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Take the Lead: Child Life Specialists bring healing and hope to children and families

One of the ways that member hospitals of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals change kids’ health is by supporting the emotional and mental health needs of young patients and their families through Child Life programs and specialists. 

Child Life programs and specialists at our member hospitals provide comfort, joy, and a sense of normalcy for hospitalized kids through art therapy, music therapy, pet therapy, and play activities. They also help children and families cope with the trauma of a life-threatening illness or injury, a mental health crisis, or death, allowing them to express their feelings and move forward with hope. 

In celebration of Child Life Month, our national corporate partner Ace Hardware, with support from vendor Benjamin Moore, is proud to present the Child Life Specialist of the Year Award to Kaitlyn Lavery Schenk. This award honors the hard work, compassion, and generosity of Child Life Specialists like Kaitlyn and brings awareness to the need for Child Life funding at local member children’s hospitals. A $20,000 donation from the Ace Hardware Foundation will be given to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio in Kaitlyn’s name to be used unrestrictedly. 

Kaitlyn works in the Emergency Department at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Coworkers nominated her for the compassionate support she provides to patients and families, not only in the Emergency Department where she works but throughout the hospital, the city of San Antonio, and even the state of Texas. 

Kaitlyn is a talented artist who uses her talent to create lasting, loving memorials for families who suffer the loss of a child, such as calligraphy on canvases and works of art from handprints and footprints of patients. Families cherish these items for a lifetime. 

She has also helped children and families coping with a mental health crisis by creating books with photos and information to prepare them for transfer to a local mental health facility. 

And in May 2022, when the tragic school shooting in Uvalde occurred, Kaitlyn and other team members rushed to Uvalde Memorial Hospital to support staff and children affected by the trauma, providing therapeutic activities and educational resources. 

Kaitlyn’s story is an inspiration and demonstrates the critical need for funding for Child Life staff and programs to soothe the souls and heal the minds of children and families traumatized by illness or injury  

In 2021, nearly one-quarter of the $411 million raised by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals provided services addressing the overall well-being of patients and families, such as Child Life. And the need for these services continues to grow as we cope with the after-effects of the pandemic and a surge in mental health conditions in children and adolescents. 

You can support the critical work of Child Life Specialists at your local member hospital of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by making a donation at