Entourage offers younger volunteers the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of  peers living with illnesses.

Entourage offers younger volunteers the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of peers living with illnesses.

A unique collaboration between Chai Lifeline Mid-Atlantic and Johns Hopkins Medical Center is integrating young volunteers into Chai Lifeline while creating exciting programs for children battling a number of medical conditions.

Entourage is the brainchild of Tzvi Haber, the region’s director of programming. The program is named for the teams of volunteers who plan and execute the activities.

“We work with the child life and social work departments of Johns Hopkins to create programs that all children will enjoy,” explained Haber. “Each month a different Entourage group plans a program that all pediatric patients on a specific ward or in a clinic can participate in and enjoy.” He emphasized that programs are not specific to children with cancer, but encompass all pediatric departments.

“Our goal is to be a force for positivity and professionalism within the hospital.”

The first Entourage event involved a team from the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore. The boys worked with the child life staff to build a multi-station obstacle course for remote-controlled cars on the 11th floor lounge of one of the hospital buildings. They invited all the children on the pediatric ward to come play.

“It was incredible. There were about 20 kids playing with the cars and completing the course. Kids were laughing and playing and having fun. They were able to forget they were in the hospital while they were there,” said Haber. He added that doctors and nurses stopped by during the activity, giving Chai Lifeline a chance to expand its profile in the hospital.

“This is really a win-win-win,” he concluded. “On its own, child life departments don’t have the resources to devote to a single activity like this. Our partnership enabled them to offer an incredible activity to patients. Our Entourage group became our ambassadors in the hospital: they were a shining example of the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world). Finally, it was just plain fun for everyone. All the kids – the patients and our boys – had a great afternoon.”

Additional Entourage programs are scheduled for Johns Hopkins, and the program begins at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore in September.

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