within treatment, or because the child was receiving end of life care.
This summer, Mattie Miracle learned about Caleb. Caleb was 20 years old and was being treated at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD. Caleb was diagnosed with Leukemia in his home country of Honduras. There were many procedural events that took place that were traumatic to him and to his family, including the lack of availability of pain medicine. He was sent from Honduras to Costa Rica for more treatment, and then to Florida where Caleb and his mother stayed for several months.
Due to continued disease progression, he was referred to NIH for CAR T therapy, as a hopeful bridge to transplantation. His medical journey remained complicated and complex. Despite pain, disease, fatigue and very aggressive treatment, Caleb took two courses online to learn coding and was studying German. He was described as “one of the most respectful, kindest young men the team had ever met.” Caleb had not seen his brother or father for nine months while in treatment. Thereafter, the NIH Clinical Center brought the family to United States with the hope that a family member would be a potential bone marrow match.
Caleb’s favorite band was The Weeknd. The possibility of seeing the band and being together with his parents and brother before the family needed to return to Honduras was a dream come true. In fact, given the nature of Caleb’s diagnosis, it was uncertain as to when the family would ever be together again. Due to being immunocompromised, Caleb’s medical team would only allow him to attend the Weeknd concert if he and his family sat in box seats, away from others. This was when Mattie Miracle stepped in and granted Caleb the wish of four box seats at FedEx field to attend the concert in July.
Mattie Miracle is saddened to learn that Caleb died on September 6, 2022. Caleb will never be forgotten, and he taught us an importance lesson that granting wishes to children at all stages of their cancer journey is vitally important. We thank our supporters for helping to make these M&M Wishes possible.
Message from Caleb
"I want to say a special thank you to Mattie Miracle's supporters and the help of Dr. Lori Wiener for making this amazing experience possible for my family and me. It's been a dream of mine since I arrived here in the States to go to the Weeknd concert. He is my favorite artist, and you are making this dream possible. It really moves my heart, for that I am extremely grateful!"
Message from Dr. Lori Wiener
"I just wanted to thank you and Mattie Miracle for the incredible gift of the tickets for Caleb and his family. He died today (September 6, 2022), surrounded by his family. He told all of us that the concert was one of the best days of his life. You helped make this happen."
Grants for Therapy
On September 9, 2021, Mattie Miracle participated in Thrivent's Take the Plunge, a non-profit Shark Tank. Thanks to the hundreds of votes we received from supporters and generous donations, we were granted $10,000 to start a new initiative. Our new therapy support program, grants children with cancer up to $1,000 for therapy sessions with a licensed mental health provider within their community.
Families of children with cancer are typically referred within the community to professionals who can help support their psychosocial needs and concerns. Families face a host of mental health issues as a result of a childhood cancer diagnosis, such as depression, anxiety, medical traumatic stress, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Yet it is challenging for families to access such support because of financial difficulties.
We are honored to award our first grant to Elliott. Elliott is 9 years old and is being treated for Medulloblastoma in Michigan. Elliott's mom reflects on her family's journey and it is clear that childhood cancer IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE MEDICINE.
Reflections from Elliott's mom:
Our small family has been profoundly changed by Elliot’s cancer diagnosis. He was diagnosed unexpectedly in January of 2020, and I resigned my position at work to be with him in the hospital. Cancer and cancer treatment altered us all. We have all described feeling like our essential “self” got rearranged, like someone messed with our DNA and we are altered, and we look the same but feel completely different. We have all wanted to use therapy to explore the tender edges of that change. All of us have different PTSD symptoms (intrusive thoughts, nightmares, increased hyperarousal, dissociation, etc.) in addition to some increased anxiety and depression.
7 Wishes Granted
In 2021, the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation established the M&M (“Margy & Mattie”) Wishes program in memory of our board member, Margy Jost. Margy was a fierce childhood cancer advocate who devoted her life to helping children with cancer. Margy was passionate about providing grants to families to help create memories outside of the hospital experience. M&M Wishes offers families a grant up to $1,000 to support a fun family activity, trip, or a wish list item for a child with cancer.
We are proud to announce that 7 M&M Wishes have been granted to children with cancer and more are on there way. Our grants have supported:
Great Wolf Lodge getaway
Xbox & Xbox gift cards
Adaptive sports camp
This is Jamie's story, one of our M&M Wish recipients:
Jamie's journey started in December 2019 when he injured himself in gym class. X-rays showed a small mass in his tibia just below his right knee. Biopsy results came back inconclusive. Then COVID pandemic hit the world. At his next check-up the mass quadrupled in size. In the summer of 2020, Jamie was officially diagnosed with a high-grade osteosarcoma which led us to the wonderful team at Children's Hospital at Sinai. There he was treated right away with methotrexate doxorubicin cisplatin (MAP), then ifosfamide etoposide (IE), later regorafenib, and now cyclophosphamide topotecan cabozantinib. His osteosarcoma has shown to be chemo-resistant, reoccurring, and metastatic. It is currently in several of his other bones and lungs. Also along the way, he had eight surgeries to include an above knee amputation and a feeding tube. We recently discovered he has a TP53 gene mutation known as Li-Fraumeni syndrome putting him at high risk for developing other cancers. Jamie successfully completed 6 weeks of clinical trials in Boston which combined traditional chemotherapy and inhibitors to be continued off protocol at Sinai with the addition of radiation. He is enrolled in several research clinical trials to help further study childhood cancer, osteosarcoma, and TP53 gene mutations.
Jamie has grown into maturity and wisdom. He remains mostly stoic yet positive. He places high value in family and friends. He regularly connects with his cousins and friends via online computer games and iPhone group chats. He uses computer games as his escape and way to keep some normalcy. Right now he is taking a break from school but looks forward to going back and re-enrolling in his high school robotics club and pre-med program. His favorite subject is biology and he will be learning how to drive this year! Jamie has many things to look forward to and a lot of fight left in him.
We are proud to offer four Snack & Items Carts in the Washington, DC region. Our Carts are housed within hospitals and serve families who are caring for a child with cancer or other life threatening illness. The Carts provide nutritional snacks, candy, drinks, toiletries, and comfort items to family caregivers.
On May 5, the co-founders of Mattie Miracle celebrated the official unveiling of our Wellness on Wheels Cart at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. Greetings at the ceremony were provided by Dr. Lori Wiener, Dr, James Gilman, and Mattie Miracle's co-founders. We invite you to see the short video clip of Luciano (a patient from Peru) unveiling our cart to the audience. Mattie Miracle is honored to provide families with this vital psychosocial support while their children are participating in a NIH clinical trial.
Mattie Miracle donated $10,000 to Children's Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore, MD to launch our M&M (Margy & Mattie) Wishes Program. We established the M&M Wishes program in memory of our board member, Margy Jost. March 28th marks the one year anniversary of Margy's death. Mattie Miracle is committed to preserving Margy's legacy and we will always be inspired by her compassion, advocacy, and support of children with cancer and their families.
To date we have awarded five children with M&M Wishes. Our first M&M Wish was granted to twins with cancer. The M&M Wishes program provides family grants up to $1,000 to support a fun family activity, trip, or a wish list item for a child with cancer.
Reflections from Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD):
The Sameuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai is grateful for the continued support of the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation to address the psychosocial needs of pediatric patients with a cancer diagnosis. The latest initiative from Mattie Miracle is a wish granting fund for patients and their families, offering up to S1,000 to be used for a special trip or item for the patient. In memory of Margy Jost, this fund truly looks beyond the hospital and the medicine to provide psychosocial support during difficult diagnoses and treatments. Often times families cannot afford or even consider an expensive trip or gift for their child during treatment. This fund provides families with a smile and a respite. Thank you Mattie Miracle for understanding the needs of our patients and families and making wishes come true.
Information from a parent of the recipients of this $2,000 wish:
F and B have wanted to go to Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park. B worked very hard on swim team last summer to become a stronger swimmer, although F was unable to participate due to his Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). B was then diagnosed in August and was unable to go on our family vacation. F and their little sister, N, went on the vacation with my parents. B has not been away except for his inpatient hospital visits. They would love SO much to get away to Great Wolf Lodge as they have never been and have been through so much. I would love to be able to send them somewhere to make them smile!
Wellness on Wheels
Mattie Miracle has great news! We launched a Snack and Item Cart at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This is our third Cart that we fund and operate in the National Capital Area. Our Carts offer free candy, snacks, and other items to families in the hospital who are caring for a child with cancer and other life threatening illnesses. The NIH Cart is called, Wellness on Wheels, and will provide an expanded offering of comfort items such as blankets, robes and slippers to help support families who are far from home while their child is participating in a clinical trial.
Currently there are around 1,600 clinical research studies in progress at the NIH Clinical Center. About half are studies of the natural history of disease, especially rare diseases, which often are not studied anywhere else. What researchers learn by studying rare diseases often adds to the basic understanding of common diseases. Most other studies are clinical trials, which often are the first tests of new drugs and therapies in people. The clinical trials at the NIH Clinical Center are predominantly Phase I and Phase II, often first-in-human to test safety and efficacy.
The NIH Clinical Center enrolled 5,390 new patients in 2020 with 3,120 inpatient admissions. This resulted in an average hospital stay of 10.6 days. As a research facility, only patients with the precise kind or stage of illness under investigation are admitted for treatment. Of the 1,600 active protocols at the NIH Clinical Center 35% include children and 14 NIH Institutes admit children. In general, Pediatrics accounts for approximately 13% of Clinical Center patient activity.
We welcome 'Wellness on Wheels,' to the Mattie Miracle family of services and we thank our supporters for helping us launch this Cart by donating needed items from our Wish List. It is thanks to you that we have been able to operate our Snack and Item Carts successfully since 2011.
Launching a 4th Cart
Mattie Miracle's Snack & Item Carts offer free snacks, toiletries, and other comfort items free of charge to families in hospitals who are caring for a child with cancer or other life threatening illness.
It was brought to the Foundation's attention that the outpatient clinic at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is in need of a Snack & Item Cart. In fact, the nurse manager, Ashley Reeves, of the outpatient clinic started her own cart organically to help meet the needs of her patients and families. We are inspired by Ashley and have decided to support her efforts by bringing a Mattie Miracle Snack & Item Cart to the outpatient HEM/ONC clinic, making this our 4th hospital Snack and Item Cart in operation.
A reflection from Ashley Reeves, Nurse Manager at the Pediatric HEM/ONC outpatient clinic at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (Washington, DC):
I have been in the role of nurse manager of the clinic since October 2021 and recognized a need for a variety of food options for our patients. Our dietary department does supply a few boxed lunches but it has limited variety. I began offering a small basket of extra snacks brought from home and I received great feedback from our patients and families. It provides them a quick snack or treat to make their stay with us more palatable.
Our oncology service is steadily growing and we attempt to treat our patients on an outpatient basis, if at all possible, to prevent the stress and anxiety of an inpatient stay during these times of COVID with so many restrictions in place. This means very long days of outpatient treatment and in some circumstances, treatment Monday through Friday. The benefit of the Snack Cart may seem simple but it has added an impact of normalcy and comfort. A warm bowl of Mac n Cheese or Cup of Noodles, cookies and/or chips can hit the spot on those long days.
With four Carts in circulation, Mattie Miracle needs the help of our supporters to keep these Carts stocked. Check out our April Drive item wish list. Donating is quick and easy and your items make a huge difference in the lives of families.
Providing Direct Support to Patients and Families
Mattie Miracle is proud to fund Adina Levitan, a full-time child life professional at Children's Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore, MD. Adina understands that childhood cancer IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE MEDICINE.
Certified Child Life Specialists implement an array of play-based, coping-focused techniques shown to ameliorate pain, lower anxiety, and reduce distress. Children demonstrate fewer behavioral disturbances during and beyond medical encounters when receiving comprehensive preparation, procedural support, and coping skills education, all of which are associated with accelerated healing.
In a six-month time period, April to September 2021, we are proud to report that Adina directly assisted children and their families by performing 1,945 patient interventions. The interventions fall within 10 categories, and the percentages indicate the number of children receiving each intervention:
Emotional Support - 18%
Parent Support - 17%
Normalization/Play - 16%
Procedural Support - 16%
Procedural Distraction - 15%
Psychological Preparation - 8%
Introduction to Services - 6%
Sibling Support - 2%
Therapeutic Play - 1%
Diagnosis Education - 1%
M&M (Margy & Mattie) Wishes Program Established
On March 28, Mattie Miracle lost a board member and incredible supporter of the Foundation to ovarian cancer. Margy Jost will be deeply missed by her family, friends, colleagues, and the countless childhood cancer families she supported over the last 20 years. Margy understood that childhood cancer IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE MEDICINE!
Mattie Miracle is committed to keeping the legacy of this extraordinary woman alive and has created a new program in her memory called, M & M (Margy and Mattie) Wishes. M & M Wishes will offer a grant of up to $1,000 to 10 to 15 families each year. Grants are intended to support a fun family activity, trip, or a wish list item for a child with cancer.
The M & M Wishes program will be funded from the annual Walk Team created in Margy's memory. Join the M & M Wishes walk team, and help us raise funds in memory of Margy. Over the years, Margy granted many mini-wishes to children with cancer and this new program will continue her legacy.
6 Months, 1 Cart, & 300 Patients Served
In September of 2015, Mattie Miracle launched its first Snack and Item Cart at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. The Co-Founders of Mattie Miracle understood from personal experience how important it was to have access to snacks, drinks, and toiletries while caring for Mattie in the hospital. They received these daily gifts for 14 months from their support community. After Mattie died, the Foundation decided to continue this tradition but on a grander scale. Mattie Miracle now operates two Snack and Item Carts and together these Carts serve 2,500 families a year.
Carts offer snacks, drinks, and toiletries free to families caring for children with cancer and other life threatening illnesses. Over the last six months at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, the Cart has served 300 families and has provided 700 pieces of candy, 655 snacks, and 495 toiletry items.
Mattie Miracle hosts two community drives a year, and the donations from individuals, schools, businesses, and community organizations enable us to stock our Carts so that we can continue to meet the psychosocial needs of families caring for children with cancer.
Lyn Knowles (Clinical Nurse Manager at MedStar Georgetown) shared a message with us about the Cart:
"During this unprecedented time of COVID-19, our parents are quarantined to their child’s hospital room. The look on parent faces when offered items from the Mattie Miracle Snack & Item Cart is heartfelt. The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation has helped our patients and families through so much over the years, and now, more than ever, they continue to bring joy to our pediatric families."
Consider supporting our Carts by donating items. Check out our wish list below.
755 Patient Interventions
July to December 2020
Mattie Miracle is proud to fund a full-time child life professional, Adina Levitan, at Children's Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore, MD. Adina understands that childhood cancer IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE MEDICINE, and represents the Foundation's mission beautifully.
Certified Child Life Specialists generate positive behavioral, psychological, and physiological outcomes through individualized interventions with pediatric patients. They implement an array of play-based, coping-focused techniques shown to ameliorate pain, lower anxiety, reduce distress, and increase satisfaction with - and loyalty to - institutions of care. Children demonstrate fewer behavioral disturbances during and beyond medical encounters when receiving comprehensive preparation, procedural support, and coping skills education, all of which are associated with accelerated healing.
In a six month time period, July to December 2020, we are proud to report that Adina directly assisted children and their families by performing 755 patient interventions. The interventions fall within 12 categories, and the percentages indicate the number of children receiving each intervention:
Normalization/Play - 22%
Emotional Support - 19%
Introduction to Services - 18%
Parent Support - 15%
Procedural Support - 7%
Procedural Distraction - 6%
Psychological Preparation - 6%
Therapeutic Play - 3%
Diagnosis Education - 1%
Sibling Support - 1%
Memory Making/Legacy - 1%
Bereavement/End of Life - 1%
We invite you to read the Association of Child Life Professionals' full scientific report on the importance of child life specialists.
575 Families Served
July to December 2020
Mattie Miracle launched its Snack & Item Cart at Children’s Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore, MD in March of 2017. The Cart offers free snacks, drinks, and toiletry items to all inpatient families caring for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. It Is difficult for parents and caregivers to leave the bedside to get their basic needs met while caring for their children. On average, Mattie Miracle donates over $10,000 worth of items to our Carts per year and the Carts are supported by 110 individual donors, 35 schools, and 40 businesses and organizations.
From July to December 2020, the Mattie Miracle Snack & Item Cart provided: 1) 846 snacks, 2) 11,343 pieces of candy, and 3) 373 toiletry items to 575 pediatric families at Children's Hospital at Sinai.
Committed to Direct Support
The Foundation donated $46,000 to Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD) to support our endowed Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund. This is our second endowed Fund that we have established, as the first was created in 2011, at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (Washington, DC). To date, we have contributed over $300,000 to these Funds to directly support children with cancer and their families.
The Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund pays the salary of Adina Levitan, a child life professional at Children’s Hospital at Sinai. Adina works one on one with 200 patients and families a year and through the Mattie Miracle Snack & Item Cart, provides snacks, treats and toiletries annually to 1,500 families caring for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
Child life specialists are pediatric health care professionals who work with children and families in hospitals to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness, and disability. They provide children with age-appropriate preparation for medical procedures, pain management, coping strategies, and play and self-expression activities. In addition, these professionals provide information, support, and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members.
Child life services are associated with improved quality, outcomes, and patient and family experiences as well as decrease costs in pediatric care. There is evidence that child life services help to contain costs by reducing the length of stay, decreasing the need for sedation and analgesics, and increasing patient satisfaction ratings. Patient experience data and interdisciplinary team member feedback further confirm the positive effects of child life programs on children, families, and staff.
Coronavirus Family Relief Grants
According to the Psychosocial Standards of Care, family financial hardship is a burden of childhood cancer treatment and this hardship negatively impacts family well-being. The need for financial support of the childhood cancer community is even greater during the Pandemic. Which is why Mattie Miracle established the Coronavirus Family Relief Grant program at Children's Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore, MD. We donated $10,000 to the Hospital to directly support families facing financial hardships. With the long term financial impact of the virus, families of children with cancer are facing job loss, a reduction in salary, housing concerns, and inadequate health insurance coverage.
We are proud to report that these grants have helped families pay:
$10,000 Coronavirus Family Relief Grant Program
April 2, 2020
Our thoughts are with you and your family as our nation faces one of the worst health crises of our time. The Coronavirus impacts our entire way of life and influences how we feel about our safety, security, and future. Yet can you imagine having to cope with this crisis and be a parent of a child with cancer?
Children with cancer and their families face the unimaginable everyday, yet the Coronavirus has provided additional stressors on children with cancer and their families. Families are facing:
heightened anxiety about being at risk for COVID-19
loss of health insurance
treatments and surgeries being postponed
feeling disconnected from their child's treatment team
stress when taking their child to follow-up visits and appointments
isolation from immediate family members because children with cancer are immuno-compromised (visitation restrictions allow only one caregiver in a hospital room)
fear when leaving home for essential items
helplessness and a lack of control
Due to these extraordinary hardships, Mattie Miracle established the Coronavirus Family Relief Grants at Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD). We have committed to donate $10,000 to the Hospital, so that families of children with cancer can get the financial assistance they need during this crisis. These grants will help families pay for groceries, bills, and other expenses.
Bridging Communications During the Pandemic
April 2, 2020
Mattie Miracle is aware of the heightened level of isolation children with cancer and their families are experiencing due to the Coronavirus pandemic. For the safety of patients, most hospitals have visitation restrictions and therefore only one caregiver is allowed to stay with a pediatric patient. This is causing families to be separated above and beyond the typical impact of cancer treatment. On April 2, Mattie Miracle donated $2,000 worth of items to Children's Hospital at Sinai to help unite families and friends and bridge the communications gap caused by the pandemic.
The following items were donated:
Standzout Medmount Mobile Secure Tablet Mount (4)
Lovebox Spinning Heart Messenger (2)
Long Distance Friendship Lamp (4)
These items will use technology to enable children and caregivers to connect with brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, and friends. We are committed to helping children with cancer and their families and we believe that the Coronavirus Family Relief Grant and these items to assist with communication are needed above and beyond the annual psychosocial support we provide.
A message of thanks from Children's Hospital at Sinai:
Sinai Hospital and LifeBridge Health are enormously grateful for the support of the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Through the Mattie Miracle Coronavirus Family Relief Grant, they will make a tremendous difference for the pediatric cancer patients and families at Sinai, supporting them with financial and other hardships they are unexpectedly facing because of the virus. Vicki and Peter Brown know firsthand the isolation that children undergoing cancer treatment and their families experience, isolation that is now exacerbated by the increased precautions related to the coronavirus. In addition to financial support, they have helped to lessen that isolation by purchasing iPad/tablet stands, love box spinning heart messaging systems, and long-distance friendship lamps, which will use technology to help the young patients at the Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai stay in contact with family and friends. In a time of unprecedented challenges, we are proud to be able to accept their generosity on behalf of the pediatric oncology patients and families we serve.
Funding Full-Time Child Life Professional
February 28, 2020
On February 28, we donated $46,000 to the Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund at Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD). This fund pays the full-time salary of our child life specialist, Adina Levitan. Child Life Specialists provide evidence-based, developmentally appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation and education that reduce fear, anxiety, and pain for children and their families.
Adina has been our child life specialist since November of 2018. In this short time, she has become an invaluable part of the treatment team. The story below, highlights the difference Adina is making in the lives of children and how meeting the psychosocial needs of children with cancer improves quality of life and health outcomes.
My daughter, A., is a spunky, likes to be in control, book and art obsessed 4-year-old. Her diagnosis of brain cancer came out of the clear blue and hit all of us hard in December of 2019. Going from normal life to hospital life was hard, especially for A. She was used to being active and doing things. Ms. Adina was one of the first people A. met upon being admitted for her port and G-tube surgery before chemo. A. instantly bonded with Ms. Adina and was so excited over the little surprises she would bring her. A. literally went nuts over the playroom and all the art she could do, a kitchen to play in, and tons of books to read. When A. was super sick after chemo, Ms. Adina brought A. art supplies to her room, movies, and was there for moral support. There were days A. would talk to NO one, including myself, except for Ms. Adina. She helped A. get through some very low times while she was super sick. She has brought various resources into A.’s room to help her cope with her hair loss. Books, gorgeous Disney princess crochet hats, and a bald Barbie to name a few. When I tell A. we have to go to the hospital for medicine, she starts to get nervous. But as soon as I say, “Ms. Adina will be there!” she perks right up, and tears dry. Ms. Adina is absolutely crucial to A.’s chemo journey and has helped her get through so much already. We are so thankful for her and the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation for providing such services here at Sinai. I can say for sure that A.’s chemo journey would be very different and much more difficult without this service. ~ Mother of a 4-year-old patient
Direct Psychosocial Support (April-June 2019)
Adina Levitan is the Mattie Miracle Child Life Professional at Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD). We are proud to support Adina's position as she enhances treatment outcomes and the quality of life for children with cancer and their families on a daily basis. We welcome you to view our recent three month overview which highlights our funded child and family focused interventions.
Successful 8th Annual Item Drive
April 15, 2019
We are very grateful to all our supporters of the 8th Annual Item Drive. You helped us make this community event a success. Mattie Miracle received items from all over the Country through our Amazon Wish List. All the items donated will go to help stock our Snack & Item Carts at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (Washington, DC) and Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD). Our Carts provide candy, nutritional snacks, drinks, and toiletries free of charge to parents caring for a child with cancer and other life threatening diseases. Check out some of the recent feedback we received:
1) We are extremely thankful for the Mattie Miracle Snack Cart for so many reasons! Not only for the yummy treats there are to choose from which, goes without saying, but for the happiness it brings just anticipating its arrival. I can attest to the fact that my child knows the day of the week it comes around and it is truly something he looks forward to. Being in the hospital for weeks at a time, there are only a few moments these kids look forward to and the Mattie Miracle cart has achieved just that! THANK YOU for all that you do to help make a very difficult time go away - if only for a moment!” ~ MedStar Georgetown Parent
2) I love the snack cart; the snack cart means to me that child-life and other organizations care about the patients and family members. It shows appreciation towards each family when a family doesn't have time to go get a snack. I am thankful for the snack cart because it is helpful for when a family runs out of toiletries. ~ MedStar Georgetown Parent
3) Is there a way we can pay this forward. I am going to check the website! ~ Children's Hospital at Sinai Parent
4) You are doing a beautiful thing. I've never seen anything like this before. It is pretty awesome! ~ Children's Hospital at Sinai Parent
5) I have truly enjoyed offering the Mattie Miracle Snack & Item Cart to parents spending extended stays at the hospital with their child. The reaction to the Cart is overwhelming! It provides parents the necessities such as toiletries they may have forgotten to pack as well as a variety of snacks and drinks. I enjoy meeting parents and kids but it also gives me an opportunity to check on the child's school situation. The Cart provides a foray into explaining and offering my educational support services to those who may be struggling with school decisions. I look forward to taking around the cart every week! ~ Christine Anninos, MedStar Georgetown Hospital Education Specialist
4th Child Life Specialist Funded by Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund
In July 2018, Mattie Miracle endowed its second Child Life Program Fund. This fund will be paying for the salary of Adina Levitan, at Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD). Adina is the 4th Child Life Specialist funded by Mattie Miracle since 2011.
Learn more about Adina:
Hello, my name is Adina Levitan and I am the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Child Life Specialist at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. I am so excited about the opportunity to provide child life and psychosocial services to the hematology/oncology population in the children’s hospital.
My interest in becoming a child life specialist began at the beginning of my college career. Prior to beginning my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to spend several summers working in a camp in Upstate New York for children with cancer and chronic illnesses. I was drawn to working with these children and found I was able to connect with them in the midst of their medical experiences. I considered many avenues of pediatrics and healthcare before a staff member in the camp told me about being a child life specialist. In that moment, it felt like a light bulb went off and everything clicked into place.
I began volunteering at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore. I enjoyed being able to provide play and socialization for the patients who were staying at Mt. Washington for extended rehabilitation. After completing my undergraduate degree, I began my Master’s degree at Towson University in Child Life. During my graduate schooling, I volunteered at Johns Hopkins Hospital on the Pediatric Clinical Research Unit and Pediatric Oncology Unit. Simultaneously, I completed a child life practicum at Sinai Hospital. From there I completed two more practicums at University of Maryland and Children’s National Health System. The highlight of my child life training was my internship at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York where I completed two rotations in the PICU and Emergency Department.
After completing my internship, I returned home to look for a position as a child life specialist which led me to Children’s National Medical Center where I worked for a year in the surgery center. A part of me always wanted to come back to Sinai Hospital because it is close to home, both physically and personally. As the hospital in my neighborhood, it is the place where my friends, family and community seek care and comfort during times of crisis. Especially for pediatric patients, the motto of Mattie Miracle could not be more fitting—“it is not just about the medicine,” and as the child life specialist working directly with children and their families, I have already been witness to the importance of psychosocial services for pediatrics. Whether I am preparing a patient for a procedure or planning a much-needed play activity, my role extends beyond the medicine and focuses on the child and their desire to learn, play and understand their hospital experience.
A $45,000 Mattie Miracle
July 26, 2018
The Foundation donated $45,000 to Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD) to create an endowed Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund. This is our second endowed Fund that we have established, as the first was created in 2011, at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (Washington, DC). To date, we have contributed over $245,000 to these Funds to support children with cancer and their families.
The Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund directly pays the salary of a child life professional. Child life specialists are pediatric health care professionals who work with children and families in hospitals to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness, and disability. They provide children with age-appropriate preparation for medical procedures, pain management, coping strategies, and play and self-expression activities. In addition, these professionals provide information, support, and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members.
In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Child life services should be delivered as part of an integrated patient- and family-centered model of care and included as a quality indicator in the delivery of services for children and families in health care settings. We are honored to support Children's Hospital at Sinai and are proud to enhance their child life services so that children and families in treatment have access to such vital psychosocial care.
Family Snack and Item Cart
Mattie Miracle funds and stocks the Mattie Miracle Free Family Snack and Item Cart at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (Washington, DC) and Children's Hospital at Sinai (Baltimore, MD). The carts revolve around the inpatient pediatric units and offers free snacks, drinks, and toiletry items to parents and caregivers of children who are unable to leave the units and get their basic needs met while caring for their children. On average, we donate over $10,000 worth of items to the carts per year. The Carts are supported by 110 individual donors, 35 schools, and 40 businesses and organizations.
The Foundation runs two successful item drives within the community every November and April to stock the cart. In November we collect around 15,000 pounds of post Halloween candy which is distributed to the following hospitals and organizations:
Children's Hospital at Sinai, Baltimore, MD
Children's Inn at NIH, Bethesda, MD
Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC
Hackerman-Patz House, Baltimore, MD
HSC Pediatric Center, Washington, DC
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC
Pediatric Specialists of Virginia (PSV), Falls Church, VA
Ronald McDonald House, Washington, DC
Ronald McDonald House, Falls Church, VA
Ronald McDonald House, Baltimore, MD
Special Love, Winchester, VA
Cornerstones, Reston, VA
Covenant House, Washington, DC
Embry Rucker Community Shelter, Reston, VA
Nourish Now, Rockville, MD
Sasha Bruce, Washington, DC
St. Ann's Center for Children, Youth, and Families, Hyattsville, MD
United Community Ministries, Alexandria, VA
Child Life Specialist Funded by Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund
Mattie Miracle is proud to be funding Morganne Bovee at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Morganne will be working with children and families on the weekends. Prior to establishing this position, the Hospital's playroom was closed to children on the weekends and children and families did not have access to a specialist to help them normalize the experience of living within a hospital setting as well as participate in social and creative activities on the weekends.
Learn more about Morganne:
Morganne was a college student volunteer at The University of Iowa Children’s Hospital when she first discovered the field of Child Life. As someone who was passionate about serving children, and already involved in her campus’ Dance Marathon (a nation-wide student-led philanthropy that benefits pediatric oncology patients and families) she was immediately interested in learning more about the profession and its unique role in providing psychosocial care in the hospital setting. Morganne graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in Therapeutic Recreation-Child Life and Psychology while also working as a Child Life Assistant. After graduating in May 2015, she spent the summer as an Intern at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, NC and began her first job as a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) at Inova Fairfax shortly after the completion of her internship. Morganne most recently spent a year working at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center as the Pre-Surgery/PACU Child Life Specialist before deciding to obtain her Master’s in Public Health from the George Washington University. The Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund pays the salary for this weekend position. Morganne is so excited to be able to continue working as a Child Life Specialist while also going to graduate school full-time. She is passionate about supporting children with chronic and long term health issues and working at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital reminds her of why she became a child life specialist in the first place.
Child Life Specialist Funded by Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund
Lerin is the most recent addition to the child life team at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and is directly funded through the Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund.
Lerin serves a vital role within the Hospital, since she works on the weekends. Weekends have historically been a time in which the Hospital's playroom has been closed, when there were no organized social activities planned, and most importantly children and families did not have access to the resources of a child life specialist.
A child life specialist is a professional who is specially trained to help children and their families understand and manage challenging life events and stressful healthcare experiences. These specialists are skilled in providing developmental, educational, and therapeutic interventions for children and their families under stress.
Mattie Miracle is happy to be working with Lerin and to have her as part of our team.
Endowed Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
In 2011, the Foundation created the Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. For three years the fund supported a child life specialist position who assisted over 3,500 children and families on scan and procedure days. Scans are done periodically during treatment to assess the effectiveness of the treatment and the progression of disease.
Prior to funding this professional, many children and families at the Hospital navigated the Hospital system on these anxiety provoking days alone. Therefore, parents were left to entertain their children, manage their children's anxiety, and their own as they waited for the procedure to be done. In addition, families also received scan results alone without the support of someone there to assist them with the news (e.g., such news could be that the cancer has spread or returned).
Mattie Miracle's yearly contribution to Georgetown enabled the psychological and social needs of children with cancer and their families to be effectively met. This position has now been subsumed by the Hospital, which enables us to support a child life weekend position.
Social Diversions --- Chocolate Therapy Workshop
Mattie Miracle understands the need for social and emotional diversions while enduring treatment and throughout all stages of one's cancer journey. The art of doing an activity while also talking and connecting with others is a forum that resonates with us.
Mattie Miracle teamed up with Alexandria, VA chocolatier, Robbin Warner, and found that chocolate therapy was a fun filled workshop at the Pediatric Lombardi Clinic of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Kids of all ages and their parents enjoyed the event and it was wonderful to see smiles everywhere! The smell of chocolate filled the air, it was intoxicating, and set the tone for a tasty distraction.