The 55th annual Variety Kids telethon, in support of Women and Children’s Hospital, takes place on Sunday, April 2.
For some families, the hospital becomes a home away from home, especially for kids with chronic illness.
The hospital has now created a program to help bring the children together, so they have companions along their medical journey. It’s called Stones Buddies.
Ethan Pennell has an undiagnosed autoimmune, auto-inflammatory disorder. His body rejects his own lungs.
Ian Cameron has Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia and is paralyzed from cancer when he was a baby.
William Lucas was born weighing one pound, four ounces. He’s 9-years-old, and has had 16 brain surgeries.
The three have become best buddies, thanks to a patient support program called Stone’s Buddies at Women and Children’s Hospital.
"It's very important to have healthy happy fun association with the hospital because most of the time we're here, it's not that, " says Kerri Lucas, William's mom.
"If they have to be in the hospital, at least they feel like they have other people that know what they're going through, particularly kids their age, it really helps them get better and it helps them not feel alone," says Joann Kessler, director of Stones Buddies.
Patients of all ages take advantage of the program.
Mary Teresa Comerate and Amanda Bergman each have a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. When they’re not in the hospital together, the 14-year-old girls are texting or calling each other to talk about just everything.
"Different things about medicine, hospitalization, doctors, but also school and um music and like stuffed animals," says Bergman.
The families here are the hospital’s “frequent flyers”. Here for years, weeks at a time. But thanks to Stones Buddies, the patients know they’ve got plenty of friends to lean on.