Project Imagine takes hospitalized children on trips to far-off lands for amazing adventures. It’s all done right from their hospital bed and requires no frequent flier miles, just a vivid imagination. When the children are finished illustrating and writing their story, the components are professionally bound into book form and presented to the child.
Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, 657 N. Town Center Drive, plans to host its first Kaleidoscope event, a children’s art auction, from noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 26 in the main lobby. The event is set to include a silent auction and sale table. Proceeds will go to the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation, which helps fund Project Imagine.
“A lot of these children are very, very talented,” said Melissa Cipriano, executive director of Candlelighters. “… We’ve got some really talented youngsters who express themselves through art, and they can be very creative. That’s what’s so great about the program, it’s helping those children find a fun way to express themselves through this healing arts program.”
The Children’s Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital can handle 29 patients, 12 of them in intensive care. It deals with children from infants to age 18.
When they come in, “they’re pretty fearful,” said Jody Miles, child life specialist at Children’s Medical Center. “This is an environment which is very unfamiliar to them. Likely they’ve had an experience at a doctor’s office, a primary care facility, where they usually encounter shots. So that’s their only frame of reference when they come here.”
She said Project Imagine helps decrease anxiety and offers a more playlike atmosphere.
“I’ve noticed children who were reluctant to interact with staff members become bright and cheerful and talkative just by having the opportunity to paint,” Miles said.
One of the children at Children’s Medical Center who benefits from Project Imagine is Taylor Hammond, 6. Taylor experienced flulike symptoms earlier this year — body aches, a temperature, lethargy — that came and went. While home from kindergarten on President’s Day in February and enjoying a nap, he woke up, grabbing his chest and screaming in pain. His mother, Nicole, rushed him to Centennial Hills Hospital.
“By the time we got there, he could hardly walk,” she said. “They did lab work on him and … it came back crazy.”
Taylor was packed up in an ambulance and rushed to Summerlin Hospital. There, he was in the pediatric intensive care unit for a week, diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive form of leukemia. He was put on a regimen of chemotherapy.
“We told him that there were soldiers in his blood, and they were asleep and that this medicine would help wake them up so they could fight all the germs,” Hammond said.
For his latest chemotherapy, he is kept at Summerlin Hospital for a week every other week. There, Project Imagine is one of the bright spots to his day, his mother said.
“They’ll come in all smiles and happy and go, ‘Hey, what do you want to do today?’ as if they were asking him to a party,” she said of the Project Imagine group. “There are no sad faces. It’s as if they’re there for some (fun) reason.”
Through Project Imagine, Taylor has done pictures of dragons and a bat that he turned into a kite. He qualified for a bone marrow transplant, but, in a registry of 17 million donors, only one person was a match.
When told her bone marrow needed to be harvested, that person initially said “yes,” but later reneged, leaving Taylor with only chemo treatments to try to get him better. If he had had the bone marrow transplant, his chances of survival would be 60 percent, his mother said.
Without it, “they are very, very low,” Hammond said. “I don’t know the exact number … We just have to be at peace with whatever happens.”
Chartered in 1978, Candlelighters serves about 100 families monthly and as many as 600 families each year. The economy has played a major part in straining its finances.
How tough is finding funding these days?
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.