By Doug McPherson
Sometimes the word philanthropy seems absurdly deficient to describe the good deeds in this world.
Take Ethan for example – not his real name. He’s only six – that age when the excitement for Christmas presents looks something like opening a shaken bottle of Coca-Cola. But Ethan will be lucky to make it to Christmas this year. Instead of fighting unbounded anticipation of what a wrapped box might hold, he’s fighting neuroblastoma, a despicable cancer that often chooses children as its victim.
It’s a scenario that plays over and over like a recurring nightmare at Children’s Hospital Colorado. The best the doctors can do is apply the latest research and medicines. And the best the rest of us can do is perhaps follow the example of a sorority at MSU Denver – give money to make children’s time in the hospital more palatable.
This fall Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority finished a worthy goal: raising $50,000, an endowment to help fund therapy services for Ethan and his fellow patients at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
The hospital employs child life therapists, trained professionals who help children cope with their illnesses and treatments through something children understand much better than adults – play.
“Child life therapists use play therapy … to help children understand the hospital, what’ll be happening in their treatment … to normalize their experience,” says Amy Stewart, philanthropy director of annual giving at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
An example: therapists will use special dolls with intravenous lines to show children in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders what part of their treatment will look like. “The doll gives a visual, tangible example of the equipment they will see, and they can touch, feel and relate to the doll,” Stewart says.
It is a yeoman’s work and Tri-Sigma is no stranger to funding it.
“We take every opportunity that we have to give back to Children’s Hospital Colorado,” says Sydney Privette, Tri Sigma chapter president at MSU Denver.
Privette says the sorority, both nationally and locally, has a long and rich history of philanthropy surrounding children – philanthropy born from personal tragedy.
The sorority’s first official philanthropic partner was the Robbie Page Memorial Fund to fight polio. Page was the son of Tri Sigma’s fourth national president. He died from polio at age 5 in 1951.
Privette says once the polio vaccine was discovered, the sorority shifted its giving to therapeutic play.
The $50,000 gift isn’t the sorority’s first gift to Children’s Hospital Colorado. In 2013, the chapter gave $15,000 to help build a child life activity room at the hospital’s south campus in Highlands Ranch. In 2016, the chapter helped buy a Vecta Distraction Station, a machine that transforms scary exam rooms into a play rooms with music, colorful bubbles, and projections of fun images onto walls, ceilings and floors.
“Some members of Tri Sigma have a personal connection to Children’s Hospital Colorado because they received treatment there,” says Privette. “And even though our partnership with Children’s Hospital began long before these women were members of the sorority, it makes it extra special for us to give back to the organization that helped keep our sisters healthy.”
Stewart calls Tri Sigma’s giving and compassion “incredible.”
“Their support for more than 20 years has provided opportunities for countless numbers of children to learn, process, play and heal,” Stewart says. “It’s been an honor to work with them and we look forward to our continued partnership.”
Privette says she feels “incredibly humbled” by the experience.
“In a perfect world, no child should ever have to deal with a serious illness, but that's not how life works. We just hope our gift and partnering with the hospital can help children feel a little more like children and heal more quickly.”
She adds that Tri Sigma is built upon the idea, "To receive much, you must give much."
“I think I speak for all Tri Sigmas by saying that we receive so much satisfaction and joy just by knowing that the children are able to receive better care and have a higher quality of life.”
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