March is Child Life Month! Wishing all the best to child life specialists everywhere!

ubleongIMG_1718Child Life Specialist have been involved in developing, planning and delivering many Phoenix Society programs and resources.

Markelle Springsteen  was first introduced to the burn survivor population from one of her child life mentors, Donna Trentel.  Donna, a skilled specialist  who has volunteered with Phoenix Society for many years and most recently has been heavily involved in the UBelong program at World Burn Congress, invited her to volunteer at the family burn camp near Estes Park, CO.  According to Markelle, “It was an eye-opening experience to see how surviving a burn impacted the entire family”.   When she took the job at Children’s Hospital Colorado, one of the clinics that she provided coverage to was Burn Clinic.

Markelle is highly skilled at facilitating groups and working with kids and teens. At Children’s Hospital Colorado, she co-leads a Seizure Class, an Epilepsy Camp and she has facilitated a bereavement group for children who have had someone close to them die.  Beyond this, Markelle has been on four Operation Smile trips, where she served as the child life specialist on each mission.  She has volunteered in Kenya, Ethiopia, India and Mexico.  So, last year when The Phoenix Society called me looking for a “rock star child life specialist” to volunteer with the UBelong Program, I knew just who to ask. 

According to Markelle, being a part of Phoenix Society’s  UBelong program was a wonderfully insightful opportunity.  She learned a great deal from the kids and from the highly trained, expert staff. She experienced the impact that a burn can have on the entire family.  The kids also taught her about resiliency.  “The UBelong program draws on strengths of others, normalizes the participants’ experiences and teaches valuable skills.  In my short time with this program, I see how powerful it is for everyone involved and you cannot get this anywhere else.  As a professional, having these experiences also re-energizes me and continues to give me passion for my Child Life role”.  

When asked how the experience impacted her child life practice Markelle said, “I am able to use the resources, training and communication skills that I learned through this program in several areas of my child life role”. Much of what is taught and experienced in the program can be applied to other types of diagnoses and/or injuries. Markelle says that participating in WBC and the UBelong program has advanced her professional knowledge. She will always be mindful of the fact that the whole family is impacted (which is the essence of the Patient and Family Centered Care Philosophy) and the huge impact that peer interactions can have. 

Phoenix Society has continued her involvement as a volunteer by inviting her to help plan UBelong 2013.  As part of the Planning  Committee, she is now part of the team designing the program for Phoenix Society’s  World Burn Congress UBelong program in Rhode Island. Markelle epitomizes the Child Life profession.  She has a strong knowledge of child development and the impact that trauma and illness can have on it. She takes her skills and applies them to any situation. Most importantly, she has an amazing talent in effectively working with children in group situations.  The kids and their families all really connected with Markelle….it’s not hard to see why!

Special thanks to all the Child Life Specialists who volunteer with Phoenix Society and dedicate their daily work to supporting children and families who are recovering from burn injury.  Your specialized skills help kids to thrive again!

Carla Oliver

“Carla Oliver is the manager of the Therapeutic Recreation/Child Life Department at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She has practiced in the field of child life for more than twenty years, with the  majority of her career  dedicated to working with pediatric burn survivors and their families. Carla is a member of the mental health team for the World Burn Congress and has co-presented the parent workshop for 4 years at WBC, and will be presenting it in WBC 2013. Carla is also on the slate to be President-elect of the Child Life Council in May 2013”

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