Being a Partner: What it means to me

Sally Jo pretends to stir a drink for a child in the hospital
| Sally Jo Bannow

This is my twelfth year as a member of Partners That Heal; twelve years made up of hundreds of thousands of moments spent with children and their families. Some of my favorite moments are the times we’ve walked into a room having been told that a child is depressed or has a flat affect due to a recent diagnosis, loss, or procedure and by the time we leave their room, they are smiling and laughing. Our main goal, however, is not necessarily to make them smile or laugh (though that happens most every time), it is to engage their imagination and remind them how to be a kid again. It takes a special skill to meet a child where they are and to, when needed, draw them out of their health crisis into the world of possibility through their imagination. Together, we create worlds that are adventurous, or silly, or the imagining of their dreams come to life. Whether it’s the Partners being silly, or the mention of something they love in an improvised story, song, or game, each child can feel seen, heard and valued. All of this is absolutely magical. It is an absolute joy to see our hard work and dedication in creating and refining activities paying off through the activation of a child’s imagination. There are many benefits and joys that we experience. As a parent myself, I particularly love getting to see the parents and family members in the room as they witness their child smiling for the first time in days, or sometimes weeks. To see your child being a child again after having to deal with such grown-up things as chemo, or a bone marrow transplant, or some other serious health crisis, is pure joy to behold. These shared moments, and so many others, are what make this service so precious and valuable, to the PTH team, and everyone we provide service for. And I am honored to work with the special, big-hearted, and talented professional actors that make up Partners That Heal.