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Franklin Park Students Use Art To Bring Cheer To Hospitalized Children

Andre Hughes

Andre Hughes chose Max Steel as his superhero.

Andre Hughes’ task was to draw a superhero that would bring inspiration to a hospitalized child.

His choice? Max Steel. Why?

“Because he’s the only superhero that really gives kids hope,” Hughes said.

The Franklin Park School 4th grader was one of 50 who gathered in the school’s cafeteria Jan. 23 to begin a five-month program designed to bring cheer to children in hospitals. They were joined by about 20 volunteers from the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products’ information technology team, who acted as mentors.

The program is run by Soaringwords, a New York City based organization whose mission it is “to embrace hospitalized children, families and staff, encouraging positive health and healing,” according to the organization’s Web site.

For the initial project, called “SoaringSuperheroes,” the children were divided into groups – anchored by a J&J volunteer – where they drew superheroes that they knew of, or that they’d just invented. They were invited to also write short messages to the hospitalized children, then sign the art with their names and ages.

Later that day, the J&J volunteers delivered the drawings to children hospitalized at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick. The children there were then encouraged to also draw superhero cards, which would then be distributed to other sick children.

Soaringwords was founded in 2009 by Lisa Honig Buksbaum after she went through three familial health emergencies in 10 months: herbrother died suddenly, her father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and her oldest son developed Rheumatic Fever, leaving him with heart and neurological damage.

The program is now in 30 states and has a host of corporate sponsors, including J&J, Verizon Starbucks and IBM.

The students volunteered for the project, said school vice-principal Al Fico. Students were evaluated on several criteria, including their behavior and their academic performance.

Fico said he was contacted by Great Rozensweig, Soaringwords’ community relations manager, and asked if the school would like to participate in the program.

“It’s exciting for us because it fits into our character education program,” Fico said. “This program covers a large group  of those characteristics.”

Brett Mackiewicz, the J&J IT team leader, said the event was good for his team.

“It’s good for us to spend a day together, it’s good for the kids, and being able to go back to the hospital and put smiles on the faces (of the patients) is always a good thing,” he said.

Before they began, Buksbaum told the students of the effect they would have on the children: “You’re going to brighten their day, you’re going to make them feel so loved.”

Andre Hughes said he volunteered because “I want to make kids feel better.”

Stephanie Osaah-Asamoah

Stephanie Osaah-Asamoah said she wants to help sick children.

His schoolmate, Stephanie Osaah-Asamoah, said she did it because “because I love helping sick children.”

“I know there are a lot of people in the world who are sick and don’t have the chance to heal,” she said. “I want to give them hope and love.”

Buksbaum praised the children, calling them “delightful” and “really inspiring.”

“This is a magnificent school,” she said. “There is great leadership by the administration and the teachers. We’re very honored that we’re going to be working on a five-month program here.”

Volunteers and Soaringwords staff will return to the school one day in each of the next four months to lead the students in different projects, including posters, murals and haiku.

 

Franklin Park School's Soaringwords Program 1-23-14

Franklin Park School's Soaringwords Program 1-23-14

 

 

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