Lights, Camera, Action!
The broadcast is starting in a few seconds, and the energy in the air is electric. Katie Craft and Sadie Wilcox, hosts of this weekly TV show, sit poised behind their desk.
“Woohoo!” Katie shouts as the intern behind the camera counts down – “3, 2, 1” – and they’re live.
“Hi guys, welcome to the CHO Show,” Katie says, an ear-to-ear grin lighting up her face.
The show’s audience is relatively small but immensely appreciative: Throughout UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, young inpatients are tuning in from their hospital beds.
Since April 2014, a small but enthusiastic team has produced the CHO Show (that’s short for Children’s Hospital Oakland) for the hospital’s closed-circuit TV network every Wednesday at noon.
“To bring a little joy to these kids who go through so much is what motivates me” –Katie Craft, child life specialist
The live show was created to entertain patients who aren’t able to leave their rooms, and to give them a way to interact and connect with one another.
“We have all these wonderful hospital programs – music, art, school – but a lot of kids can’t join group activities,” she says. “So we wanted to give them something to look forward to and contribute to in whatever way they want.”
Weekly segments include patient shoutouts, fun facts, and jokes (submitted, and sometimes performed, by kids). During this episode, Sadie shares one patient’s original sneaker designs and another’s animated video of his dog Brownie. When viewers are invited to call in to answer trivia questions, the phones buzz to life immediately; prizes are delivered bedside after the show. There’s dancing and singing, and several uninterrupted minutes of kazoo music, a CHO Show staple.
Patients often watch the filming live, like one young girl who sits just off camera in a wheelchair, waving a sparkly pinwheel. After the broadcast, she heads back to her room with a brand new frog toy and a giant smile.
For artist-in-residence Sadie, the best thing about the show is the community it helps build. As many as 10 kids may be involved in the production of a single two-minute video, whether it be starring, filming, making art, or editing.
These shared opportunities for creativity can spark meaningful connections. Marco, a patient with the lung disease cystic fibrosis (CF), once made a video explaining his condition, including the tube that delivers nutrients to his stomach. Another CF patient learned about the “G-tube” when he saw Marco’s video on the show, so he knew what to expect when it came time to get his own. The two boys, who can’t be in the same room due to their shared condition, ended up meeting via a video chat, which was also broadcast on the show.
Katie, a child life specialist, sums up her passion for the project in two words: “authentic joy.”
“To be able to bring a little joy to these kids who go through so much is what motivates me,” she says. “Some kids may be here for one day, but some are here for months or even years. The show is always there for them.”See clips from the CHO Show here.