Painting a positive outlook: Pediatric wing of Chester County Hospital gets a new look, and a lot of smiles
People visiting Chester County Hospital's pediatric wing may think they have wandered into a child's play room with the lively murals painted on the hallway walls.
Rabbits in ballet slippers, dragons, pigs decked out in kitchen aprons and happy little children dance across the walls.
Visitors hardly notice the nurses' station in the middle of the wing.
The murals and a well-equipped playroom, donated by the Philadelphia chapter of Little Smiles, are an attempt to boost the spirits of the youngest of patients in the 15-bed unit.
"I think the patients are more eager to get out of bed and walk around. If you go into a room and examine a child, they are sullen and grumpy but once they go out into the hallway and see they murals, they perk up," said Dr. Karen Pinsky, head of the West Chester hospital's pediatric unit.
At the sme time, the murals have had a positive effect on staff.
"It's been pretty noticeable. It's very lively and uplifting," said Pinsky.
Little Smiles helps children in hospitals, hospices and shelters by providing toys, gifts and trips.
The gift, whether it is a trip to see "The Lion King" in New York City or a meet and greet with the Philadelphia Phillies, is tailored to the interests of the child.
"The goal is to put a smile on their face," said Kathy Urbine, a nurse in the pediatric wing who is also on the board of directors of Little Smiles.
Some of the patients have chronic illnesses and some are not as seriously sick. Being in the hospital is difficult on all children.
"I think if you're a child and have been admitted to the hospital, it's a little scary," said Lori Plans, a nurse in the pediatric unit.
"The murals and the playroom make it a little less scary. There have been kids who don't want to go home," said Plans.
The floating mice and rabbits in ballet slippers spring from the imagination of artist Lou Marshall of Unionville. Marshall, and her company LouLou's Whimsicals, specializes in murals for residential and commercial clients. She is creative director of Little Smiles and is also on its board of directors.
Little Smiles was founded in 1999 by Chip Donahue, a graduate of Villanova University.
Working with nurses and caregivers at a group of hospitals in Philadelphia and the suburbs, the charity finds out what kind of toys and electronic items individual children want.
"Nurses and social workers ? they get to know these kids and they know what the kids want," said Kate Patterson, executive administrator at Little Smiles' office in Kennett Square.
Some of the things that kids want and Little Smiles provides are iPods, DVDs, laptops, a trip to Hershey Park.
"This weekend we have a whole family going to Hershey Park," Patterson said Oct. 22.
The child was recently released from the hospital but is terminally ill.
Some of the hospitals Little Smiles works with are St. Christopher, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr Hospital's pediatric wing, Chester County Hospital, A.I. Dupont in Wilmington, Del., and the Ronald McDonald House of Philadelphia.
In 2009, Little Smiles decided to make-over the playroom at Chester County Hospital. Marshall painted murals and incorporated a series of ceramic tiles that children had painted through the group Chester County Mothers of Multiples. They put in new furniture, cabinets and carpeting and then added a flat-screen TV with video game capability and computers.
In 2010, Little Smiles took the same motif out into the hallway, painting murals and putting down new floorinig.
"Bryn Mawr's pediatric unit is interested in something similiar," said Peterson.
Little Smiles raises money to help the children through three major fundraisers annually.
The biggest one is called the Stars Ball and features 16 children dressed in tuxedos and gowns and transported by limousine. The children give autographs. This year's gala was held at the Please Touch Museum.