Nonprofits Offer Kids In Hospitals Across The Country Opportunities To Continue Learning Through Free Online Lessons

According to Groff, Starlight Online STEAM Coaching was a rewarding experience for Zoe that boosted her confidence in building relationships. Her twin sister, Chloe, also took STEAM classes.

Zoe is no stranger to hospitals. Born 34 weeks premature and with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) — a serious condition in which half of the heart is underdeveloped — the family risked risky open-heart surgery when she was just 4 days old. The surgeon told Groff that Zoe’s survival rate would be low. Fortunately for the family, the risk paid off. However, Zoe continues to struggle through her complex medical journey, including two more open-heart surgeries, multiple bowel surgeries, a bleeding disorder, and functional rumination syndrome.

During one of her hospital visits in University of Nebraska Medical Center in omaha, near her hometown, Child Life Specialist presented Groff with a STEAM coaching flyer and explained how patients are matched with certified volunteer coaches who teach STEAM topics, including baking. Zoe, who is often shy and quiet, welcomed the opportunity to take private baking lessons and signed up.

On the day of her first lesson, Zoe ended up in the hospital. Unsure how this arrangement would work, Groff considered canceling. However, thanks to the creativity of the trainer and the support of the hospital staff, Zoe was able to continue with her first baking lesson.

“The two ended up making chocolate covered strawberries. The nurses were accommodating and let us use the microwave to melt the chocolate. It was overwhelming in a good way, and Zoe was thrilled that we didn’t have to cancel classes,” said Groff.

Canceling and postponing activities is something Zoe has grown accustomed to due to frequent hospital stays and doctor appointments. But for once, this was a comforting change.

As her condition worsened, Zoe was referred to the Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minnesota400 miles away from their home in Lincoln, Nebraska. In the days that followed, she was hospitalized for functional rumination syndrome, a gastrointestinal condition that causes vomiting. Unfortunately, this also meant that the twins would be separated again.

With the accessibility of Online STEAM Coaching, Zoe was able to continue her classes at another out-of-state hospital.

Like Zoe, her coach is also on a dietary restriction for medical reasons. This shared experience welded the two together. To celebrate Zoe’s birthday March 12th, her trainer adapted a recipe so she can bake and eat a cake on her special day. It was truly a special occasion for Zoe, who dreaded a birthday without a cake and her twin sister next to her.

The program consists of eight one-hour lessons, at times appropriate for both the student and the trainer. However, it was such a positive experience for Zoe that they extended classes.

“There was a tremendous bond between them, and it worked so well,” Groff said. “The STEAM coaching sessions should last four weeks. We are in the third month with the same coach.”

According to Groff, Chloe’s experience started off strong, but with her mother and sister away for many weeks, they had to put things on hold until they returned Rochester. With the family back together in LincolnChloe has recently connected with her new trainer and is excited to resume arts and crafts classes.

Adam GaroneCEO of Starlight Children’s Foundation, said, “Zoe’s story is an excellent example of how chronically ill children and their siblings can benefit from online STEAM coaching. This program connects and engages children with coaches wherever they are located Choose learning activities that they do while encouraging creative problem-solving skills. We are proud of this initiative and grateful for the partnership with CoachArt, which supports us in our mission to bring joy to more children like the Groffs.”

That The angel-based nonprofits began the partnership over a year ago as Garone and his team sought to expand their educational program to fill the gap when serious illnesses disrupt extracurricular and academic activities for chronically ill children.

According to Garone, it was a perfect match. Starlight wanted to leverage CoachArt’s infrastructure to match children with volunteer coaches, while CoachArt wanted to grow through Starlight’s network of over 800 hospital partners nationwide. The group also expanded the curriculum to include other subjects beyond the original model, which only offered arts and physical education classes. This is how STEAM Coaching was born.

Greg Harrell-EdgeCoachArt Executive Director, said, “Thanks to our partnership with Starlight, more children affected by chronic childhood illnesses have more opportunities to learn and grow together than ever before.”

Volunteer trainers can register hereby choosing the subjects they want to teach. As part of the registration process, volunteers must complete a background check. In addition, the group provides lesson plans for the trainers and materials for trainers and students.

“STEAM Coaching is a great program. It helps keep patients busy and engaged so they aren’t focused on being in the hospital or being apart from their siblings,” Groff said.

Local communities can also play a role in Starlight’s educational program. Donations are accepted on the website with a click here or visit

About the Starlight Children’s Foundation
The Starlight Children’s Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to bringing happiness to children who are seriously ill or injured and their families. Since 1982, Starlight’s groundbreaking and innovative programs such as Starlight Virtual Reality, Starlight hospital uniformand Starlight Gaminghave impacted 21 million children in more than 800 children’s hospitals across the United States

To learn more and to help Starlight bring happiness to seriously ill children, visit us and continue to follow Starlight Facebook, Instagramand Twitter.

Contact: Rick JardiolinDirector of Public Relations and Communications
424-245-3675 | [email protected]

About CoachArt
CoachArt is a 501(c)3 organization creating a transformative arts and sports community for families affected by chronic childhood illnesses. Since 2001, CoactArt has been placing volunteer coaches with children for free one-to-one or group art and athletics classes, and providing all class materials. To join please visit Follow CoachArt on Facebook, Instagram, Twitterand LinkedIn.

Contact: Ben Carlsonpublic relation
415-497-9342 | [email protected]

SOURCE Starlight Children’s Foundation

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