Allegra Abbey is our go-to for all-things programming and events on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. Not only does she work with us to brainstorm (and execute!) fun and festive events for holidays big and small, she is gifted with a compassionate spirit and desire to make meaningful connections with each and every patient and family on the unit.
Tell us a little bit about you and how you came into your role at TCH as a Child Life Activity Coordinator.
Upon graduating from Texas A&M I taught through Teach For America. After two years, my husband and I moved to Houston for his job. I was on the job-hunt and the Child Life Activity Coordinator position at TCH presented itself in the most magical way. I have never felt like I was supposed to be somewhere more than when I was called to serve these patients and families.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
That I am making meaningful connections with patients and families. Every day, I get to use my creativity to engineer opportunities to make children feel loved and valued.
What has been one of your favorite programming activities that you partnered with HGF on?
My favorite programming event was last Thanksgiving’s “Balloons Over BMT” — a spin on the book Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet, a children’s book about the puppeteer who created the massive balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving were spent creating themed parade floats with the patients and families. Peppa Pig, dinosaurs, Spiderman, you name it!
HGF’s generous funding and thoughtfulness made this one of our most high-caliber programs to date. Each patient had exactly what they needed to create a unique float, exactly how they wanted.
The day of the event we attached giant helium balloons to each float that coordinated with their theme and the children paraded their floats around the unit, showing off their incredible work. It was so special seeing children and their caregivers work so hard on this project together. The unit was buzzing with excitement because the staff, patients and families had all worked on something fun and silly, creating positive memories to look back on for years to come.
What is something you hope everyone knows about the work you do?
That this is not just a job for me. I care infinitely about the well-being of my patients and families. This job allows me to wake up every morning and try to make the days brighter for the people around me. I carry every child in my heart and am constantly thinking of ways that I can help make a difference in their journey.
Why are the CL activities you provide patients with so important, especially to the patients of the BMTU?
My job is important because I have the luxury of seeing these kids as children first and as patients second. The other members of my team are incredible medical providers who must see these children as patients first so they can ensure they are doing their best to provide the highest-quality medical treatment. Children on the BMT Unit can be there from anywhere between one week to several months. This means I often have time to know these kids as kids; their favorite colors, their pets’ names: their likes and dislikes, and their dreams and aspirations.
I want them to remember the moments where someone saw them for who they are, with the hope that the negative, not-so-fun moments fade into a distant memory.