Many profound experiences happen when performers go to a hospital and interact with the kids and families there. This is what makes these concerts so special. Here is a sampling of stories from various performers:
From Chris Campbell:
During one of my visits, I went to the room of a young boy who was accompanied by his mother. I said my hello and chose to talk about UVA sports as I could tell from the autographed posters in the room that he was a big UVA fan and had been visited by several of the college athletes. I though it would hit the mark, but he didn’t talk to me at all and it was obvious he didn’t feel well and didn’t really care for me being there. So, I grabbed my guitar and went right into a song. After the first verse, the boy turned to his Mom and cracked a smile. His Mom turned to the window as to not show her emotion. I finished the song, finally shared some words with the boy, said my goodbyes and headed to the next room. Later that morning, the Education Director told me how touched the boy’s mother was by the visit and that she had asked how she could donate to Pickleberry Pie. I was a bit floored by that. Evidently her son had not made any kind of smile or happy expression in months. With a simple personal visit and a song, some light entered the room and a mother and son were about to experience a moment they hadn’t for a while. A beautiful family moment, an appreciative parent, and an encouragement for me to continue sharing this way at UVA Children’s Hospital whenever I have the opportunity.
From Bill Wellington:
There was one teenage girl who was there for a regular treatment which involved putting an IV in her arm. This girl was almost phobic about the procedure and I could hear her crying and yelling before I went in the room. I had no idea what to do, so I simply sat and played a banjo tune without saying much. I began to talk calmly to her about music and the different instruments. She became more and more interested and calmed down considerably. While I can’t say I cured her fears, I do think that the simple distraction was beneficial, and the calming effect of music was apparent.
From Silly Goose & Val:
Val Smalkin, remembers a hospital visit where a little girl was so very sick and angry about being in the hospital that she made sarcastic and destructive remarks about Val’s puppet, Silly Goose. “I think she’ll break her leg.” Or, “Maybe she’ll get squashed.” The lovely news is that 15 minutes into Silly Goose & Val’s songs and comedy, that same little girl was smiling and ready to give a hearty hug to Val and her puppets. Comedy and music are healing, for sure.
From Two of a Kind:
We were visiting a hospital on New Year’s Eve day and we went to the room of a baby all hooked up to machines. His parents and grandparents were there and a lot of doctors and nurses. We sang “Twinkle, Twinkle” and “Wheels on the Bus.” The baby looked at us. His mother asked if we would sing his favorite song, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.” When we sang it, everybody joined in and the baby smiled. This made all the parents and grandparents cry and we knew it was a very emotional moment. Several months later, the family tracked us down and let us know that their baby J.R. died the next morning, but that our visit and J.R.’s smile were a precious memory for the family.
From Courtney Campbell:
I was performing in southern California. I entered a hospital room occupied by a mother who was sitting up in the hospital bed holding her 18-month baby boy. His little body was covered with an array of IVs and colored wires attached to monitors. The child’s grandmother sat in a chair nearby. The baby was listless when I entered. The mother said that he loved music and he used to clap and enjoy it. But he had been unresponsive to it for the last month. Her sorrow was palpable.
I started to sing and play my guitar, carefully so as not to startle the child. At the end of the first verse the baby boy opened his eyes and turned to look at me. The mother spoke, gently encouraging him. I began the second verse and a flash of a smile spread through the baby’s face and then he clapped his little hands. The mother started crying and clapping with him. I kept singing and playing and he kept clapping. The grandmother started to cry and clap. When the song was over the listlessness in the child was replaced with a smile, a more alert child. The mother was still crying, hugging that little boy, talking to him, so happy he had responded and was more alive again. It was a beautiful moment for all of us. It was for me a continuing testament to the true healing power of music.