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Nonprofit That Helps Teenagers Dealing With Life-Threatening Illnesses

This is a guest post from Wish Upon A Teen’s Founder And President, Michelle Soto

It’s not surprising that teenagers living with chronic or life-threatening medical conditions often experience low self-esteem and tremendous anxiety about their circumstances.  That’s why Wish Upon a Teen, a non-profit organization based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan is doing something about it with its signature Design My Room program.

I remember first-hand working at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA in California.The sad truth is that most hospitals do not understand what teens want or need. When I worked as a Child Life Specialist, I frequently had to tell 16-year-old cancer patients that, in addition to going through chemo, potentially losing his or her leg—and hair—that we also had no programs or resources for teens. If you were not into balloon animals, toys for tots, or magicians, then we were pretty much fresh out of programming. The hospital rooms weren’t any better, there never seemed to be that opportune moment to ask the 16-year-old if she or he would rather have a Winnie-the-Pooh-themed room for her 9-week stay or if Mickey and Minnie were sufficient. On one especially bad day at work, when I had seen enough disappointed and lost faces of teens with cancer, I made a promise to myself: I would find a way to provide the programming and resources that my teenagers needed and longed for.

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Michelle Soto

Since 2011, working with referrals from hospitals throughout the country,Wish Upon a Teen’s Design My Room volunteers are given exclusive access to a teen’s hospital room and allowed to redecorate it to feel more comforting and relaxing – more like “home”.  Every Design My Room project includes bringing in new bedding, rugs, posters and even movie or sports memorabilia, all according to the teen’s individual interests and tastes. And, when the teen is discharged from the hospital, they can take everything home with them to use however they want.

It’s amazing to see how Wish Upon a Teen’s Design My Room makeover can have such a positive impact on a teenager’s sense of well-being as the reviews pour in from parents and hospital staff. The following are a few testimonials.

“It truly made all the difference.  Suddenly, it was HIS room and it was like he wasn’t in the hospital anymore.  Everything is so awesome!”

– PT’s Mother

“Emma is at Rady Children’s Hospital and getting ready for a very frightening procedure.  She has been so sick for so long and it makes me so happy to see the smile on her face.  Thanks and bless you for your good works. “

– Catherine

“Thank you so much for making some serious magic happen at Children’s Hospital Oakland.  Our patient absolutely LOVED her room decorations.  She said she doesn’t feel like she’s in the hospital but in her own room.  This definitely lifted her spirits.”

– Katie Craft, Certified Child Life Specialist

The patient loved her room so much she started to cry when she first saw it.  Thank you so much!

– Remi Dietz, MS, CCLS at Miller Children’s Hospital

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With its Design My Room program, Wish Upon a Teen has proven that it’s not the size of the project that matters, it the results.  For more information, please visit http://www.wishuponateen.org

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