Green Bay, WI -- Two years ago, Jill Bailey's life came crashing down. Doctors diagnosed her daughter Kira with leukemia.
"You're trying to hold it together for your child, and you know they're scared. They don't know what's going on. So it was a lot to process. They say you go into a cave and that's true. It takes a little while to come out."
When Jill did come out, Prevea's Child Life Program was there to help. Specialist Ashley Thompson has been working with 6-year-old Kira since she first arrived at Saint Vincent Hospital in Green Bay.
"We try to use humor with the kids and with the families, so that it's a light atmosphere."
Thompson has extensive training in preparing children for painful treatments by using dolls, books and answering questions. Either she or her colleague Colleen sit by Kira's side during tests and chemotherapy. They help her cope and relieve her anxiety by using various distraction techniques.
"We play on the IPad, or we play 'I Spy' and books or we make fun crafts," said Kira.
Her mom adds, "It was that relief, like OK, someone else is here to make her happy, and I don't have to pretend."
While the Child Life specialists are paid professionals, the program relies on donations for everything else. Toys, electronics, gifts for the patients and so much more all come from the community.
Bailey says, "It's very humbling to see that, and you know, it's like how do you even show gratitude?"
"We've been so blessed with a lot of the donations that we get and we get continuous ones which is so helpful, because we need that. We need that to keep the program running," said Thompson.
The program is now in its 12th year at St. Vincent. The caring staff has given comfort to numerous children and made the hospital feel more like home. Kira has a special message to those who've helped her.
"I would say thank you."
Thompson says, she's grateful too.
"I just love my job. I love being with the kids. They're so awesome and they make me smile everyday, and I'm hoping that we do the same for them."
Kira's siblings also received coping services through Child Life. Kira recently received her last chemotherapy treatment and is now anxious to live her life free of cancer.
Click here to learn more about the Child Life Program and how you can donate to the cause.
Click here to see a list of items the Child Life Program needs.