Magic is more than just making a rabbit instantly appear out of a top hat. The ability to make a child smile, to brighten their spirits after numerous surgeries is magic, too.
For many University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital patients, sitting in a hospital room for days-upon-days can bring a sense of sadness and isolation. One of C.S. Mott's newest volunteer groups, the Open Heart Magic program, aims to help patients simply smile and relax.
Open Heart Magic (OHM) was founded 15 years ago in Chicago-area hospitals, and the organization recently expanded to the U-M in 2015. In 2015 alone, OHM reached over 9,400 pediatric patients in the Chicago area.
Anne McNeil, a supporter who teamed with Beckman Foundation to provide $10,000 and start the OHM program at Mott, understands why the program matters.
"As a mom, I can appreciate how important it is to keep children's spirits up when they are not feeling well," says McNeil. "The Open Heart magicians are a wonderful addition to the already great things that C.S. Mott does to help make these challenging times a little better."
The typical training time for OHM magicians is a 12-week program, followed by a hospital orientation. Currently at
Mott, the OHM team of seven sees patients once during the week. The goal, with enough economic support, is to increase the number of volunteers so that patients have the chance to see magicians perform more frequently.
"From a more social and emotional standpoint, I hope [the children] gain a little comfort from knowing that other people care about them," says McNeil. "Giving a child the gift of laughter, joy and one-on-one attention is priceless."