Every kid deserves the chance to play, laugh and have fun. And, since 1986, EnCourage Kids Foundation has worked to make that happen for kids battling illness and serious health conditions. From delivering cuddly friends to bringing a little magic into hospital rooms, read on to discover more about this incredible group.

Here’s What They Do
EnCourage Kids is a non-profit organization that strives to bring as normal a childhood as possible to kids living with chronic illness or battling major health issues. They achieve this by creating and providing fun environments, memorable experiences, and lots of comfort for little ones on a medical journey.

Why Is This Important?
Creating a warm, safe and even fun environment for kids dealing with an illness can be a game-changer for hospital staff and patients alike, but most hospitals are unable to fund programs like the ones offered by enCourage Kids. In addition, “most of our families are struggling with not only their child’s medical challenge, but financial challenges as well.” says Executive Director, Michelle Hall-Duncan. “By providing outings where they can spend quality family time together, we are able to fill that void.”

What About the Programs?
The programs range from sweet and simple to totally amazing.

Teddy Bears: There’s nothing like a warm, cuddly friend to keep little ones company. Not only do the kids get to keep their new stuffed pal with them at all times, providing comfort in a clinical setting, but it’s also a way for hospital staff to teach tiny patients about the care they’ll be receiving. To date, enCourage Kids has given away over 27,000 bears.

Hospital Happenings: These fun events bring clowns, magicians, artists and musicians into pediatric hospital wards. Each event helps to fill the quiet hours, and gives kids something to look forward to during their stay. So far, enCourage Kids has organized over 43,000 hospital happenings.

Escapes for Kids and Parents: Not only are these outings (night out at the circus, weekend at a camp, day out at the ballpark) a chance to let families de-stress, but it’s also a chance for parents and kids to connect with others who might be struggling with a medical journey. It’s especially fun for siblings to connect and talk about something other than illness. Over 4,000 lucky families have been on over 3,800 escapes since 1986!

The Tablet Program: Angry Birds is a favorite, no doubt, but each one of the 300 tablets donated by  enCourage Kids comes loaded with health apps like The Human Body and Re-Mission 2, which experts say is a fun and positive way help kids understand and cope with what’s happening in their own body.

Care Rooms: Entering a treatment room can be one of the scariest parts about an extended hospital stay, so enCourage Kids works with hospitals to design warm, inviting rooms that encourage kids to be brave, and help to minimize anxiety.

Pediatric Hospital Support: Sometimes, families just need financial support. Since 1991, enCourage Kids has donated over 14.8 million dollars to 818 different pediatric programs. These crucial programs address the unique needs of their patients and include therapy methods like photography, fine arts, computer animation and beat boxing.

What Can You Do?
When you donate to enCourage Kids, you can choose how you want your money to be spent. Dedicate a gift, send a bear, or provide a night out for a family! Find out more, get involved or donate at encourage-kids.org

Have you had an experience with enCourage Kids? Share your story in a Comment!

—Gabby Cullen

All images courtesy of enCourage Kids Foundation